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2018 National LGBT Conference
20 September 2018

Conference notes that UNISON’s policy on sex work, adopted in 2010 on the basis of a motion from women’s conference, is to support proposals which decriminalise the selling of sex acts while introducing a ‘sex buyers law’ criminalising those who purchase sex acts.

Conference recognises that the great majority of sex workers are women. Conference also recognises that a significant number of women sex workers identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT), and there are many gay, bisexual and trans sex workers who do not identify as women. Sex work is an issue for the LGBT community.

Conference notes that national LGBT conference takes a different view to women’s conference, having adopted motions at several conferences which:

a)Recognise that the criminalisation of any kind, including of buyers, increases the risks for sex workers and hinders the global fight against HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome);

b)Oppose the introduction of a sex buyers law;

c)Reflect the view that sex workers are workers, who should have the same rights and protections as workers in other industries.

Conference further notes:

1)That there have been significant developments since 2010 including Amnesty’s 2016 publication of its policy on sex workers, which includes advocating for the decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual adult sex work;

2)Full decriminalisation is also supported by many other organisations including the World Health Organisation, the Global Alliance Against Traffick in Women, and Anti Slavery International, and by sex workers organisations;

3)The rejection by 2018 UNISON women’s conference of a motion “Nordic Model Now!” which called for women’s conference to affirm its policy of supporting the Nordic Model, a legal model based on decriminalising the selling of sex acts while introducing a ‘sex buyers law’.

Conference further notes New Zealand decriminalised sex work in 2003. The legislation recognises sex work as work, and it is therefore covered by employment law. Sex workers have the legal right to refuse any client for any reason at any point – the law treats sex workers consent as crucial

The ‘New Zealand model’ has been praised by women’s rights organisations, human rights organisations, and international bodies such as the World Health Organisation, as the best legal approach to protect the safety, rights, and health, of people who sell sex.

Conference recognises that decriminalisation is not about ‘encouraging’ sex work – it’s about the safety of people who sell sex. It believes that as a trade union we should be listening to the workers – to sex workers – and should not be calling for laws that put sex workers, including women and LGBT sex workers, at greater risk

Conference therefore believes that UNISON should no longer call for the introduction of a ‘sex buyers law’

It therefore instructs the National Executive Council to begin a dialogue with the National LGBT Committee, National Women’s Committee and other appropriate bodies within the union with a view to reviewing and advancing UNISON policy in this area.