Sex Workers Oppose Northern Ireland Bill and End Demand Campaign to Criminalise Clients

From The English Collective of Prostitutes

Pushing prostitution further underground will not abolish it nor help sex workers.

It will endanger sex workers’ lives and livelihoods.

Consenting sex is not a crime. Criminalising clients will not stop prostitution; it will push it further underground, making it more dangerous and stigmatising for sex workers.

Most sex workers are mothers, mostly single mothers driven into the sex industry by lack of economic alternatives to prostitution: unemployment, poverty, low and unequal wages. Many are young women trying to pay extortionate rents, university fees, debts . . .

Where is End Demand’s outrage at UK benefit cuts and sanctions which are hitting mothers and children hardest, at mothers skipping meals to feed their children or having to resort to food banks?

What they say about the Swedish model is misleading and hides the truth: 25% of Swedish single mothers now live in poverty compared to 10% seven years ago; sex workers who are mothers face losing their children; sex workers facing violence are now too afraid to go to the police for protection as the stigma of prostitution has increased.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on prostitution which last year recommended the criminalisation of clients, refused to look at any of that. They have also refused to disclose how many of those who submitted evidence to them actually agreed with the criminalisation of clients. John McDonnell MP has asked to see the submissions but the APPG has been unforthcoming so far. They also refused to look at how decriminalisation was working in New Zealand, and its positive impact of sex workers’ health and safety.

End Demand quotes Alan Caton, Suffolk’s former Chief Superintendent. But the murders of five women in Ipswich in 2006 were preceded by a police crackdown. So were the murders of three women in Bradford in 2009-2010. Sex workers were hounded and forced out of their established red light areas into bleak industrialised areas, away from the concerned eye of the community.

We are not the only ones to have noticed that crackdowns endanger women’s lives. Mariana Popa, a young immigrant mother, was murdered on the streets of Ilford, London, last October, in the wake of a police crackdown against clients. Following her death, senior police officers raised concerns that ‘operations to tackle prostitution are “counterproductive” and likely to put the lives of women at risk’.

‘Chris Armitt, the national police lead on prostitution in England and Wales, also called for a review of enforcement tactics aimed at prosecuting prostitutes. “We are not going to enforce our way out of this problem. It simply won’t work. I feel it would be good to allow a small group of women to work together, otherwise it creates a situation where they are working away from other human support. I think the disadvantages of working alone outweigh the advantages.”’ http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/19/woman-killed-prostitute-police-blame

While more and more time and resources are being diverted into policing prostitution, rape and child abuse continue on a mass scale despite thousands of victims coming forward. Where were the police when children were being abused in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford, and in children homes all over the country? Where were they when women and their children were killed by violent partners and ex-partners? Where are they now when the same perpetrators continue to avoid prosecution? What is their connection to the perpetrators whose crimes they have aided and abetted?

Increasing the powers of police to deal with prostitution has already resulted in more arrests, raids, stealing and seizing the earnings of sex workers, and other abuses of power and corruption. No one who is calling for the criminalisation of clients has shown any interest in this.

The North of Ireland Assembly has just voted to criminalise clients. But Scotland has refused and so has France. It is time to look at decriminalisation and that’s what we are campaigning for. 

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22 Sept Canadian Sex Workers & Sex Worker Activists in London

From The English Collective of Prostitutes

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SAVE THE DATE

Canada’s court strikes down the prostitution laws but the government bypasses its ruling!

Organising to retain & implement our path-breaking victory

 

22 September 2014  7pm-9pm

Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX

In December 2013, Canada’s Supreme Court struck down the prostitution laws because they are ‘dangerous’ for sex workers and infringe their constitutional rights. Given a year by the Supreme Court to address the issue, the government bypassed the ruling, proposing further criminalisation – that of sex workers’ clients.

Sex workers and sex worker activists from Canada will be in the UK in September. They will speak about how they won the Supreme Court ruling and how they are now fighting to get them implemented.

Speakers:

Amy Lebovitch, sex worker and executive director of SPOC – Sex Professionals of Canada, and Plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Bedford v Canada.

Jenn Clamen, member of Stella, l’Amie de Maimie, Montreal’s sex worker rights organisation, and coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform.

Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes, which has been organising against proposals to criminalise clients in the UK.

FFI  020 7482 2496 ecp@allwomencount.net

26 March in Parliament, Stop the Criminalisation of Sex Work

From The English Collective of Prostitutes

PEOPLE’S PARLIAMENT MEETING, HOUSE OF COMMONS.

Stop the criminalisation of sex work – safety first!

image001_20726 March 2014, 6.30-8.30pm

Committee Room 12

Host: John McDonnell MP

Chair: English Collective of Prostitutes

International speakers:

Carina Edlund, Rose Alliance, Sweden

Boglárka Fedorkó, SZEXE, Hungary – tbc

Ariane G, sex worker, Germany

Jenny O, Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland

Morgane Merteuil, STRASS, France

Molly Smith, Scotpep, Scotland

Luca Stevenson, International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe

Plus:

Lori Bora, Soho Working Girls

Candy Hutton, won court case against breach of ASBO

Jean Johnson, Hampshire Women’s Institute

Clayton Littlewood, author

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape

Toni Mac, Sex Worker Open University

Nigel Richardson, Hodge, Jones and Allen

Vera Rodriguez, dancer, x:talk

Didi Rossi, Queer Strike

Robert Jappie, Release

Paula Yanev, English Collective of Prostitutes

_____________________________________

An All-Party Parliamentary Group has just recommended changing the prostitution laws to criminalise clients.

Criminalising clients will not stop prostitution, nor will it stop the criminalisation of women. But it will make it more dangerous and stigmatising for sex workers.  

Sex workers from Sweden – who know first-hand the disastrous impact of such a law – and from a number of other European countries, including the UK, will be speaking against this proposal.

There is widespread anger that MPs are promoting increased criminalisation when unemployment, benefit cuts & sanctions, lowering wages, and homelessness are driving more women, particularly mothers, into prostitution. These proposals will further divert police time and resources from investigating rape, trafficking and other violent crimes, to policing consenting sex. 

The existing prostitution laws force sex workers to work in isolation and danger. Of the two women murdered in London in the last few months, one was working on the street and one was working indoors alone. Senior police officers recently acknowledged that operations to tackle the trade are ‘counterproductive’ and likely to put the lives of women at risk”. Despite this mass raids against sex workers in Soho, London, have thrown scores of women out of the relative safety of their flats. Arrests continue against sex workers on the street.

REPORTS FROM: New Zealand which decriminalised sex work 11 years ago. Canada’s Supreme Court which ruled that criminalisation is in breach of sex workers’ human rights.

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Event supported by: Legal Action for Women, Women Against Rape

Action Alert: Stop Attacks, Arrests & Evictions Against Sex Workers

Soho Safer Working Premises ClosuresFrom The English Collective of Prostitutes

Violence against sex workers is increasing. Tragically, two sex workers have been murdered in London in the past three months. At the same time, the police have stepped up raids, arrests and closures of premises where women are working in relative safety. This is despite senior police officers admitting that: “[police] operations to tackle the trade are “counterproductive” and likely to put the lives of women at risk.” 

Eighteen flats in Soho, Central London, have been closed. Most of the women who were evicted are mothers and have now lost their livelihood.

Women are appealing against eviction on 10, 17 and 24 February at Isleworth Crown Court. Please join us in demanding that these closures be stopped.

Please write urgently addressing your letters to:

MODEL LETTER at: http://prostitutescollective.net/2014/02/07/action-alert-stop-attacks-arrests-evictions-against-sex-workers

Background

Last December, 200 officers in riot gear with dogs raided sex workers’ flats in Soho. Some women were handcuffed and dragged out in their underwear in front of the media. Closure notices were issued against 18 flats and closure orders were then confirmed by a district judge in subsequent court cases.

In order to get a closure order, the police have to show that prostitution offences are being committed on the premises, namely “controlling for gain” and “causing and inciting prostitution”. Each court case followed a similar pattern. Women gave evidence that they were working independently and consensually and were not controlled. One woman explained: “Another sex worker told me about the address and that it was a good job . . . I decided to work as a prostitute . . . I wanted a better life and to support my two sons”.

Police claimed in court that women were controlled because they were “required to work certain days of the week, between certain times and charge a specified amount of money for each service”. No “controller” was named or identified.

District Judge Susan Williams found sex workers’ evidence “truthful”, admitted that “no evidence has been put before me of force and coercion” and acknowledged that a maid “is considered essential for safety”. But she rubber-stamped police claims that women were controlled and ruled that the “lure of gain and the hope of a better life” for women who were “desperate to earn some money” was “incitement”. She closed every flat that came before her. Why is women’s poverty and the determination to get out of it being used to justify the closure of safer premises?

Soho is one of the safest places for women to work as they have a maid or receptionist with them and the support of the local community. Of the two women recently murdered one was working on the street and one was working indoors, but alone. Most of the women who were evicted in Soho are mothers and grandmothers. Immigrant women were targeted by the police who took them away and held them for hours despite women protesting they were not trafficked.

Westminster Council backed the raids despite Cllr. Nickie Aiken’s claims that: “Our policy is that if a brothel is just providing a sex service, we just turn a blind eye because we think it is safer for the women and safer for the residents and other businesses around.” 

Met police commander Alison Newcomb initially briefed the press that the raids were “to close brothels where we have evidence of very serious crimes happening, including rape and human trafficking.” But in NONE of the closure order cases has there been any evidence of rape or trafficking. Newcomb later admitted that “no specific number of women were suspected of being trafficked.” Why are these closures going ahead?

The Met Police just got European Union funding to tackle trafficking – were the raids staged to justify this money and get more?

Local people are concerned that the closures are to make way for the gentrification of historic Soho. Actor Rupert Everett, who came to court and wrote about it in the Observer, described what he saw as “a land-grab, facilitated by the police.

Sex workers have been part of the Soho community for centuries. If they can be closed down without any evidence of force or coercion, any sex worker flat anywhere can be closed, in fact any flat – if a friend helps a sex worker design a website, that can be taken as evidence of control and the flat closed. Thirty seven premises were recently closed in Newham. Who will be safe then? How long before LBGTQ people or immigrants are targeted, or in fact anyone who doesn’t fit the ambitions of the land-grabbers?

If the police get away with this onslaught against those of us who have such strong and visible support, then attacks, arrests and evictions will escalate, especially against those of us who work on the street. One woman described the discrimination and degradation she faces at the hands of the police:

“The police wait outside my house to catch me when I leave. It doesn’t matter how I’m dressed, who I’m with, where I’m going, they say I’m loitering. When they stop me they jeer at me, and make jokes at my expense, often sexually explicit jokes. When they arrest me I’m strip searched and they sometimes leave the door open so the male officers can see in. All this is to humiliate me.”

In the name of safety, human and legal rights, and in the name of historic Soho

WE MUST STOP THESE CLOSURES!

Don’t Put Us Out On The Streets: Soho sex trade workers & supporters protest against evictions – 11AM, Wednesday 9 October 2013

Republished with permission from The English Collective of Prostitutes

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“Don’t put us out on the streets. Save Soho.”
Soho sex workers and supporters protest against evictions and the destruction of Soho by developers.

PROTEST: 11am, Wednesday 9 October 2013
Outside Soho Estates, Portland House
12-13 Greek Street, London, W1D 4DL

Women in 26 Romilly Street are facing eviction on Wednesday 9 October as a result of a police crackdown. Letters have been sent to Soho Estates the owners, threatening them with prosecution for allowing their premises to be used as a brothel. They in turn have threatened the leaseholders with losing their lease for allowing “immoral activities”. The leaseholders/landlords are ready to evict sex workers and their receptionists regardless of whether there is evidence that the flats are brothels – that is more than one sex worker in each flat. In addition, women in Peter Street flats have been told they are to be evicted in January. It is believed that the evictions are to make way for a major hotel and luxury flats development.

The English Collective of Prostitutes is initiating legal action against this underhand method of closing working flats – if established brothel closure law was followed, police would have to produce evidence that a crime was being committed on the premises.

Tracy, from Romilly Street, comments:

“We will all lose our livelihoods. I’ve been working in Soho for 33 years, first as a working woman and now as a receptionist. We are not criminals. We are mothers and grandmothers supporting families. What other choices do we have to make a living – zero hours contracts on less than the minimum wage in restaurants, warehouses or cleaning? We cannot support our families on that.”

Leyla, from Romilly Street, says:

“I have four children back in Thailand who would not survive without the money I send them. Their lives were turned upside down by the recent floods. I don’t have the option to give up this job. Why is selling our bodies in Soho considered worse or more immoral than selling our bodies in a factory, warehouse, restaurant, bank or university?  If I am evicted it is likely I will end up on the street and be less safe.”

Cari Mitchell, ECP, commented:

“Soho is one of the safest places for women to work. What justification is there for the police to pour time and resources into getting women thrown out on the street? The police claim that they are saving victims of trafficking but that isn’t true. They’ve not come forward with any evidence that women are being forced, coerced or trafficked.”

Local residents and businesses have always supported sex workers in Soho. Thousands signed a petition against previous evictions. Many express fears that gentrification is behind attempts to close these flats and that if sex workers are forced out it will lead the way for other small and unique businesses and bars to be drowned out by major construction, chain stores and corporations.

Save sex workers’ livelihoods! Save small businesses! Save Soho’s unique character!

For interviews and information contact: Cari and Laura, English Collective of Prostitutes: ecp@prostitutescollective.net. Tel: 020 7482 2496 / 07811 964 171.