Calls to decriminalise sex work in Sheffield

Campaigners are calling on Sheffield City Council to support the decriminalisation sex work in the city and loosen prostitution laws.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 29 April, 2019, 13:31
Sheffield Town Hall

Jenni Wright submitted a petition to the council urging them to ‘make Sheffield a pioneer for change’, adding that certain laws were putting women’s lives in danger.

She said: “Every day, sex workers have to put themselves in danger to avoid a criminal record. They can’t work together to keep each other safe, they can’t look for a safe working environment in a parlour, they can’t rely on the authorities for protection.

“Most sex workers are mothers supporting their families, struggling to make ends meet. Let’s help not hurt them.”

Under current UK laws prostitution itself is legal but a number of associated activities are not including: owning or managing a brothel, pimping and kerb crawling, meaning many sex workers feel the need to do their work in secret and away from police - leaving them more vulnerable to crime.

In Attercliffe, which has some of the highest numbers of brothels in the city, some people are calling for an ‘unofficial red light district’ away from the high street in order to better regulate sex work and help make the industry safer.

Businessman David Slater said the problem will never disappear but the council and police could manage it better.

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He said: “The root cause of prostitution is the men that use them, if they didn’t there wouldn’t be any prostitutes. But you aren’t ever going to stop men having those kinds of urges and being willing to pay for it. You’re never going to get rid of it.

“So my view is you manage it. There are far more intelligent people than me who deal with it every day who will tell you it’s a bit like Brexit, 50 percent of people will believe one side of it and the other will believe something else. Everybody has their opinion.”

Councillor Jack Scott, who until recently was the cabinet member for development, said: “I would always like the council to have more powers in general on a whole range of things.

“I think it’s really important to talk to people working in this industry about what kind of support or extra help or protection they would want to see before we jump to any conclusions.

“By definition it is quite hidden and the bits that are most hidden are probably the bits that are most concerning. So we do rely on people to tell us when those things are happening because they have far more eyes on the ground and intelligence in that way than we could ever try to muster.”