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LSBU academic advises parliamentary review on legal status of prostitution

Over the past six months Helen Easton, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at London Southbank University, has been involved in providing evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.
03 April 2014

The APPG on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade was formed in 2008 with two key aims: 1) to raise awareness around the impact of the sale of sexual services on those involved; and 2) to develop proposals for government action with a focus on tackling demand for the sex trade.

The debate about prostitution and its regulation is fierce. Within Europe there are a number of regulatory approaches in operation, many of which have decriminalised the sale of sex. Recently however there has been growing attention to the model of regulation that was adopted in Sweden in 1999. The Swedish or 'Nordic model' decriminalises the sale of sex but criminalises those who buy it in an attempt to shift the burden of responsibility to those who create the demand for commercial sex.  Women are also provided with support to exit. Under this model prostitution is viewed as both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality and as such is a practice that is detrimental to the achievement of human rights and dignity for women.

New approaches to regulation

This approach to prostitution regulation is growing in popularity across Europe with the French Assembly passing a bill to penalise those who purchase sex and the European Parliament adopting a non-binding resolution within the last six months. Finland and Ireland are also currently considering a change to their legislation to support women to exit and penalise those who create demand.

The APPG recognised that the legislation and response to prostitution in England and Wales was outdated and ambivalent and that this lack of clarity led to inconsistent and unbalanced enforcement. In response, the APPG conducted an Inquiry and gathered written and oral evidence from individuals including people with direct experience of prostitution, police, local authorities, support agencies and academics.

Helen provided evidence to the committee in relation to her recent studies of women involved in prostitution. Helen has been involved in an evaluation of the Chrysalis Project for women exiting street prostitution in Lambeth, a strategic review of responses to prostitution in Glasgow and a larger Big Lottery funded study of women exiting prostitution across England and Wales.

Helen, whose report to the APPG aimed at focusing attention on the way adapting good exiting support, such as that offered by The Chrysalis Project, could potentially aid women in leaving prostitution said:

They have based their model around the best practice in terms of exiting, behaviour change, identity shift… and it has had a significant impact on this process of supporting women to exit.

Working as part of the Crime & Criminal Justice Research Group in the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, Helen's research contributes to her teaching on modules within the BSc Criminology  and the MSc Criminology and Social Research Methods, particularly in relation to researching sensitive topics, the challenges of conducting criminological research in practice, how research informs the policy process and issues related to researching women and crime.

Find out more about the work of the Crime and Criminal Justice Research Group and the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research.

Find out more about studying in the Division of Social Sciences