Press Release: We are still criminalised, say sex workers.

The woman interviewed recently on BBC Victoria Derbyshire show spoke forcefully about her experience and how she was working for “financial security and independence”.

On the same programme a brothel owner (and former police officer) claimed that “the police are turning a blind eye if women are working together for safety”. This is completely untrue.

Laura Watson, ECP spokeswoman commented:

Hundreds of sex workers a year are arrested, raided, prosecuted and imprisoned. Brothel-keeping laws are most commonly used against women working together in premises for safety. This forces people to choose between working alone or breaking the law. At a time when unemployment, benefit cuts and sanctions, lowering wages, increased homelessness, and debt are forcing more women, particularly mothers, into prostitution, why are the police persecuting and criminalising women trying to earn a living.”

Criminalisation devastates lives. Women lose their income; can lose their home and their savings etc. The threat of criminalisation means sex workers can’t report violence without fear of arrest, and for those of us who are migrant, deportation.

Why has there been no protest about this from politicians or even from those feminists who put themselves forward as experts. As the woman interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire said: “I would say to these feminists . . . how dare you tell me what I can and cannot do and what my rights are as a woman; call yourself a feminist?”

With sex workers internationally, we are campaigning for the decriminalisation of sex work, for safety and for our rights. The prestigious Home Affairs Committee recommended that the government:

“ . . . change existing legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence and so that brothel-keeping provisions allow sex workers to share premises” and that legislation should be drafted to provide for the “deletion of previous convictions and cautions for prostitution from the record of sex workers.” 

Decriminalisation was introduced in New Zealand in 2003 with verifiable success. Over 90% of sex workers said they had legal, health and safety rights (including 64.8% who said they found it easier to refuse clients – a key marker of exploitation). 70% said they were more likely to report incidents of violence to the police.

If decriminalisation has succeeded in improving sex workers safety and welfare and enhanced rights, why is it not considered here?

For comment please contact:
English Collective of Prostitutes
020 7482 2496