This week, Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Diana Johnson sought support from her party for amendments to the U.K.’s controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would criminalize sex workers’ clients, otherwise known as the Nordic Model.
Some proponents of the Nordic Model, including Diana Johnson who tabled a bill in December calling for the criminalization of sex workers’ clients and third parties, take the position that sex work is inherently violent towards women and girls and equate sex work to trafficking.
However, there is little evidence to suggest that criminalizing sex workers’ clients does anything to tackle sex trafficking and in fact leaves sex workers at greater risk of violence and exploitation. Why? Lydia Caradonna explained to Novara Media:
What it does is it criminalizes clients so you need to protect clients from the police in order to still be able to see them and it’s not just like you can stop seeing clients because of poverty – which is why people are in the sex industry in the first place. So, in order to see clients you have to see them in more and more isolated places like woodlands, you have to avoid taking legal names which sex workers currently use to screen clients […] and any reduction in demand shifts the power back into the hands of the clients because sex workers still need to see clients to be able to eat and pay rent.
The onset of COVID-19 has further marginalized sex workers, with parallels being drawn between the policing of lockdown rules and what a work environment would look like for sex workers under the Nordic Model.
Writing for Novara Media this week, Vee H said:
During the pandemic, it has been the peer-led advocacy and mutual aid groups that have stepped in to offer material support to keep women off the streets and less dependent on sex work. This has been necessary due to a lack of governmental assistance, including from MPs who wish to criminalise the industry.
Freedom United was the only anti-trafficking organization to sign an open letter by Decrim Now, a U.K.-based coalition organizing for sex workers’ rights, calling on MPs to reject Nordic Model policies and instead calling for the decriminalization of sex work.
We are concerned with the degree of exploitation in the industry and urge for policies around sex work that are evidence-based, build resilience to trafficking and exploitation, and are sex worker informed.
Learn more about the links between sex trafficking and sex workers’ rights here.