Solace Women’s Aid’s vision is of a world where women and children live their lives free from all forms of male Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG).
Solace Women’s Aid exists to end the harm done through Violence Against Women and Girls. Our aim is to work to prevent violence and abuse as well as providing services to meet the needs of survivors particularly women and girls. Our work is holistic and empowering, working alongside survivors to achieve independent lives free from abuse.
Solace Women’s Aid’s core values reflect our history and were developed in consultation with staff service users, and trustees. We are:
- Feminist in our understanding of Violence Against Women and Girls
- Women and children focused and empowering
- Diverse and anti-discriminatory in all its forms
- We are committed to:
- Social justice and human rights
- Service users having a central voice within the organisation
- Working in collaboration with other agencies to develop a community wide response to Violence Against Women and Girls
- Continuous improvement
Solace Women’s Aid recognises prostitution as a form of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and one of the nine strands of VAWG contained within International and National policies and strategies. In line with our vision of a society free of VAWG we are committed to working to end the sexual exploitation of women.
Harm done to women through prostitution
Prostitution is not about consensual sex between two adult parties. Prostitution causes harm to women physically, mentally, and emotionally, as well as reinforcing the message that women should be objectified and further entrenching gender inequality and the subordination of women. The legalisation of prostitution potentially gives out the message that prostitution is a legitimate occupation rather than a harmful practice which should be eradicated from our society.
Legal context in England and Wales
Prostitution is legal in the UK, in the sense that it is not illegal to pay for sex, or to receive money for it. But many of the activities that it involves - including soliciting, kerb-crawling, pimping, and keeping a brothel - are all against the law.
In practice, much depends on interpretation and enforcement. Campaigners argue that ASBOs, for example, are frequently used against women involved in prostitution, outside of prostitution legislation.
There is much debate around the criminalisation/ de-criminalisation of prostitution. Solace Women’s Aid works within in a feminist understanding of all forms of VAWG and believe that in order to eradicate prostitution, it is necessary to curb the demand for it, created mostly by male consumers. Criminalising acts on the part of the user or consumer, whether male or female, such as the requesting, procuring, or buying of sexual services would be a positive step toward this goal. Therefore we would favour the introduction of the ‘Nordic Model’ which criminalises the buyer of sex rather than the women involved in prostitution and seeks to support those women towards exiting prostitution.
(For more information about the Nordic Model and demand in the UK please see: http://enddemand.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Report-How-to-implement-the-Sex-Buyer-Law-in-the-UK-2016.pdf
Model of working
Whilst Solace Women’s Aid regards prostitution as a form of VAWG our approach is women-centred and psychologically informed. Our aim is to develop projects which focus on supporting women to exit prostitution at their own pace. Our work is led by women and we recognise that each woman’s journey is different and they may experience different challenges and constraints in living free from this form of violence.
Solace’s position is that legalisation appears largely ineffective in contributing to the achievement of the laudable goals of harm-reduction and/or eradicating prostitution, but legislation would also institutionalise and legitimise practices that are degrading, oppressive, disempowering, and life-threatening, and that further entrench inequality between women and men. Therefore we believe women would benefit more from the criminalisation of demand and the decriminalisation of supply, coupled with meaningful specialist support to help them cope, recover and move towards independence.
Though we recognise women’s self-determination in terms of the language they choose to use, as an organisation we will use a standard form of terminology when discussing prostitution.
We will refer to women involved in prostitution as ‘women who have been sexually exploited through prostitution’ or ‘women involved or affected by prostitution’. We will not use the terms sex worker or sex work. We use these terms because we view prostitution as a form of VAWG.