Is it legal?
Prostitution in the UK is legal although related activities, such a kerb crawling and soliciting for sex in a public place are outlawed.
Is the legal status changing in the UK?
In June 2015, it became illegal in Northern Ireland to pay for sex, with Northern Ireland following Sweden and Norway in criminalising men who use prostitutes.
Campaigners such as the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution) think that adopting the “Nordic model” would help to stifle the trade and end demand but others such as the English Collective of Prostitutes say this would just drive it into more dangerous locations and further stigmatise the industry and that the best protection for prostitution is actually legalisation.
Following a report that proposed the introduction of the Nordic model of prostitution the Home Secretary Yvette Cooper put forward an alternative amendment which called for a period of review and research. In early 2016 the Home Affairs Select Committee began an inquiry into prostitution legislation and in early July 2016 published an interim report, saying that soliciting by sex workers, and sex workers sharing premises, should be decriminalised.
Why provide a specialist support service for sex workers?
Although sex work is legal in the UK, it can be stigmatized which, when combined with the chaotic nature of some women’s lifestyles, can make accessing mainstream services difficult.
Women tell us that they do not feel comfortable disclosing their sex work at other support organisations, and so they may not receive the level of support they require.
What do MASH do?
Most of the women MASH support work on the streets and in ‘saunas’.
All the women we support are individuals and have their own reasons for sex working, however some women feel like they have less choices than others and MASH specialise in supporting and empowering these women, who often have very complex needs.
MASH offer a fully holistic support service from a Drop-In Centre based in the ‘red light district’ in Manchester. Women can get help with addictions, mental health issues, debts, develop thier life skills and join in self-confidence building activities.
We also have teams who take the support directly to the women. One team visit women working on the streets giving them condoms and safety advice and, more importantly, can chat about the women’s support options from MASH.
Another team, headed by our nurse, visit women in the saunas. They mainly offer sexual health testing and advice, but also chat to the women about the full support package MASH offer.
A small number of independent escorts access MASH too, usually for sexual health services or for emotional and practical support if they are choosing to leave sex work.
If women wish to leave (exit) sex work our Case Workers are able to work 1-on-1 in partnership with women to ensure they are empowered, fully informed, in touch with the right support, and able to sustain the change.
What can I do?
If you are available in the evenings or afternoons you can volunteer at MASH, you could help us by raising funds so we can carry out our life-changing work, you could ask your place of work to adopt MASH or you could attend an Information Presentation at MASH to understand more about our service and then help us spread the word.