The Green Party has vowed to decriminalise sex work, shut down immigration detention centres and reverse cuts to women’s healthcare in “bold policies” unveiled as part of its gender equality manifesto.
Its stance on prostitution follows recommendations from the UN and Amnesty International on how to keep sex workers safe and the new measures were announced outside the controversial Yarl's Wood centre, which houses vulnerable female detainees, ahead of a major protest there over the weekend.
Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, said the pledges prove that “the Green Party is committed to standing up for everyone”.
“We are not afraid to speak out about issues other parties would rather shy away from,” she added. “From asylum seekers to sex workers, as well as all of us who use the NHS, these policies set us on the path to building a tolerant, inclusive society.”
Green gender equality pledge #1: “Keep sex workers safe”
Neither selling nor paying for sex is currently a criminal offence in England, Scotland and Wales.
However, many activities linked to sex work – including kerb-crawling, soliciting in a public place, and the running of brothels – are illegal.
The Green Party argues that this effectively makes it impossible to conduct sex work in a safe, legal manner, and that “making sex work illegal only reduces safety”.
If elected, the Greens say they would change sex workers’ existing criminal records, and have “zero tolerance of coercion, violence or sexual abuse”.
The party’s stance on sex work is supported by policy and research from Amnesty International and the UN. Amnesty says that “laws on sex work should focus on protecting people from exploitation and abuse”, arguing that criminalising sex work often results in “impunity for abusers” – because sex workers are “too scared of being penalised to report crime to the police”.
Green gender equality pledge #2: “End immigration detention”
The majority of female asylum seekers in the UK are held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire while their claims are being processed. The privately run centre has been the subject of damning reports about the mistreatment and sexual abuse of vulnerable detainees.
The Greens want female asylum seekers who have experienced sexual violence to be released from Yarl’s Wood, and for their claims to be processed in the community.
The party is also calling for male staff – who currently supervise female detainees while they shower, dress and use the toilet – to be banned from coming into contact with women held at the centre.
Green gender equality pledge #3: “Save women’s healthcare”
The third pillar of the Greens’ gender equality manifesto is a promise to save women’s healthcare by reversing government cuts that have “disproportionately affected women and other marginalised groups”.
They say they will do this by ending freezes for public sector workers, introducing safe levels of staffing across the NHS, and reinstating sexual health services.
The Green Party also pledged to roll out a UK-wide strategy to tackle domestic violence, restore legal aid so that abuse victims are no longer forced to represent themselves against their abusers in court, and to end the “rape clause” for those wishing to claim child benefit.
The so-called rape clause was introduced in 2015 by former chancellor George Osborne, and allows women to claim child tax credits for a third child if they can prove to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that that child was born as a result of “non-consensual conception”. The policy has been accused of forcing rape survivors to go through further trauma.
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