Scot-Pep, along with the global sex worker rights movement, and organisations including Amnesty International and the World Health Organization, advocates for the full decriminalisation of sex work. This includes the selling and purchasing of sexual services, and the facilitation, management and organisation of sex work (sometimes called ‘third parties’).
In Scotland and the rest of the UK, current partial criminalisation makes sex work dangerous. The act of selling sex itself is not illegal, however, “associated activities” such as soliciting and brothel keeping are criminalised. This means that workers cannot work in pairs or groups for safety, and that those who do work in managed brothels have no access to workers’ rights. For street-based and outdoor workers, soliciting in a public place and kerb-crawling (for clients) are both offences. This means there is less time for workers to engage in screening, negotiate terms and safety measures such as informing others of their whereabouts.
Criminalisation not only makes it harder to access workers’ rights and to work safely, it also acts as a barrier to accessing justice and other forms of support. Workers are often unwilling or unable to report when they have experienced violence at the hands of a client for fear that they themselves will be criminalised.
Without the threat of criminal sanctions, sex workers’ workplaces would be subject to employment law, meaning they could exercise their rights as workers against exploitative bosses and poor working conditions. Workers would also be able to work together and practise more safety measures, as well as accessing support, leading to safer working, safer sex practices and better outcomes for workers.
Fundamentally, full decriminalisation of sex work increases sex workers’ power in interactions with clients, bosses, landlords and law enforcement.