Guardian: Letter on sex worker safety and the Poppy Project

Letters in The Guardian, 01/06/2009.

If the Poppy Project is concerned about prostitutes being criminalised, where is it when the law raids, detains and deports women (Letters, 26 May); when mothers working collectively face closure, brothel-keeping charges, imprisonment and separation from their children; or when women driven out of premises risk rape or murder on the street?

While anti-rape organisations struggle to survive, the Poppy Project has received £9.5m from the Office for Criminal Justice Reform since 2003. Its research implying that most sex workers had been trafficked was condemned as flawed by 27 academics. The legal definition of trafficking for prostitution, unlike all other trafficking, fails to mention coercion. So foreign accents alone can inflate figures, which are then used to justify laws criminalising both clients and sex workers. High figures lead to large funding, not to women’s safety.

Cari Mitchell
English Collective of Prostitutes

The Poppy Project claims it is feminist. My feminist organisation in Turkey was approached by a group of sex workers after the police smashed streetlights where they worked, making them vulnerable to attack. Should we have refused to help on the basis that their job legitimises men’s violence against women? No, we considered that sex workers knew best how to protect themselves, and supported them. Even if you are against prostitution, you should distinguish yourself from the Home Office – though this is harder if, like the Poppy Project, you are funded by it.

Filiz Gul
Monday 1 June 2009


Prostitution laws

The letter from the English Collective of Prostitutes and others (22 May) contains inaccuracies about modern day anti-prostitution feminists. We at the Poppy Project, along with other human rights organisations such as the Feminist Coalition against Prostitution and the Coalition against Trafficking in Women are indeed concerned about any effects legislation might have on the women caught up in the sex industry. This is what prompts us to campaign to criminalise demand for sexual services and decriminalise the women, and indeed men, selling sex. The Poppy Project has repeated time and again, in public meetings, to politicians and in reports on its website, the need for prostituted women to be protected, not punished by the law. The English Collective of Prostitutes is very well aware of the vocal feminist position on this and yet continues to peddle lies and inaccuracies to protect punters from feeling the strong arm of the law.

Denise Marshall
Poppy Project
Tuesday 26 May 2009