Cari Mitchell on the campaign to increase safety for women working in flats in London’s Soho district
Your review of Hot Stew, a novel set amid the brothels of Soho (10 March) condemns as “disastrous” the forms of protest attempted by the prostitutes. But in real life, a sex worker-led campaign of meetings and marches, pickets and protests fought criminalisation and defended our right to work in relative safety in Soho flats. The Soho community supported the campaign, worried that if sex workers were evicted, others would be next. What then would be left of the much-loved Soho described by Rupert Everett as the “historic village of vagrants and immigrants, of hookers and queens, of cheese shops and coffee shops and sex shops and peep shows”?
We won: of the 20 flats closed after police raids in 2013, all but two were reopened. Subsequent raids, targeting migrant women for deportation, have led to more closures. But sex workers remain. Our determination to get rid of laws that prevent women working together for safety and leave us open to violence is stronger than ever. And so is support for our cause – increasingly people agree that poverty, especially of mothers and children, is the crime, not “survival sex”.
English Collective of Prostitutes