Written submission from Speak Out Against Slavery

By November 9, 2020 December 10th, 2020 No Comments

Written submission from Speak Out Against Slavery (PTN0049)

About our group:  We are a group of women who are concerned about sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and prostitution and the current situation, where the law is inadequate to address the scale of this. We want to ensure that sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, in particular prostitution is given equal weighting within the existing modern slavery framework. We are a group of academics, legal experts and gender equality experts, having worked at and contributed at UN level. This year we contributed written submissions towards developing the CEDAW recommendations, for the committee in Geneva. We support the Nordic Model (Equality Model).


Executive Summary

  • There is widespread ignorance about the harms of trafficking, prostitution and sexual abuse and it’s devastating lifelong impact.
  • The Nordic Model has reduced harms and violence. The Nordic Model decriminalises people in prostitution and supports them out prostitution.
  • We have presented data in this report, suggesting that full decriminalisation models can obscure CSE in statistics. Full decriminalisation always leads to an increase in trafficking. Full decriminalisation models aim to decriminalise pimps, punters and brothel owners.
  • Germany has federal law and a mix of full decriminalisation and legalisation.  Both approaches are a disaster for very vulnerable groups.
  • Despite strong claims by lobbyists, there is very little evidence base or data to support full decriminalisation or legalisation reducing STD’s or HIV.
  • We note that there is a network of lobbyists and organisations who support full decriminalisation and who are also highly critical of FOSTA/SESTA. This is very concerning.
  • Scotland has taken a lead with the ‘Equally Safe’ guidelines, but otherwise, regional approaches and policy/legal frameworks across the UK remain disparate.
  • The ‘sex work project’ approach was seen as inadequate in the CEDAW guidelines.
  • ‘Today the UK is a crossroad where many traffickers come to develop a trade of the most vulnerable’ (Fondation Scelles, 2019, p7) [1]


1.What, if any, harms associated with buying and selling sex? Who is affected? How?

  1. There are extensive harms associated with buying sex. Sex buyers cause a huge amount of harm to the person who is being sold for sex. The phrase ‘person being sold for sex’ should, in itself, be a cause for alarm. Human beings are not meant to be bought and sold, it goes against the spirit of equality, human rights laws and international laws concerning trafficking, such as CEDAW[2] and the Palermo Protocol[3]. Human beings deserve dignity and respect; there should not be lower barriers of dignity and respect for the most marginalised; sexual consent cannot be bypassed with money and this bypassing of consent be given institutional approval in law. This would have consequences for our shared norms and values as a society. We have individual rights, not rights ‘over’ other human beings.


  1. Physical harms that prostitution causes include:

incontinence, prolapse, damage to internal organs and damage to the sexual organs.[4]

  1. Detailed research outlines the trauma impact of prostitution. It might be that we are only now as a society, starting to realise the impact of complex trauma and its relationship to sexual violence. [5] A study of 785 prostituted women, across 9 countries found: 68% suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at the same level as victims of state torture and combat veterans, 65-95% were sexually assaulted as children and 75% have been homeless.[6]


  1. The Conservative Party should be commended on their report, which underlines the context and complexity surrounding consent.[7] Our laws are based on consent and the common sense understanding that unwanted sexual contact and sexual abuse cause lifelong trauma. We have tried to outline the impact of complex trauma; it affects a person’s ability to function in society and makes everyday life very difficult.


  1. The vision that no one should be ‘left behind’, is outlined in this key document. [8] Prostitution does not meet the criteria for ‘decent work’ (SDG 8) (8.5) (8.8)[9] and SDG 5.2[10] specifically relates to sexual exploitation. Trafficking is specifically mentioned as a concern in the progress notes measuring (SDG16)[11] and promoting prostitution conflicts with SDG11[12] and SDG 1[13], because organised crime, increased conflict and mental health problems are putting huge pressures on society. The SDG’s are interconnected and the Nordic Model is fast gaining recognition, being mentioned favourably in this G7 document on p17. [14]


  1. It is very concerning that some lobbyists have suggested that it is the responsibility of the less privileged to ‘themselves define where the boundaries of their human dignity lie’ [15] and that prostitution is a way out of poverty; when all the evidence suggests a strong link with complex physical and mental health problems as a result of involvement in prostitution, leading to marginalisation becoming more entrenched.[16]


  1. The people who are affected by sexual trauma, through being sold in prostitution are the most marginalised, mainly women, but also men and trans/gender diverse people. Liberalised systems of prostitution have the highest levels of violence and murder, despite allowing people in prostitution to ‘work together’. [17]


  1. There are many interlinking and overlapping factors and vulnerabilities associated with being sold for sex; low socio economic status, sex/gender, people with disabilities, LGBT people and refugee or asylum seeking status and internationally, the above characteristics, including additionally, being low caste or from an indigenous group. [18]


  1. In Zurich, 98-99 % of prostituted people are Hungarian citizens (80-85% are Roma women).[19] We do not think that the most vulnerable should be subject to a lower level, or different tier of employment rights, or to ‘define their own dignity’, and believe that the idea of ‘sex work’ also undermines existing workers’ rights, which we believe should be robustly upheld by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and the Equality Act 2010[20].


  1. Endorsing ‘sex work’ would create further marginalisation. We also believe that endorsing ‘sex work’ as an occupation is very traumatising to survivors of rape and sexual violence.


  1. In the UK, a huge number of prostituted persons have a background in care. As well as compounding their trauma, full decriminalisation sends out a message that it is socially acceptable to abuse the most vulnerable members of society in this way. Additionally, there is a significant overlap between prostitution and CSE- full decriminalisation can obscure CSE. [21] [22] [23] Promoting exploitation is not compatible with our shared norms and values as a society.


  1. There are also extensive economic and social harms because prostitution is inseparable from organised crime and interlinked with fraud/money laundering and drugs.[24]



  1. There is little evidence that full decriminalisation reduces HIV and STD’s. [25] [26] In fact, there is some evidence that the reverse may be true; there is certainly not enough data to be conclusive. Following liberalisation in Germany, there was an increase in Syphilis.[27]


  1. Moreover, there has been a huge amount of misinformation and poor quality research, with uncontrolled samples, and funded by lobbyists with a vested interest. Some research does not even contain reliable qualitative data, and relies heavily on unstructured interviews.[28] It is widely accepted in social science that this type of data is not objective. Additionally, much of this research has been disseminated by social media and has even been bolstered and shared by a network of sock puppet accounts. One study, cited by lobbyists on social media, arguably showed an increase in violence.[29]


  1. There are many more examples of poor quality and sex industry funded research, which are cited as ‘evidence based’, when the results are negligible or inconclusive at best. For every study cited by lobbyists (which are overwhelmingly sex industry funded, so therefore compromised), there is a study which contradicts the findings.[30] One tactic that lobbyists have used in the debate, is to retweet threads of ‘references’ of such research. Sometimes these have been retweets of confessed punters, ironically containing much low quality, sex industry funded research. This conduct has meant that survivors have often find themselves caught up in this social media trolling.


  1. Despite there being little funding for the Nordic Model, the evidence is weighted quite heavily in its favour. However there has been quibbling, by sex industry academics, disputing very minor sampling sizes or variables, (via social media), which may look feasible or credible, but does not make sense, because no social research has 100% reliability or validity, with a zero margin of error. [31] [32]


  1. It is a bizarre idea, to conduct debates concerning complex social policy matters on social media, as some sex industry academics have done; alongside sock puppet accounts, all of whom have a vested interest, some of whom are confessed punters. This is particularly concerning, where the affected group is very marginalised and vulnerable.


2.How does buying and selling sex affect attitudes towards women more widely?

  1. Prostitution gives women a subordinate status. One of the most disturbing ‘arguments’ for prostitution is that prostitution stops rape. As well as being untrue, this implies that there are a certain group of women, through whatever reason, are not worthy of dignity and respect. In Australia, a violent sex offender was given ‘access’ to prostituted people, which not only is abhorrent, but also flies in the face of strong evidence about the recidivism of sex offenders.[33]



  1. Pornography is becoming more violent and is a form of filmed prostitution. Many people in prostitution describe sex buyer’s violence as being heavily influenced by pornography. It is a key factor in the objectification of women. [34] [35] Factors that are specifically associated with sexual violence perpetration are weak legal sanctions for sexual violence and ideologies of male sexual entitlement, the consequences of which have an enormous social and economic ripple effect throughout society.[36] Sex buying actually increases the risks of being a perpetrator of sexual violence.[37] These risk factors cannot be emphasised enough and is the central message of this paper.

3.What local initiatives are you aware of that address these harms? Are they effective? Why?

  1. So called ‘harm reduction approaches’ have been trialled regionally, with sometimes tragic consequences. The most striking example of this is the ‘Leeds managed approach’ whereby numerous local residents have been raped, with no prosecutions secured and a prostituted woman was tragically murdered, by a punter. [38] Reports in the media have also revealed women trapped in a cycles of exploitation, poverty and drug addiction, in Liverpool. [39] [40]


  1. Current approaches are inadequate, the CEDAW advice to the UK went so far as to state that the ‘sex work project’ approach was ineffective and recommended ‘demand reduction’.[41] We emphasise that this needs to be a properly implemented approach, women should not be prosecuted for working together.


  1. We were disappointed that ‘National Ugly Mugs (NUM) chose not to participate in the previous enquiry. We are confused as to why they are affiliated to the NSWP (Global Network of Sex Work Projects) and take a pro sex work approach.[42] We see no reason, under the Nordic Model, that NUM could not still operate as a ‘lookout app’ so that police could prioritise a callout, or to share information about dangerous punters. Similar harm reduction schemes exist to alert about potent drugs. This is a policy consideration within a legal framework. We do not agree with their insistence that third party profiteers should be considered ‘sex workers’, we believe strongly that pimps and profiteers are exploiters.

4.What, if any, are the challenges for those facing harm in accessing services (for example, healthcare; support services; advice; exit services)? What needs to change?

  1. We believe that there are strong barriers in place for those in prostitution accessing healthcare and this is entirely the result of misogyny and misinformation. It could be that people in prostitution do fear being criminalised, but healthcare professionals may also be deeply ignorant about the harms and impacts of prostitution.


  1. The confused and chaotic motion for decriminalisation at this year’s Royal College of Nurses (RCN) conference compounded these issues. Women in prostitution also fear their abusers (pimps and punters) and the RCN motion could be seen to legitimise the status of pimps and punters, by not differentiating between the abused and abuser.


  1. This is no good for a prostituted person with PTSD, who may be under the control of a pimp. We also reject the notion by lobbyists that a ‘sex worker’ or former ‘sex worker’ could be a source of information about trafficking and that decriminalisation is the only barrier to this. We think that the healthcare professionals interest should be focused on the health and wellbeing of the prostituted person, or survivor. The ‘source of information’ theory shifts the blame onto the abused, rather than the abusers.


  1. The view that pimps are ‘sex workers’ is certainly the view of the ECP, who were thanked from the stage at the RCN conference.[43] The ECP are affiliated to the NSWP, who have produced the paper ‘young sex workers’[44]. Another organisation which is affiliated to NSWP is SWAI, who have recently used the phrase ‘child survival sex workers’.[45] We need to reject this language. ‘Sex work’ organisations and lobbyists who have probably submitted to your consultation can be questioned closely about their views. We sought to contact some lobbyists via twitter, to clarify their position, that surely they condemned this language, but we did not receive a response.


  1. We often see tweets from sex industry lobbyists and organisations, critical of FOSTA/SESTA[46] (legislation that passed in the Senate, with overwhelming super majorities).


  1. Backpage was seized by the FBI in 2018; 73% of children trafficked in the USA were bought and sold on Backpage.[47]


  1. We do not think that entryism and influence from sex industry networks and organisations into institutions could be anything other than re-traumatising for survivors of prostitution and those currently in prostitution.


  1. We also believe that there are complex issues concerning migrant women who are being exploited in prostitution. Some of the most vulnerable people in prostitution may have an insecure immigration status.[48] Even under decriminalisation, they could still be reported to immigration services and we condemn this, but these vulnerabilities are cynically exploited by the same network of lobbyists. Migrant women who are exploited in prostitution are in a similar situation to migrant women who are victims of domestic violence and need safe reporting mechanisms.[49]


  1. At the centre of the Nordic model, should be a trauma- informed, victim centred approach, similar to the approach outlined in the report by the APPG Adult Survivors of CSA. [50] Only the Nordic model offers the view that prostitution causes complex trauma; decriminalisation and legalisation approaches do not recognise that unwanted sex causes trauma. Decriminalisation and legalisation do not provide exit services; this does not meet the CEDAW requirements advice to the UK.[51]


  1. The APPG report stated that the majority of women in prostitution in the UK were Romanian.[52] It is very unlikely that this very vulnerable group are accessing mental health services; this could be a form of discrimination. There should be specialist support and trauma services, alongside interpreting services.

5.Public Sector Equality Duty

  1. We think that current approaches seem discriminatory. We think that endorsing prostitution should be a breach of the public sector equality duty.
  2. ‘Sex work’ research is currently funded by the European Social Research Council (ESRC), which is a public body.

6.How does the law currently treat paying for sex? How could law and policy be improved to address harm?


  1. Please see our previous responses, which address this point. We also note that Scotland has taken a lead on this with ‘Equally Safe’. [53]


7.How effective are different international approaches at addressing any harms associated with buying and selling sex

  1. The Nordic Model has reduced harms and violence.


  1. Full decriminalisation can obscure CSE, in statistics. Full decriminalisation always leads to an increase in trafficking.


  1. Germany has federal law and a mix of full decriminalisation and legalisation, both are a disaster for very vulnerable groups.[54] Legalisation aims to bring the free market to the human body, believing that human beings/body parts can be bought and sold, whereas full decriminalisation aims to deregulate and decriminalise what is currently criminal activity.


  1. There is little difference between decriminalisation and legalisation in practice.


  1. ‘’Many countries have laws that either fully criminalise, fully decriminalise or legalise the sex trade in harmful ways; either they punish those who are exploited, or openly promote their exploitation, by giving traffickers, pimps, brothel owners and sex buyers a safer environment in which to operate’’. (Equality Now, 2019)[55]


  1. ‘Today the UK is a crossroad where many traffickers come to develop a trade of the most vulnerable’ (Fondation Scelles, 2019, p7) [56]

8.In addition to the Nordic Model, we recommend-

-A victim centred and trauma based approach, adopted as a policy or legal requirement

-A statutory body or commissioner to monitor compliance with the forthcoming Victim’s Law and statutory powers, protecting survivors and those in prostitution, including some investigatory and enforcement powers

-A clear statement regarding the Public Sector Equality duty, outlining a duty of public bodies not to promote prostitution, exploitation and objectification

-Specialist trauma and exit services, alongside interpreting services, for victims




































Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act 2018

SDG 1 (Sustainable Development Goal) No Poverty

SDG 5.2 (SDG 5, Gender Equality)

SDG 8 (8.5,8.8)

SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities

SDG 16, Peace, Justice and Inclusive Societies https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg16

UN CSW62 Event: The Last Girl and Her Vulnerabilities to Sex Trafficking https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=wLhuMsi1uoE



[2] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

[3] Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

[4] https://banishea.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/data-on-women-in-prostitution-in-germany-numbers-health-working-conditions/

[5] https://www.trauma-and-prostitution.eu/en/2018/06/19/the-german-model-17-years-after-the-legalization-of-prostitution/

[6] Farley, M(2000) Prostitution, Trafficking and Trauma Stress. New York, Haworth.

[7] https://www.scribd.com/document/419657465/Cphrc-Consent-Report-Digital-1?fbclid=IwAR3dg5gbpUb212rODMLmJ9oGIPS_piBrH7y3WMB9V-IZCVL_CFLGiQ19NVc

[8] https://www2.unwomen.org/-/media/hlp%20wee/attachments/reports-toolkits/hlp-wee-report-2016-09-call-to-action-en.pdf?la=en&vs=1028&la=en&vs=1028

[9] Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 (8.5,8.8)

[10] SDG 5.2 (SDG 5, Gender Equality)

[11] SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Inclusive Societies https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg16

[12] SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

[13] SDG 1 No Poverty

[14] https://www.elysee.fr/en/g7/2019/08/20/publication-of-the-report-of-the-g7-gender-equality-advisory-council?fbclid=IwAR3Es_itXF9wbyYa8RF0trvFRPqL6bCVAx1R2svtEl1ArgbnJpvGSbpL7Qw

[15] https://missy-magazine.de/blog/2013/11/19/firefly/

[16] https://www.flipsnack.com/CAPIntl/cap-international-s-official-annual-report-2018.html

[17] https://sexindustry-kills.de/doku.php?id=prostitutionmurders:uk


[18]  UN CSW62 Event: The Last Girl and Her Vulnerabilities to Sex Trafficking

[19] https://womenlobby.org/Disrupting-the-continuum-of-violence-against-women-and-girls p4

[20] Equality Act 2010

[21] https://2009-2017.state.gov/documents/organization/192597.pdf

[22] http://prostitutescollective.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/report-of-the-nz-prostitution-law-committee-2008.pdf

[23] https://www.catwa.org.au/prostitution-in-new-zealand/

[24] https://nordicmodelnow.org/2017/12/17/the-increasing-monopolisation-of-the-sex-industry-in-germany/

[25] https://nordicmodelnow.org/myths-about-prostitution/myth-the-nordic-model-hinders-the-global-fight-against-hiv/

[26] https://nordicmodelnow.org/2019/05/03/open-letter-to-the-rcn/

[27] https://www.zhb.uni-luebeck.de/epubs/ediss468.pdf

[28] https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/EUR3640342016ENGLISH.PDF

[29] https://www.feministcurrent.com/2013/01/22/new-research-shows-violence-decreases-under-nordic-model-why-the-radio-silence/

[30] http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/45198/1/Neumayer_Legalized_Prostitution_Increase_2012.pdf

[31] Bonett DG, Wright, TA (2000). “Sample size requirements for Pearson, Kendall, and Spearman correlations”. Psychometrika. 65: 23–28

[32] Bonett, D.G. (2002). “Sample size requirements for testing and estimating coefficient alpha”. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics. 27 (4): 335–340

[33] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jul/09/sex-offender-released-from-wa-prison-and-given-conditional-access-to-prostitutes

[34] https://womenlobby.org/Disrupting-the-continuum-of-violence-against-women-and-girls p6

[35] Banyard, K. (2016) Pimp State: Sex, Money and the Future of Equality, London, Faber and Faber

[36] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/

[37] Fulu, E., Warner, X., Miedema, S., Jewkes, R., Roselli, T. and Lang, J. (2013). Why Do Some Men Use Violence Against Women and How Can We Prevent It? Summary Report of Quantitative Findings from the United Nations Multi-country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific. Bangkok: UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and UNV

[38] http://saveoureyes.co.uk/child-like-17-year-old-holbeck-rapist-escaped-conviction/

[39] https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/exposed-liverpools-new-red-light-13500510

[40] https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpools-sex-workers-selling-sex-13821059

[41] CEDAW 35 and 36

[42] https://uknswp.org/um/num-abstains-from-appg-trafficking-inquiry/

[43] https://nordicmodelnow.org/2019/09/13/dismissing-our-arguments-as-lies-and-other-misconduct/

[44] https://www.nswp.org/resource/policy-brief-young-sex-workers

[45] https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/cyntoia-brown-release-murder-johnny-allen-sex-worker-child-abuse-a9046981.html

[46] Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act 2018, Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, 2018

[47] http://missingkids.org

[48] CEDAW recommendations to the UK (55) (56)

[49] https://stepupmigrantwomen.org/


[51] CEDAW Recommendations to the UK (35) and (36)

[52] https://appgprostitution.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Behind-closed-doors-APPG-on-Prostitution.pdf

[53] https://www.gov.scot/publications/equally-safe/

[54] https://nordicmodelnow.org/2017/12/17/the-increasing-monopolisation-of-the-sex-industry-in-germany/

[55] Equality Now (2019) https://www.equalitynow.org/wdatp_2019


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