Opinion: Human trafficking must be an important part of safer sex work strategy

The policy motion about safer sex work is an interesting topic to debate especially as fifty-five victims of human trafficking were identified in Scotland last year.

Conference will be concerned about solicitation and sex workers being forced into isolated areas where they are more at danger of sexual and physical violence. This is all fair and well but surely this is a concern of human trafficking too?

The definition of trafficking a person is the movement of them for the purpose of exploitation, which often leads to what is known as modern day slavery. It’s usually the most vulnerable people who become trapped. There are four main forms of human trafficking they are forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation and deprivation. This motion concerns sexual exploitation a form of human trafficking but is only mentioned as a concern in the motion and then later  promoting solutions to combat international trafficking is mentioned in passing.

Decriminalising sex work is going to cause more harm than good. Traffickers who want to exploit men or women into sexual exploitation would find it easier if this motion was passed and therefore victims would find it difficult to be rescued.

The motion argues:

Approaches which criminalise the purchase of sexual services but not, overtly, the workers themselves, criminalise otherwise law abiding people and divert criminal justice resources away from serious harms in society, including young people in care homes at risk of grooming, victims of trafficking, migrant workers in domestic and sometimes sexual servitude.

Recently there have been more news stories human trafficking; the Liberal Democrats are saying they need to have more solutions to international trafficking but what exactly are they? Working with Ugly Mugs campaign, Merseyside Model is fine, but what about working with national organisations such as Stop the Traffik or Walk Free etc? I know that Catherine Bearder MEP and Lynne Featherstone do work to combat human trafficking but clear guidelines must be set out about how to combat this as it relates to sex work. I feel this motion may cause more harm than good and leave more victims to violence and sexual exploitation.

The motion suggests that the Nordic Model that works to prevent prostitution does not make any women safer. It’s great that the proposed Working Group would  create an updated  policy paper that deals with the issue of sex work in the 21st Century. I think the Group should also incorporate the issues surrounding human trafficking in the policy paper as both issues are interlinked. Working with human trafficking organisations such as Stop the Traffik, Walk Free, Unseen and Anti-Slavery Day will also help improve how society can protect women or men who have been victims of sex work through sexual exploitation.

There are several places around the country to which people are being trafficked and forced into sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude and deprivation. Whilst at University I ran a society called University of Kent Against Human Trafficking we understood that because we were closely situated to the channel port Dover, several victims would be trafficked into the country and then transported elsewhere. Hence, Stop the Traffik set up the Taxi Campaign that allowed taxi drivers to become more aware of the signs of passengers who had been trafficked. Canterbury City Council is now implementing this Campaign and all taxi drivers will under go training once they pass their tests. Campaigns like this are vital to prevent human trafficking; therefore it is crucial that the Liberal Democrats work with a variety of organisations not only to make sex work safer but to also help victims of human trafficking across the country.

* Dipa Vaya is Vice-Chair of the Racial Diversity Campaign and Diversity Ambassador for 5050 Parliament.

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  • Geoffrey Payne 3rd Oct '14 - 7:39pm

    I intend to support the motion when it is debated but I think that Dipa makes some good points. I suspect there are some sex workers who are well paid and would prefer to get on with their work without being interfered by the state. However there are others who have a wretched existence where they are exploited and abused – including many who have been trafficked and I think the state has to be more pro active in stopping this. If the Nordic Model does not work then why isn’t the model being repealed?
    I am not an expert – I look forward to the debate.

  • human trafficking (which used to be called ‘the white slave trade’ etc under a past incarnation) is the latest moral panic, it’s actually very rare with only a few cases, especially for sexual exploitation. Some numbers are vastly inflated and based on misquoted studies. This of course is also already a crime, the only difference is under the libdem’s new policy it’d also be a hate crime.

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