On 3 June 2013, a debate on sex work was arranged by Solas, Centre for Public Christianity. The debaters were Laura Lee (Sex worker rights campaigner, blogger and sex worker), Douglas Fox (of theInternational Union of Sex Workers, editor of the blog Harlots Parlour and sex worker), Rhoda Grant MSP (who has put forward a Bill to criminalise sex purchase in Scotland) and Richard Lucas (a minister and member of Solas – you can read his blog here). Laura Lee and Douglas Fox were debating against Richard Lucas and Rhoda Grant.
The debate opened with a statement by each of the panel. Laura Lee told her story of how she was working as an independent escort when a member of the community outed her on “every social media platform they could find”. She and her 7 year old daughter were bullied, her car was vandalized and her daughter was told by a well-respected, churchgoing adult man that her mother “will die of AIDS” – a statement which caused the child to panic as she believed it. A paedophile who had returned from a long prison sentence for molesting children was accepted by the same community.
Rhoda Grant’s main points were that “demand is met by coercion” and sex work is “trafficking”, not free choice. Ms Grant confused sex work with paedophilia and child abuse. She used Syrian women to back up her argument which isn’t relevant to her Bill as its scope is UK-limited.
Laura Lee took offence to Grant’s use of the term “prostituted women”. Laura said “It suggests we can’t consent to sex because we’re not there of our own free will. But we can, just like a barman can refuse to serve a customer.” She said that clients have reported incidents of violence towards sex workers to Crimestoppers and that the Ugly Mugs scheme which protects sex workers by creating a database of violent clients is now at risk due to funding.