Dame Diana Johnson MP has introduced a Sexual Exploitation Bill into the British Parliament. If passed, this would establish a Nordic Model approach to prostitution law and policy in England and Wales. The Bill passed its first reading on 9 December 2020 and the second reading was scheduled for 5 February 2021 (but has now been postponed). More recently, Dame Diana has said she is considering tabling amendments to the same effect to another bill as it goes through parliament.
If you live in the UK, please contact your MP to ask them to support women and VOTE FOR the Nordic Model approach.
How to send your hand-crafted email or letter
There are several ways you can send your email or letter:
- Using the Write To Them online portal.
- Using your normal email programme or by post. You can get your MP’s contact details at http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/.
Remember to include your full name and postal address including postcode in your letter. MPs can reject letters and emails that do not include this information.
Tips for what to say
Be brief and to the point. We recommend no more than one and a half sides of A4.
Start the letter with I am writing to you as a constituent….
Introduce yourself and ask them to vote for the Sexual Exploitation Bill or any amendments to the same effect that Dame Diana tables to another bill. Explain what concerns you about prostitution. You may wish to add some personal details – for example, a personal experience you have had or ways in which prostitution has affected you or your local community.
Other points you may want to make:
- The Sexual Exploitation Bill (and any equivalent amendments that Dame Diana plans to table to another bill) are based on the Nordic Model approach.
- What the Nordic Model approach is and why you support it.
- That the sex industry is heavily gendered – with the majority of those caught up in it being female and more or less all of the buyers being male.
- Equality between the sexes is a pipe dream while society sanctions men entering brothels and crawling the streets to pay for sexual access to (mostly) vulnerable women and girls.
- Prostitution and sex trafficking cannot be separated in practice. There is no separate market for trafficked women and girls. They are on the same street corners and in the same brothels and ‘massage parlours’ and are bought by the same men as women who may have made some kind of choice to be there.
- Of the women who do make some kind of choice to be there, most do not make the choice out of a range of viable options but rather to escape poverty or homelessness, to feed a drug habit, under the coercion of someone who feeds off her prostitution, or because she has been groomed by our sexist culture to accept a life of objectification and service to men’s needs rather than her own.
- Prostitution is inherently violent and nothing can make it safe. The focus should therefore be on reducing the amount of prostitution that happens, changing the culture so that prostitution buying is no longer considered acceptable and ensuring that women have genuine alternatives.
- There is a growing international movement of women who have survived prostitution and who are campaigning for the Nordic Model approach, including the Swedish group, #intedinhora, and the New Zealand group, Wahine Toa Rising.
- In 2014, both the EU Parliament and the Council of Europe recognised the Nordic Model as the best approach to address prostitution.
- The law in England and Wales that criminalises buying sex from someone who’s been forced, coerced, or deceived into it has been an abject failure. This is one of the best arguments for making buying sex per se a criminal offence.
- Finish by urging the MP again to support the Sexual Exploitation Bill and any amendments to the same effect that Dame Diana tables to another bill.
The template letter
This is a template letter that you can use. You may adapt this or copy and paste from it if you wish.
SUBJECT: Please support women and VOTE FOR the Nordic Model
Dear [MP’s Name]
I am writing as a constituent to ask you to support Dame Diana Johnson’s Sexual Exploitation Bill should it reach its second reading and any amendments to the same effect that she tables to another bill.
I am deeply concerned about the ongoing epidemic of male violence against women and girls (VAWG) – from harassment in the streets and online, to child sexual abuse, domestic violence, the degradation and sexual exploitation of prostitution, porn and lap dancing, and the shameful persistence of high rates of femicide.
There’s a growing body of research that shows that men who are prostitution buyers are more likely than other men to rape and engage in all forms of VAWG. This is not surprising because prostitution feeds men’s sense of entitlement and superiority – the very attitudes that underpin VAWG. This means that if we are serious about tackling VAWG, we must tackle the sex industry – not only because it is inherently abusive but also because it is one of the key underlying drivers of the other forms of VAWG.
Extensive research shows that prostitution is damaging to the women involved. A meta-study conducted by the UCL Institute of Health Equity found that violence is a prominent feature of prostitution regardless of the setting, that social exclusion is the leading cause of entry, and prostitution usually deepens a woman’s social exclusion.
I strongly support the Nordic Model, which decriminalises those who are prostituted, while offering them high-quality support and exiting services, including genuine alternatives, and makes buying people for sex a criminal offence in order to change attitudes and reduce the demand for prostitution that drives sex trafficking.
This approach is founded on the understanding that the objectification and commodification of women in the sex industry is irreconcilable with equality between women and men. Its goal is to protect women while deterring men from buying sex.
The Nordic Model approach was first introduced in Sweden in 1999, and has since been enacted in Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, France, Ireland and Israel. In 2014, it was recognised as the best model to address prostitution by both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.
To be effective the approach must be championed at the highest level and be combined with measures to address all the factors that drive people into prostitution, and new or strengthened legislation against pimping and all forms of profiteering from other people’s prostitution, including advertising and facilitation services, whether online or offline – as required by Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
A new study into the sex trade in Ireland in the light of the introduction of the Nordic Model approach there in 2017 has found promising results, while acknowledging that there is still much to do. Contrary to the assertions of those who advocate for full decriminalisation, the study found no evidence that the law reform caused a surge in violence against those involved in prostitution. It did find, however, that violence is an ever-present feature of the sex trade along with the inextricable involvement of crime gangs. The Irish police support the new law and recognise that it has the potential to deter men from buying sex and therefore of leading to a positive cultural shift.
The study found evidence that women in the sex trade suffer multiple vulnerabilities and adversities and that these are compounded by the attitudes of buyers who show no concern for the women’s welfare and who often demand risky acts and become aggressive when their demands are not fulfilled. The report concludes that the sex trade is highly exploitative and cannot be permitted to persist or expand, and it makes practical recommendations about how to continue to improve the implementation of the approach.
Dame Diana Johnson’s Sexual Exploitation Bill aims to introduce a Nordic Model approach in England and Wales and to reduce the harm of prostitution by targeting the buyers and pimps who cause the harm while decriminalizing those who are exposed to that harm and providing them with high-quality support and alternatives.
I urge you to support the Sexual Exploitation Bill and any amendments to the same effect that are tabled to any other bill, and to push for a well thought through Nordic Model approach in the UK and all the associated holistic measures that are required for its success.
[Address and postcode]