F4: A Rational Approach to Harm Reduction

Federal Policy Committee

Mover: Charlotte Cane
Summation: Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon (Chair of the Policy Working Group)

Conference endorses the enlightenment approach of rationalism and science to ensure that Liberal Democrat policy is based on principle, evidence, research, and experience.

Conference recognises the long-standing tensions around sex work, including within communities, between differing police approaches, and among different groups that recognise there are problems in the way sex work is currently managed by the law.

Conference notes:

  1. The 2014 motion Towards Safer Sex Work which reaffirmed our support for the decriminalisation of sex work.
  2. The complex and intersectional nature of sex work, in which all genders and sexualities engage in an ever-evolving economy.
  3. The moves within Europe, including in Northern Ireland, towards the Nordic Regime, which criminalises the buying of sex.
  4. Moves within the UK to increase regulation around pornography, including mandatory age verification, classification of online pornography by the British Board of Film Classification, and the default filtering of pornographic images by Internet Service Providers.
  5. The harm done to sex workers, with 153 sex workers being murdered since 1990 and more than half of sex workers having been raped or sexually assaulted under the current system.
  6. The fundamental importance of consent to any sexual activity, paid or otherwise.

Conference believes that:

  1. Legislation should prevent harm and not exacerbate it.
  2. Criminalisation of an activity such as sex work does not prevent it happening but drives it underground and out of the reach of support and enforcement bodies.
  3. Some sex workers, most notably street workers and migrant workers, remain in a very vulnerable position.
  4. The stigma of sex work has a catastrophic effect on people involved in it, preventing them from asking for help and support when they need it, and that discrimination in access to public and private services on the grounds of sex work is unacceptable.

Conference therefore endorses policy paper 126, A Rational Approach to Harm Reduction, as a statement of Liberal Democrat policy on sex work and the harms done by current legislation, and particularly welcomes its proposals to:

  1. Focus law enforcement on non-consensual activity and reducing harm to sex workers by decriminalising sex work.
  2. Strengthen laws to address coercion into sex and sex work on the grounds of fear, force, or fraud.
  3. Provide additional support for people trying to leave sex work, including support for one-stop shops who work with organisations such as Local Housing Authorities and healthcare providers, and where education and training are available.
  4. Quash past convictions for anything that would be decriminalised under the new system.
  5. Roll out a Merseyside+ Model in all police forces, requiring that they use a multi-agency approach to support sex workers and combat crimes against them and the wider community.
  6. Oppose government plans for age verification for access to online pornography - believing them to be illiberal, to pose a severe danger to privacy, and to be fundamentally unworkable - and the banning of pornographic online content that would not be classified by the British Board of Film Classification.

Applicability: England and Wales, except 6 (lines 52-56) which is Federal.

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