An amendment and two clauses to the Modern Slavery Bill put forward by Fiona Mactaggart MP aim to ‘make the purchase of sex illegal, remove the criminal sanctions against prostituted women and provide support to women who want to leave prostitution’.
We support the amendment which would remove the offence of loitering and soliciting for women working on the street. This decriminalisation should be extended to sex workers working from premises. The brothel-keeping legislation should be amended so that women can work more safely together. In 2006, the Home Office acknowledged: “. . . the present definition of brothel ran counter to advice that, in the interests of safety, women should not sell sex alone.”
We strongly oppose the clauses criminalising clients, on the basis of women’s safety. Criminalising clients does not stop prostitution, nor does it stop the criminalisation of women. It drives prostitution further underground, making it more dangerous and stigmatising for women.
Any benefit from decriminalising loitering and soliciting will be cancelled if clients are criminalised. Women will have to go underground if clients are underground. Kerb-crawling legislation has already made it more dangerous for prostitute women and men. In Scotland, since kerb-crawling legislation was introduced in October 2007, the number of assaults on sex workers have soared. Attacks reported to one project almost doubled in one year from 66 to 126.