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2010 National LGBT Conference
30 July 2010
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that this year’s National Delegate Conference carried motion 117 “Demand Change!”, submitted by National Women’s Conference. The resolution endorses the “Demand Change!” campaign by calling for the government to apply the ‘Nordic model’ to tackle prostitution. This model decriminalises those who sell sex acts and supports them to exit prostitution, whilst at the same time criminalising those who purchase sex acts; the aim being to create a reduction in the demand for prostitution within society.

Conference also notes the April 2010 report from the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health. The report argues the need to take a “right to health” approach to the sex industry, and that all policy initiatives should have sex workers’ right to health at their heart. It concludes that criminalisation of the sex industry (either of sex workers themselves or of their clients) negatively impacts on sex workers’ health and that decriminalisation of the sex industry is therefore vital to ensuring safer working conditions for sex workers.

Conference notes evidence of past sexual abuse, risk of violence, rape and murder, and high levels of drug addiction among those, particularly women, working in the sex industry. Conference also notes that men and transgender people (often due to lack of access to affordable gender reassignment surgery) are also involved in sex work and may face similar forms of oppression and violence. Conference also notes the conclusions of the UN Special Rapporteur that criminalization of sex workers or their clients may only make it more difficult for sex workers to negotiate safe sex and may drive them to work in more isolated and unsafe areas.

Conference is aware there is a divergence of views within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group on the issue of criminalising those who purchase sex acts and acknowledges there is a need for continuing dialogue, especially where these issues affect men and trans people who are sex workers. Nonetheless, conference agrees with the UN Special Rapporteur that the health of sex workers should be our primary concern. Conference therefore agrees that neither sex workers nor their clients should be criminalized.

Conference opposes all forms of exploitation, including trafficking of human beings, and any form of prostitution where those involved are put at risk, abused or coerced. Conference recognises the inherent sexism within society where women can be seen as sexual ‘objects’ for men, including through prostitution and pornography. However, Conference acknowledges that some men and women, albeit a minority, may choose to work in the sex industry. As stated by the UN Special Rapporteur: “It is vital that those designing interventions to assist victims of trafficking differentiate between those persons working in the sex sector against their will and those who consensually participate in sex work.

Conference calls for a clear agenda of putting the health of sex workers at the heart of our position on the sex industry and of supporting people to exit prostitution including, but not limited to:

1.Improved provision of drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes;

2.Provision of welfare benefits and affordable housing;

3.Improved asylum and immigration policies;

4.Appropriate policing and community safety;

5.Improved access to gender reassignment surgery;

6.Improved access to healthcare, including mental health provision.

Conference therefore instructs the National LGBT Committee to facilitate continuing dialogue and to raise these issues with the National Executive Council (NEC), and to seek to work with the NEC, the National Women’s Committee, and other relevant UNISON bodies, with a view to reviewing and advancing UNISON policy in this area.