Sex worker calls for changes to laws

A GLASGOW vice girl is calling for radical reform on prostitution laws to help reduce violence.

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The 24-year-old, who was raped after inviting one of her regular clients into her city flat just over a year ago, wants prostitution to be decriminalised.

She believes this will enable those who are attacked to feel they can report such crimes without their work being used against them.

Molly, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is one of the organisers behind the Sex Workers' Rights Festival being held in Glasgow from tomorrow until Wednesday.

The conference was organised by the 'Sex Worker Open University' – a London-based project aimed at highlighting issues in the sex industry – in response to plans by an MSP to try and introduce a law that would make it an offence to attempt to pay for sex.

Molly, who is a Glasgow University graduate, spoke about her experience as an escort in the city to highlight the violence that can be experienced.

She also believes brothels should be decriminalised so women can work together safely rather than being forced on to the streets.

Molly said she became a vice girl almost three years ago because she did not want to be "exploited" by the cafe she worked in.

She said: "I didn't report the rape, but I'm aware it wasn't my fault.

"I know what consensual sex is that's paid for and what rape is."

The Sex Workers' Rights Festival – which includes a film night at the the Centre for Contemporary Arts, in Sauchiehall Street, and a series of lectures – will bring together academics, campaigners and people who get paid for sex to discuss law and policies.

Molly, who estimates there are about 1000 people selling sex on Glasgow's streets over the course of a year, said: "Sex workers' voices are excluded from debates about us.

"We should be the first people that are considered experts in things that apply to us and we are not even on the list. I think we need to focus the debate around harm reduction.

"At the moment I feel people who talk about sex work aim anger at men who pay for sex. I don't think my clients are angels but they are just people.

"I am arguing for rights for sex workers because criminalising our clients hurts us and makes us more vulnerable to HIV transmission."

Molly says there needs to be a shift in the way that police view brothels because they "make the work safer".

She said: "If I lived with another sex worker that would be a great deal safer for me ... if I have someone in the next room I could just yell if I was attacked.

"But if we were caught by the police that is a five-year jail term and a huge fine.

"The law really conspires to keep sex workers unsafe. It forces us out on to the streets, which is more likely to result in sex attacks."

However, Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, who brought forward the proposal to criminalise the buying of sex, said people who pay for it are abusing victims.

The results of the consultation are due this month.

Ms Grant said: "The sex industry preys on vulnerable people and, as a society, we can't stand by and let this happen.

"It is damaging people, it is abusive and a form of coercion.

"People that use prostitutes are people who would rape and abuse."

rachel.loxton@ eveningtimes.co.uk

The law forces us on to the streets, which is more likely to result in sex attacks

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