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March 05, 2019

Scottish Sex Workers Can Join Top UK Trade Union for the 1st Time

GLASGOW, Scotland—In a move that's bound to make American sex workers envious, the United Kingdom's top general trade union, GMB, has expanded with the creation of an "adult entertainment" branch that, according to the BBC, "will invite members from across Scotland, and include transgender and BME [black and minority ethnicity] representatives." As union members, sex workers hope to better be able to affect the UK's prostitution laws. Currently, while prostitution—exchanging sexual services for money—is legal, many prostitution-related activities are not. Those would include streetwalking, soliciting in a public place, owning or managing a brothel, and helping someone to locate sexual services, aka pandering. "For many years, GMB has supported the decriminalization of prostitution to better protect workers," said Rhea Wolfson, the GMB official who was instrumental in setting up the adult entertainment branch. "Sex work is work and it should be safe. We are hoping it will become a fully established branch run like any other with elected post holders running autonomous campaigns." One of the sex workers' biggest concerns, which they hope the union will help alleviate, is on-the-job safety. Current law keep sex workers isolated by criminalizing brothels—and under the law, any establishment which allows more than one sex worker to ply her (or his) trade under its roof is considered a "brothel." Hence, the workers have no protection in numbers as they would in a brothel. Current Scottish law mirrors what is termed the "Nordic Model": While those supplying sexual services may legally do so, those purchasing those services are considered criminals. Or as Wolfson put it, "People are waking up to the reality that if sex workers are treated differently, then that is discrimination," adding that she hoped the new union backing would improve the political status of the workers. "There is an estimate there could be about 80,000 people working in the sex industry across the UK," she told the BBC. "It is a huge unseen workforce and we need to make sure their voices are heard because for so long they have been shut out of the conversation. Sex work is work and deserves the right to legal protection." The new GMB branch will be open to adult entertainers of all sorts, including porn performers, webcam models, strippers and even burlesque and go-go dancers. Image from 2011 sex worker rights protest by Ms Mornington/Wikimedia Commons

 
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