SWAI Ireland travel today, Friday February 19th, to stand in support with sex worker Laure Lee as she brings a legal challenge to the High Court in Belfast. Lee’s legal team will argue that the recent law passed in Northern Ireland that criminalises the purchase of sex is an infringement on her human rights, her labour rights and her ability to keep herself safe in her work. The proceedings will determine whether the case will progress further through the courts.
SWAI fully supports and commends Laura Lee in her legal fight. The Government in the South is threatening to pass a similar sex purchase ban as part of the Sexual Offences Bill. This bill purports to decriminalise workers, although it maintains women working together are criminalised, and now facing doubled penalties and jail time. Outdoor workers will be re-criminalised under the Public Order Act, with more stringent fines. SWAI opposes these proposals entirely, as it forces the industry underground. It gives clients more bargaining power, as the clients’ protection from arrest becomes the priority for both parties. The law forces the transaction to happen in unfamiliar environments further away from authorities and support services, therefore giving impunity to perpetrators posing as clients, whilst enforcing criminal sanctions that prevent workers from safely accessing the justice system. Laws that criminalise sex work are detrimental to the health, safety and well-being of male, female and trans sex workers.