Rupert Everett backs campaign against criminalising prostitution

Rupert Everett is supporting a campaign against proposals in both the UK and around the world to criminalise sex workers’ clients.

The actor, who participated in sex work as a younger man is making a Channel 4 programme on the subject. He has signed an open letter by the English Collective of Prostitutes and Queer Strike.

Journalist Cary Gee, the Association of Trade Union Councils, author and journalist Cary Gee and a whole range of activist groups including Sex Worker Open University, Left Front Art – Radical Progressive Queers, Queer Resistance and Queers Against the Cuts have all added their names too.

Earlier this year, the chair of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade, Labour MP Gavin Shuker called on the government to tighten up the laws surrounding sex work and suggested “men who are creating the demand” should be targeted in a bid to tackle human trafficking

Similar measures have already been proposed in Northern Ireland – based on the system in Sweden which criminalises anyone who pays for sex.

But Queer Strike believe increasing the criminalisation of consenting commercial sex further ostracises sex workers and will drive them deeper underground.

“As LGBTQ sex workers and allies we are asking for support against proposals to further criminalise consenting sex. They are discriminatory and a breach of human rights, and will further endanger the lives and safety of sex workers, our families and anyone we make contact with,” the group said in its open letter.

Former New Zealand MP Tim Barnett, who sponsored the country’s 2003 Prostitution Reform Act which decriminalised prostitution, described the discriminatory way in which the laws were used.

“Soliciting figures showed that half of those arrested were transgender sex workers who were identified as men, showing that the homophobia of the police was driving their enforcement of anti sex work laws,” he said. “Racism was also evident in that two-thirds of the women arrested were Maori and other people of colour.” In the UK, it was Maureen Colquhoun, the first openly lesbian MP, who proposed the decriminalisation of sex work back in 1979.