CeASR Seminar: The impact of current legislation upon sex workers involved in the direct sex industry (prostitution) in England
Guest Speaker: Dr Billie Lister
This paper focuses on the health and safety of independent indoor sex workers in England. This is an underdeveloped area of academic research and stems from the recent call by the UK Home Affairs Select Committee who requested, as part of their ongoing review into the regulation of sex work, that urgent research was needed in relation to indoor sex workers’ experiences under the current legislative regime in the UK and consideration of the potential effects of decriminalising sex work/prostitution as per the model adopted in New Zealand in 2003. In the UK, whilst sex work itself is a perfectly legal activity, the activities surrounding it – e.g. solicitation and brothel keeping – means that sex work is quasi-criminalised. Hence, it is very difficult for sex workers to operate without breaking one or more laws in their efforts to work safely and securely.
Through working closely with indoor workers, this paper highlights sex workers experiences and attitudes of working under the current legislative regime as well as their preferred changes to the law. In short, the regulatory changes preferred by sex workers resonate with Pitcher and Weijer’s (2014) argument that the decriminalisation of sex work alone may not necessarily offer a definitive solution to the current issues sex workers face. In summary, this paper represents a form of ‘action/activist research’ that seeks to demystify and destigmatise sex work by giving voice and providing a rapid evidence based on the lived experiences of sex workers.