Essentially today, we are acknowledging that sex workers have the right to be free from violence, abuse, and discrimination. Just like anyone else. To accompany the policy's launch, we have also published four new reports looking at the plight of sex workers in Argentina, Hong Kong, Norway and Papua New Guinea. Overall the reports come to the same conclusion. Governments must do much more to protect sex workers from abuse. And criminalisation of sex work contributes to the denial and abuse of their human rights.
The most conflicting aspect of feeling sorry for these women, and angry at the system that did this to them, was that I also grew up being told their job was empowering. It was liberating, as a woman, to have the agency to choose to sell your body for money, because your body is 'an asset' and yours to 'sell', if you so choose.
As it is overwhelmingly women and girls who are bought by men, any policy which is constructed out of a denial of that truth is meaningless. If we stop for a moment and imagine that that statement reads 'it is overwhelmingly black people who are bought by white people' it's clear that no Human Rights organisation would be trying to obscure that fact in any policy.
Most of us could get more money and have more resources at our disposal in the private sector or even in the public sector. We do what we do because we identify with those for whom we advocate and are disgusted at the injustices they face. Surely we are doing a profound disservice to them if we choose to remain silent rather than joining with them in calling for changes that will improve their lives.
Supporters of Lord Morrow's Bill eliminated from their agenda the safety of the very women they claim are vulnerable. They attempted to defame those who do not back the criminalisation of the purchase of sex as supporters of sex trafficking in order to undermine their arguments. They should have properly examined the available evidence and consulted with those to whom the legislation applies: sex workers themselves.
Most people are voiceless because no one is letting them talk or listening to them when they do. There is a lot to be said for quitting being the voice of the voiceless and letting people speak for themselves. But not by those seeking to abolish the sex trade. Words are put into people's mouths when they can be, and when they can't, those people are silenced and dismissed.
Whether we like it or not, criminalising the buying and selling of sex is an attempt to legislate morality and exercise control over private sexual behaviour. Sex workers are human beings and selling sex is their business. Sex workers must be entitled to the same labour rights as other workers and the same human rights as other people.