Durham University Defends Safety Training for Sex Working Students

Durham University has come under fire for student sex worker safety training among allegations of enabling sex work

Carly Horne
23rd November 2021
Image Credit: geograph.org.uk

In response to significant criticism which has come as a result of the decision to offer training to students engaged in sex work, Durham University has defended its decision to offer this training.

A spokesperson for the University told the BBC, "We are emphatically not seeking to encourage sex work but we are seeking to provide support to our students" earlier in the week.

This comes in response to concerns that the University was encouraging and legitimising students engaging in sex work, including criticism from Further Education Minister, Michelle Donelan.

Ms Donelan has remarked against the measures taken at Durham University, expressing her "concern" that "any university is legitimising a dangerous industry which thrives on the exploitation of women".

While acknowledging the potential support which may be required for students engaging in work in the industry, she went on to say of the course that it "seeks to normalise selling sex, which has no place in our universities".

Jonah Graham, Durham University Student Union Welfare and Liberation Officer, was quick to correct Ms Donelan and others who criticised the training.

In clarifying the purpose of the training, Mr Graham told the BBC that the training was intended to give the appropriate individuals the necessary information to support students engaging in sex work - including how to understand the "legal, safety, and wellbeing concerns of students and how to respond to disclosures sensitively".

Durham University is among other institutions (including Newcastle University) who recognise that students engaging in sex work may do so for a variety of factors and have put in place measures to try and ensure these students' wellbeing.

Newcastle University, for example, provides information on taking care of individual sexual health - including a section for Student Sex Workers. The University makes clear its intention not to criminalise these students, but to put in place measures to support a number of areas of their wellbeing.

The University of Manchester is another institution providing support to student sex workers. Support for Student Sex Workers offers a range of support for survivors and sex workers, ranging from workshops to giving advice to ensure work is carried out safely. In addition to the support offered, Support for Student Sex Workers also aim to promote positive sexual behaviour - including arranging regular sexual health check-ups and access to the morning after pill.

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