The Guardian: Letter on racism & xenophobia against sex workers
*Paragraph that was edited out included in bold.
Criminalising prostitution puts women at great risk
Racism and xenophobia are also a problem for sex workers
The article “Mariana Popa was killed working as a prostitute. Are the police to blame?“, News) is a turning point in getting senior officers such as Chris Armitt to admit that criminalisation puts women at risk: “It would be good to allow a small group of women to work together, otherwise… they are working away from other human support.” It has taken 40 years of campaigning to get this truth out. From the trial of Peter Sutcliffe, who murdered 13 women, many of them sex workers, to the Ipswich murders in 2006, we have complained that the police hound rather than protect sex workers.
But that’s not all. The article doesn’t mention the role racism and xenophobia played in recent attacks. Ms Popa was Romanian. The government anti-migrant witch-hunt, including propaganda vans telling immigrants to go home, has resulted in the persecution of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The 2012 police raids in Mayfair targeted Thai and Romanian women, the swoops in Harrow Roma brothels. The Soho raids last December, under the guise of freeing trafficking victims, dragged handcuffed eastern European mothers in their underwear on to the streets.
Is it surprising, then, if violent men target a woman such as Mariana Popa? Yes, the police are to blame. And so are feminist politicians, who lead calls for further criminalisation. Having refused to listen to sex workers, will they listen to Chris Armitt?
English Collective of Prostitutes
My report, Shadow City, found that police received £500m to tackle trafficking prior to the Olympics. They found no more trafficking cases than the year before – four – but did raid a huge number of brothels. This meant sex workers were displaced and became more vulnerable to violence. The laws on prostitution need to change. Until they do, we need to change dramatically how we police sex workers.
Conservative Londonwide Assembly member, leader of GLA Conservatives