Julie Phipps, Unite delegate spoke at conference in Brighton today (September 13) to oppose motion 39 on decriminalising sex work.
Prostitution is not currently illegal in Britain. The exchange of sex for money, goods or other types of gain in return for accommodation, food or drugs on an individual basis is not illegal.
Advertising prostitution, soliciting, loitering, kerb crawling, running a brothel and living off earnings from a brothel are illegal.
“Decriminalising those mainly women who are selling sexual access to their body, we are all in agreement,” said Phipps.
“Where we differ is decriminalisation of the whole industry, those procuring the service, profiting from it, pimps, brothels, that is where we have disagreement,” she added.
Julie went on to explain that the legalisation of the whole industry is to normalise. And that is where we fundamentally disagree.
“The sale of your body is not the same as selling your labour,” she said.
The commodification of women in this way is against equalities. It portrays them as subservient and puts them at risk of violence and negates the campaigns trade unions have engaged with.
“The ‘sex industry’ is about inequality. To legalise the whole of the industry is to maintain a group of people in sexual services. Women, men and children in the industry are at risk of violence and that will continue as it is about power over people and making them subservient,” Phipps said.
The New Zealand model is exactly that. It is not a small cooperative model. There is big business operating within it. New Zealand women’s groups have found exit services harder to find, and finally it has been legally rendered just another job.
“Conference, it is important to note that the TUC women’s conference voted against this motion – they decided this was not something our women wanted to campaign for,” said Phipps.
“Unite takes its women’s structures and representation seriously, we represent over 300,000 women and a third of our delegation here are women. We do not believe that when the women’s conference makes its voice heard that you can simply seek to bypass those structures by submitting the motion to this conference,” she added.
Julie went on to say that we must oppose the industry that trafficks, imprisons and exploits women and children, where the acceptable front is lap dancing clubs hiding the exploitation and vicious circle of drug and sexual abuse.
“We must support women who wish to find a way out of the ‘sex industry’ while always respecting those women who work in the industry. Sisters and others in the sex industry – we will never judge you, however, we do judge your oppressors,” said Phipps.
“Conference, oppose the motion,” she added.
Motion 39 was overwhelmingly opposed.