Nurses call for action to decriminalise prostitution
24 May, 2019
Sex workers took protest action in March
• THE Royal College of Nursing this week called on its council to “…lobby governments across the UK to decriminalise prostitution”. The motion was proposed by its Greater Bristol branch.
Nurse Lou Cahill, who spoke to the motion commented: “As nursing staff we have a responsibility to call for what is in the best interests of public health and the patients who entrust us with their care.
“Nurses rightly chose to follow the evidence which shows that criminalisation undermines sex workers’ health and welfare. Decriminalisation would mean that sex workers can better negotiate safer sex. HIV risk and other vulnerabilities can be greatly reduced.
“Lending our voice to support a stigmatised and marginalised group was not only the right thing to do but will lead to improved health outcomes. Sexual exploitation and/or trafficking of persons will remain illegal.”
Cari Mitchell, for the ECP, and former nurse, said: “We commend the RCN for its support for decriminalisation of sex work and look forward to continuing our work with them to improve sex workers’ safety and health.”
Of the approximately 72,800 sex workers in the UK, 88 per cent are women and most sex workers are mothers working to support families.
Austerity cuts, 86 per cent of which have fallen on women, have increased prostitution as more women, particularly single mothers, are turning to sex work to feed their families.
Our #MakeAllWomenSafe campaign highlights the injustice of the laws which prevent women working together for safety. Women are forced to choose between possible arrest and keeping themselves safe or avoiding a criminal record and putting themselves in danger.
A petition calls on the UK government to “promote safety by implementing the 2017 home affairs committee recommendation to introduce legislation to decriminalise sex workers working on the street and together in premises.”
Decriminalisation was introduced in New Zealand in 2003 and has improved sex workers’ safety and health. Over 90 per cent said they had legal, health and safety rights; 64.8 per cent found it easier to refuse clients (a key marker of exploitation); and 70 per cent were more likely to report incidents of violence to police.