The Suss #29 | Legislating for Sex Work with Wendy Lyon

What if everything you thought you knew about the world of sex work was back to front? Sex work will come front and centre in conversations about bodily autonomy, workers rights & migrant rights in the years to come.

In this episode, Glenn and Steph are joined by solicitor, feminist and activist Wendy Lyon to help navigate and understand the often steep challenges faced by those in the industry.

Wendy talks us through the Swedish/Nordic model which appears to have been championed in Ireland by a combination of groups who do not have the best interests of sex workers at heart and some civil society organisations that may have been well meaning but are misguided by a moral bias; one that believes that it is possible to eradicate the industry altogether.  We cover the alternative New Zealand model which is by no means a panacea but appears to be a far more sensible way of legislating.

We put the list of anxieties that are often expressed about sex work to Wendy and uncover a need for nuance when discussing problems often associated with the trade, such as human trafficking.

There has been a 10% increase in violence reported against sex workers since the new law came into effect. We see that we must now brace Irish society for an honest and evidenced-based approach to legislation, perhaps as was seen during at the Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment. It will come as a surprise to nobody that the conditions for exploitation have not been eradicated by changes to the law. There is also a hierarchy of vulnerability which sees migrant workers and the trans community put at an even greater risk.

This episode poses that we must come to consider sex workers as a marginalized group who, because of stigma and an archaic association with criminality, struggle for safety and are yet to find a voice within the #MeToo movement.

Closing track – What Do You Know by Soulé