Minister Lynne Featherstone claims that the National Ugly Mugs scheme, which publishes on line descriptions of violent men, “encourages sex workers to report violent incidents”. (“Sex workers and police join forces to create rapist database” Guardian, 5 July 2012) But sex workers are already reporting and are being prosecuted for prostitution offences while their attackers go free.
The police used the “intelligence” provided by Hanna Morris who reported arson and attempted murder, to prosecute her for brothel-keeping. Sex workers who reported a gang robbery at knifepoint in the East End faced hostile police and the threat of prosecution. A public campaign was needed to get the police to change priorities and arrest the gang.
Despite the commitment of individual officers, this record of reckless disregard for sex workers’ safety taints all those involved in the Ugly Mugs scheme. Sex worker projects funded by the Home Office or the health authority to promote AIDS education, are central to the scheme. But they have discredited themselves by carrying out compulsory ‘rehabilitation’ orders despite fierce opposition by sex workers and others concerned with women’s safety. Some have been shown to be racist, disproportionately targeting men of colour.
They follow in the path of other compliant NGOs – from Barnados which agreed to collaborate in the detention of children to MIND which withdrew from mandatory workfare schemes after widespread protests. Only a mutiny by those demanding protection not rehabilitation, can force law enforcement to enforce the law not their prejudices.
Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes
Thierry Schaffauser, sex worker and trade unionist