Grassroots campaign group, Nordic Model Now! today launches a petition calling on the University of Leicester to scrap its student sex work toolkit. The toolkit claims to be aimed at supporting “students who are already sex workers” but reads more like a guide to getting into the sex industry. Nordic Model Now! is concerned that with funding from the ESRC, this toolkit is being rolled out to universities and colleges around the UK and will encourage young female students especially, to experiment with prostitution exposing them to trauma and other harms.
“Call me old fashioned, but I was sold the notion that going to university was supposed to be one of the ways a woman could get as far as she possibly could from ever needing to sell sexual services.” – Grellbunt – MumsNet user, Fri 11-Dec-20 16:23:43.
The student toolkit:
1. Fails to warn about the well-documented physical and psychological harms that prostitution causes. For example, police statistics show that women involved in prostitution are at the highest risk of murder of any social group; multiple peer-reviewed studies have found a very high incidence of PTSD symptoms among women involved in prostitution – ranging from 47-68%. This is double the rate that you would expect to find in soldiers returning from active service in a war zone.
2. Fails to warn of the danger that partners and other predatory individuals may attempt to coerce vulnerable young people into the sex industry and what do about it.
3. Fails to provide advice about how to quit the sex industry.
4. Provides a list of organisations that can provide support but these all favour the full decriminalisation of the sex industry and none of these are primarily focused on helping women quit the sex trade.
Ygerne Price-Davies of Nordic Model Now! likens it to encouraging drug-using students:
“Would a toolkit for students who are drug users fail to warn of the potential harms of drug use? Would it exclude any mention of support to quit drugs? Would its list of organisations that help drug users include only those that are lobbying for the decriminalisation of all drugs?
“We believe the University of Leicester has failed in its responsibilities under equality law to work to eliminate the disadvantage, discrimination and harassment of women and other protected groups, and to work to improve relations between men and women generally. We think the University should have consulted more widely and educated itself on the very real harms of prostitution and the implications for students.”
The petition calls on the university to revoke the toolkits and related policy and to return to the drawing board, this time centring women’s human right to not be prostituted, dehumanised and objectified, and the sex industry’s role in the promotion of dehumanising, objectifying, and sexist practices and behaviour. It also calls on the ESRC to withdraw funding from the project to roll the policy and toolkits out to other higher-education institutions throughout the UK.
- What’s wrong with the Leicester Student Sex Worker Policy and Toolkit?
- Does the Leicester student ‘sex work’ toolkit comply with equality legislation?
Note to editors:
Nordic Model Now! is a grassroots group campaigning for the abolition of prostitution and related practices, and for the Nordic Model approach to prostitution. This decriminalises those who are prostituted, provides services to help them exit, imposes tough penalties on pimps and profiteers, and makes buying sex a criminal offence, with the aim of changing attitudes and reducing the demand that drives sex trafficking.
 Nikki Holland, Assistant Chief Constable, National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Prostitution and Sex Work giving oral evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Tuesday 1 March 2016
 Park, Decker and Bass 2019; Valera, Sawyer and Schiraldi 2000; Farley et al 2003; Zumbeck 2001