On 6th February 2014, EUSA passed policy supporting decriminalisation of sex work and a commitment to work with sex workers. This policy also includes zero tolerance towards whorephobia and condemning anti sex work campaigns. EUSA Women’s Liberation Group adopted whorephobia within the safe space policy in 2014.
Recently, it was brought to the Women’s Group attention that there is an event being organised within the university on Human Trafficking. The Women’s Group have a few concerns with the event.
Any conflation of human trafficking with sex work is incredibly harmful and damaging to both sides. We hope discussions on trafficking would not disproportionately focus on sex work, as from the statistics provided (an estimated 28 million are trafficked and 4.5 million are part of the sex trade) this would make up around 1/6 of trafficking. We would hope the conversation would address all forms of forced labour, including those such as domestic and manual labour.
However, we are concerned that the two speakers included in the event are from the same ideological wing and support an “end demand” model for prostitution through criminalisation. One of the speakers is from an organisation which equates child abuse and lap dancing as examples of violence against women. Their stance is: “All prostitution is exploitative of the person prostituted, regardless of the context, or whether that person is said to have consented to the prostitution.” This is directly at odds with EUSA policy to condemn anti sex work campaigns.
We recognise that aims to address trafficking by criminalizing sex work are not conducive to the goal of ending human trafficking. We listen to the United Nation AIDS Guidance which observes that ‘there is very little evidence to suggest that any criminal laws related to sex work stop demand for sex or reduce the number of sex workers.’
The EUSA Women’s Group recognise that the Nordic model has failed and that criminalisation of sex work puts sex workers’ lives in danger. In Edinburgh in 2007, violent attacks on sex workers went up 95% when the law regarding kerb-crawling changed to criminalise clients.
We recognise sex workers need access to a justice system and health service that prioritizes safety. Alongside Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women and worldwide sex workers’ organisations, the EUSA women’s group support decriminalisation of sex work.
We recognise the complexity with data and research around trafficking but we would question whether discussions such as this continue to obscure “facts” and perpetuate bias and misinformation.
Whilst we recognise that human trafficking requires action and this process often begins with informed dialogue, this event is heavily biased and could increase stigmatization of sex work.
We are disappointed other groups within the university were not consulted about this event and that there are no speakers from sex worker or labour organisations.