BMA against decrim
November 7, 2017

Why did the British Medical Association vote AGAINST decriminalising prostitution in July 2017? 

Motion 422, that the BMA adopt the New Zealand model, was overwhelmingly voted down. If adopted, this would have totally decriminalised everyone in prostitution – the brothel keeper,  proprietor, maid, pimp, punters (sex buyers), madams and women selling sex would all be legitimate business people. 

The BMA Council Chair compared the lobbying on this issue to that he experienced around alcohol and tobacco. He saw that heavily funded and often concealed vested interests want to keep the hugely profitable sex trade going, despite evidence that decriminalisation was not the solution to the poor physical, mental and emotional health, high death rate and violence suffered by prostituted people. 

The other side of the argument comes from survivors of prostitution and unfunded volunteer-run groups like OBJECT, which campaign for human rights. Parts of the debate caught my attention:

The proposer suggested taking ONE sex worker’s opinion as conclusive evidence? 

We were told that a ‘sex worker called Gemma’ helped to write the motion. Does one person in the sex trade represents all shades of opinion in it? Because she has worked in it, she knows all about it? Would we accept this from one  doctor? Nurse? Teacher? Any other profession? No, but we are expected to believe ‘Gemma’, whoever she really is. 

In science all conclusions must be properly attributed –  not just to an anonymous source.  How could any doctor  accept an unevidenced proposal? The motion purportedly aimed to improve the health, safety and ‘working’ conditions of ‘sex workers’ yet the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 did not achieve its  objectives: ‘The number of sex workers, and those workers under-age, does not appear to have significantly changed. Despite decriminalisation, issues remain including working conditions’.
The proposer ignored the unchangeable damages of prostitution – drug addictions and cross-addictions, mental health problems, normalised rape and sexual violence, repeat STIs, hugely inflated mortality rates, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and lack of protective equipment. 

Why we disbelieve so-called ‘sex workers’ organisations?

1.    A key reason not to accept the word of a so-called ‘sex worker rights’ organisations (English Collective of Prostitutes, International Union of Sex Workers etc) is that they are full of pimps, madams, escort agency proprietors, ie profiteers from the sex trade rather than prostituted women. Bindel, J ‘The pimping of prostitution’ Palgrave Macmillan 2017. 

2.    At the Northern Ireland Justic Committee which in 2016 debated whether to decriminalise, Laura Lee, a representative of the ‘International Union of Sex Workers’ was proven to have lied and misrepresented the truth by the Judge on this point.

3.    Alejandra Gill, the vice chair of the Global Network of Sex Workers was given 15 years in prison for trafficking, proof that vested interests are involved: 

A BMA speaker compared these groups to tobacco moguls giving advice on smoking policy:

What do women in prostitution REALLY say?

One BMA member did independent research. She visited every brothel in Cardiff and spoke to prostituted women, concluding that a choice in the absence of alternatives is not a choice. Exit programmes, which address the root causes of how people reluctantly submit to being prostituted would give them a chance to leave.

How might decriminalised prostitution affect YOUR life? 

Many of us wrongly think it would not affect us at all. 
How would you feel if your daughter’s Careers Officer at school or university encouraged her to invest her ‘sexual capital’ in a career in prostitution?

What if an unemployed woman were to be told that she could take a job in the local brothel or lose her benefit?

What if a family who fell on hard times encouraged the women in their family to go into prostitution? 

The BMA was right. We must continue to argue against the commodification of women’s bodies.