To reduce violence against women/girls in the sex industry and to all women/girls in wider society, the overarching aim must be full commitment to a comprehensive (and cost effective) ‘exit and prevent’ strategy on prostitution, backed at the highest level, rather than a ‘harm reduction’ approach:
-Seek to eradicate demand (surprisingly easy done)
-Heavily deter pimp/traffickers (prison sentences, assets seized to support prevention/exiting)
-Never penalise or criminalise in any way (eg via ASBOS, fines or criminal records for soliciting, loitering etc) those who sell sex & wipe all pre-existing criminal records
-Support those who sell sex with exiting and long term post exiting support both in terms of mental health (survivor-led, trauma-informed) and practical (liaising with relevant agencies for exiting, support into work/training)
-Prevent entry through early intervention (including addressing poverty, prior/ongoing abuse, poor mental health and raising awareness of the huge harms of the industry)
-Prevent entry through zero tolerance to any aspect of the sex trade (strip clubs, escort agencies/massage parlours etc and online advertising of any aspect of it)
-Recognise that ‘harm reduction’ is actually ‘harm promotion’. This cannot prevent entry, it allows the sex industry (which cannot be regulated) to massively expand; the illegal industry (trafficking, child rape prostitution etc) to flourish; makes it much harder for women to leave and much harder to receive appropriate support once exited. It creates ‘no go’ zones in prostitution areas for all women and girls. It promotes deeply harmful attitudes throughout society. This has been seen in every country that has enabled prostitution, including here in the UK (the Leeds ‘Managed Zone’). It has been seen throughout the UK where the strip industry has been licensed and all attempts at regulation have failed comprehensively – with it clearly serving as a portal for organised crime, drugs, financial fraud, prostitution and trafficking.
-Any approach other than the Nordic Model is highly likely to be challengeable under UK equality law as a breach of the Public Sector Equality Duty. Under this all public bodies must pay due regard to the need to: ‘eliminate harassment, discrimination and victimisation’ of women by men and ‘foster good relations’ between the sexes.
-Recognise that the financial costs of the sex trade are extortionate (including the associated social care and criminal costs) compared to the cost of properly implemented exiting and prevention
-Recognise the harm of the sex trade to ALL, not just to those in it. Its presence, normalising and glamourising promotes deeply harmful belief systems to all girls and women and harmful, hyper macho stereotypes to men and boys – the very foundation of violence against women
-Only fund or work with individuals, NGOs and others who understand prostitution as inherently harmful, who recognise that those in the industry operate in denial as an essential survival mechanism and who are fully committed to a ‘prevent and exit’ approach.
-Ensure widespread public awareness, education and training of all stakeholders of the reality and harm of the porn/sex trades, including the media, schools and mainstream providers