The English Collective of Prostitutes is a self-help organisation of sex workers, working both on the street and in premises, with a national network throughout the UK. We campaign for the decriminalisation of prostitution, for sex workers’ rights and safety, and for resources to enable people to get out of prostitution if they want to.
In 1975, two immigrant women living in England heard about church occupations and a strike of sex workers in France protesting brutal murders and the refusal of the police to investigate them. Encouraged and inspired, the two women formed the English Collective of Prostitutes to campaign for the abolition of the prostitution laws.
Our first public statement spelled out the need for our group:
“We face arrest, jail, fines, being called ‘unfit mothers’ and losing custody of our children. . . Those of us on the street face the worst dangers but we are all threatened . . . we want to break those divisions among women on the game. . . If you are a prostitute, the courts assume you can’t be raped. . . Through prostitution, we provide the welfare the State won’t provide for us and our children, husbands and elderly parents.” That is how we started and we have remained true to those aims for over 40 years.
With our sister organization US PROStitutes Collective and our international network we are campaigning to end the criminalisation sex workers face so we can work in safety and without discrimination. We are not victims in need of being saved, we are workers demanding rights and justice.
Over the years we have won some important victories including the first ever private prosecution for rape in England and Wales where a serial rapist who had targeted sex workers was convicted on the basis of evidence that the authorities had in front of them when they refused to even prosecute. In 1982 we occupied a London Church for 12 days to protest police illegality and racism against street workers.
The ECP is often referred to as the ‘Girls’ Union’ and we do similar work trade unionists do. We have fought hundreds of individual legal cases and won against charges of soliciting, closure orders, ASBOs, brothel-keeping & controlling – the last two most often used against women working together for safety. In campaigning for and winning better legal and working conditions, sex workers are refusing the work of illegality, stigmatisation and other violence and discrimination – and redefining what and how much work we will agree or refuse to do.
We are demanding that this struggle be acknowledged as part of the working class movement for more money and less work. We want to ensure that the work of sex workers, which has been essential to the survival of millions of families, entire communities and even countries, is made visible and acknowledged as the economic contribution to society it really is.