12 July 06

Wednesday 12th July 2006

Immediate Release: News desk, Social and political correspondents

PRESS RELEASE
1 of 2 pages

IUSW URGES DECRIMINALISATION FOR SEX WORKER SAFETY

The latest reports of violence against sex workers highlights the need for decriminalisation of the industry, states the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW).

Ana Lopes, Branch President of IUSW, said: “Repressive laws are responsible, to a large extent, for violence against sex workers. Such laws pass a very negative message to society: that sex workers are not under the scope of the law and therefore, violence against sex workers will not be punished or taken as serious as violence against someone else.”

Murder news
The statement follows the news this month of the murder of two massage parlour workers at Rachael’s Health Studio in Shrewsbury, and the jailing for life of three men convicted of murdering masseur Niphan Trikhana in London.

IUSW commended West Mercia Police in its swift action following the Shrewsbury murders. The force made an appeal to customers of the parlour, who may hold key information in tracing the killer, to come forward. However the union is concerned possible key witnesses may not come forward due to embarrassment or fear of police consequences.

In the London murder, Detective Inspector Bill Jephson who led the case acknowledged the murderers saw sex workers as easy targets. The gang of robbers targeted sex workers, picking them at random from adult services ads placed in Loot and Exchange & Mart, and using extreme violence.

DI Jephson said in a statement: “It was clear to us that these men were seeking out workers from the sex industry. They targeted vulnerable individuals who were easy to identify through their adverts, would have cash available to them and because of their line of work may be afraid to report the crime to police.”

Lopes of IUSW responds: “The legal marginalization of sex workers makes violence against them more likely, as aggressors think they are less likely to report violence. Indeed they are less likely to make such reports as they feel unsure that police will respond appropriately and sometimes fear they may receive unwelcome attention themselves, such as for working with more than one woman to a location, or for issues around immigration or child custody.”

“We call upon all police authorities to have an explicitly stated policy of equal treatment of sex workers and a clear strategy to decrease violence against sex workers.”

Scotland sets example
The union points to the example of Edinburgh, where there is a 15-year tradition of the police force treating crimes against sex workers seriously. Prosecutors work closely with victims, with the Sheriffs (judges) praising women for having the courage to use the legal system when handing out sentences.

Police run a remote reporting scheme to encourage and enable sex workers to report crimes through SCOT-PEP (Scottish Prostitutes Education Project). SCOT-PEP has an agreement about how any investigation will be handled: sex workers can be contacted and interviews held in SCOT-PEP, officers agree not to contact the individual at home if they request and there is a feedback process for keeping everyone informed.

At present the UK Network of Sex Work Projects is negotiating with the Home Office about establishing a remote reporting scheme nationally, through Crimestoppers, which will enable sex workers to report crimes anonymously if they want.

Ends

Contact: Ana Lopes Branch President of IUSW on 07946 897770.

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