Corbyn doesn’t want to live in a society where individuals are automatically penalised for their occupation and neither do I. It is clear that these are his personal opinions and not party policy.
His remark has led to both negative and positive responses from fellow Labour members. It has also contributed to a debate that has been going on for generations about whether prostitution should be legalised or not.
According to The Guardian Corbyn’s viewpoint seems to be in agreement with the position taken by Amnesty International last year, which appealed for “full decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual sex work”.
In October 2014 the Northern Irish Assembly voted in favour of adopting a Swedish-style model which legalises the act of selling sex, but ironically it punishes anyone who wishes to purchase sexual services from prostitutes. This is a system that is implemented in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Canada and Cote D’Ivoire as well.
A survey found that the majority of Northern Irish sex workers are against the legislation that had been passed. They argued that it would not reduce sex trafficking, that they would feel less safe and that the sex industry would be driven underground. These claims go along with my standpoint on the matter.
I personally believe, just like Jeremy Corbyn, that the practice of prostitution needs to be decriminalised. Not only that, it should be fully legalised and regulated by local and national governments. Prohibition in general does not always work. One obvious example of this is when they banned the selling, production and transportation of alcohol in the USA in the 1920s. It led to many problems, such as gang crime and it was eventually repealed in 1933. The same thing can be applied to prostitution.
Making prostitution illegal just facilitates the work of human traffickers and puts sex workers at risk both from their bosses and from the police. In Albania, for instance, prostitution is forbidden, but the country is a major exporter of illegal prostitutes from Eastern Europe.
Prostitution is the oldest job in the world. It has been around since Ancient Greece. It makes sense that in the short-term certain features of prostitution should be legalised. The state should permit voluntary sex work, give protection to practitioners and provide health checks.
These policies are enacted in almost every country where prostitution is legal. They will also contribute to pimping, human smuggling, and criminal coercion into the trade being stopped.
Published in the InQuire issue 11.13