International Union of Sex Workers For our human, civil and labour rights. For our inclusion and decriminalisation. For freedom to choose, respect for those choices and the absolute right to say no. For the full protection of the law. For everyone in the sex industry. 2015-10-20T16:51:55Z http://www.iusw.org/feed/atom/ admin http:// <![CDATA[IUSW condemns Women’s Equality Party’s harmful choice to seek criminalisation of commercial sex]]> http://www.iusw.org/?p=1025 2015-10-20T16:51:55Z 2015-10-20T16:51:35Z Today the Women’s Equality Party declared support for the “Swedish model” of criminalising people who pay for sex. It is unclear if the Women’s Equality Party is unaware of the growing body of evidence that the “Swedish model” endangers people who sell sex and impedes effective strategies against HIV and other public health risks or […]

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Today the Women’s Equality Party declared support for the “Swedish model” of criminalising people
who pay for sex.

It is unclear if the Women’s Equality Party is unaware of the growing body of evidence that the “Swedish model” endangers people who sell sex and impedes effective strategies against HIV and other public health risks or sees these as acceptable collateral damage in their crusade to “end demand for the sex trade”.

The Women’s Equality Party say they wish to see “safe routes out of the sex trade for all those currently selling sex” (emphasis ours) indicating they support enforced exit programmes and do not view people who sell sex as entitled to make our own decisions.

There are hundreds of sex worker led organisations worldwide and half a dozen in the UK that oppose criminalisation of clients and forced exiting. The Women’s Equality Party show no knowledge of or concern for the views of we who would be most harmed by their choice to promote criminalisation of our consent, we who see the day to day reality of the sex industry.

The IUSW knows of no attempt by the Women’s Equality Party to consult with any UK organisations led by current sex workers, nor with services that provide day to day support to people in the sex industry or bodies such as the UKNSWP and National Ugly Mugs that promote evidence based policy and actively tackle violence against sex workers.

Since paying for sex was made illegal, sex workers in Sweden report greater violence, rape and harassment by the police, being made homeless by threats to prosecute landlords for pimping if they accept rent money from by tenants who sell sex, discrimination and expressions of contempt by “support” services unless they present themselves as victims seeking rescue. Criminalisation of our consent has not even been successful on its own terms (seeking to eradicate commercial sex) with Swedish police recording substantial increases in the number of clients, massage parlours and estimations of trafficking. The Swedish government’s official evaluation could make no stronger statement than “… Internet prostitution has increased in Sweden, Denmark and Norway … there is nothing to indicate that a greater increase in prostitution over the Internet has occurred in Sweden… No overall increase in prostitution.”

In contrast, the New Zealand model of complete decriminalisation – campaigned for by people in the sex industry as most effective in tackling violence, exploitation, health risks, discrimination and abuse – has extensive statistical data, both immediately before decriminalisation and since, that shows no increase in the number of people selling sex or victims of trafficking. Since complete decriminalisation, sex workers in New Zealand have been protected by the courts against both sexual harassment by managers and condom removal by clients.

More dangerous than a choice to ignore the evidence on what works to challenge violence, exploitation and discrimination is the view of the Women’s Equality Party that equal rights do not apply to all women.

A fundamental principle of feminism is that a woman has the right to make decisions for herself – these decisions have always been most fiercely contested when women decide about our sexual and reproductive rights. Criminalising the consent of women who sell sex is simply an inversion of the old patriarchal trope “you can’t rape a whore”. But for all women, it counts when we say no, and it counts when we say yes. When any woman’s right to consent to sex is denied, all women are endangered.

Catherine Stephens of the IUSW comments “people in the sex industry, whether there by choice, circumstance or coercion, are entitled to equal human rights, non-discriminatory treatment and the full protection of the law as other citizens. The Women’s Equality Party has chosen to ignore, exclude and endanger women who sell sex. No woman is made safer by legislation that treats her consent to sex as unworthy of respect. Our bodies, our lives, our right to decide.”

Notes:

The IUSW is an unfunded organisation of people currently working in the sex industry, together with allies who respect our equal entitlement to human rights and freedom from discrimination and supporters of policy based on evidence and in reality. All work is by volunteers. For more information email media.contact@iusw.org or call 07772 638748.

References:

http://www.womensequality.org.uk/end_trafficking_and_sexual_exploitation

http://www.nswp.org/members

http://www.sexworkeurope.org/campaigns/hands-our-clients-advocacy-and-activism-tool-kit-against-criminalisation-clients

The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed Success and Documented Effect By Susanne Dodillet and

Petra Östergren

Jay Levy, University of Cambridge Impacts of the Swedish Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex on Service Provision for Sex Workers Presented at the Correlation Final Conference, Ljubljana, 14th December 2011

http://www.thelocal.se/29154/20100921/

http://www.thelocal.se/20111024/36918

http://www.thelocal.se/28034/20100727/

official Swedish government Evaluation English Summary Jul 2010

Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee on the Operation of the Prostitution Reform Act
2003 May 2008

The Impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety Practices of Sex Workers

http://www.hcamag.com/hr-news/sex-worker-sues-for-sexual-harassmentand-wins-185297.aspx

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4685513.stm

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admin http:// <![CDATA[We welcome Amnesty International’s Decision to Adopt Policy on the Human Rights of Sex Workers]]> http://www.iusw.org/?p=1006 2015-08-11T18:41:14Z 2015-08-11T18:41:14Z Press release from The International Union of Sex Workers on Amnesty International’s Decision to Adopt Policy on the Human Rights of Sex Workers 12 August 2015   The IUSW is deeply grateful to Amnesty International for adopting policy to protect the human rights of sex workers. In doing so, Amnesty has listened to hundreds of […]

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Press release from The International Union of Sex Workers on

Amnesty International’s Decision to Adopt Policy on the Human Rights of Sex Workers

12 August 2015

 

The IUSW is deeply grateful to Amnesty International for adopting policy to protect the human rights of sex workers. In doing so, Amnesty has listened to hundreds of sex workers’ organisations across the world who call for a rights-based approach to address problems associated with the sex industry[i]. Criminalisation creates systematic human rights abuses and turns people in the sex industry into easy targets for perpetrators of violence.

 

Catherine Stephens of the IUSW comments “People in the sex industry, whether there by choice, circumstance or coercion, are entitled to equal human rights and the full protection of the law as other citizens. It is vulnerability which creates victims, not sex work itself, and evidence shows criminalisation increases our vulnerability. Policies that solve problems are based in reality and on evidence and we welcome Amnesty’s commitment to evidence-based policy that respects and protects the rights of people in the sex industry.”

 

Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

 

By criminalising us when we work together, UK law effectively discriminates against sex workers’ right to equal protection of the law.

 

Criminalising our consent to sex (the “Swedish model” of criminalising clients) means that if we contact the police to report a crime against us they may choose to seek easy arrest results by targeting our clients rather than those who have harmed us. Sex workers in Sweden report increased likelihood of rape due to having to accept clients who give no personal information who then act in the knowledge that identification of perpetrators is more difficult and many recount stories of police abuse and disrespect, including being harassed at home, being made homeless due to police threats to prosecute their landlords as living off proceeds of prostitution, being told by police that sex workers cannot be raped and being gang-raped by a group of police officers.7

 

Criminalisation of clients not only breaches Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it contravenes Article 6.

 

Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

 

From this it follows:

  • Every individual has the right to autonomy and bodily integrity.
  • A woman’s consent to sex is her own to give.
  • The state is not entitled to diminish or disrespect the validity of her consent to sex.

 

Article 17.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
Article 20.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

 

Brothel keeping legislation, in the UK and elsewhere, concerns premises and location, rather than coercion or exploitation. The effect of this is that people who have sex for money cannot own or share property together without risk of prosecution. In addition, UK legislation on “controlling for gain” (“pimping”) is entirely unconnected with trafficking or exploitation. It criminalises almost every way of working with or for a third party and explicitly includes people working of their own free will.[ii]  The only way to exchange sex for money indoors and be free of the risk of successful prosecution is to do so entirely in isolation, breaching not only our human rights but vastly increasing the dangers we face. Gangs target us – for sexual predation and financial profit – knowing they will find either the easy target of a lone individual or occupants of a shared premise, who are at risk of arrest if they contact the police.

 

Women connected with the IUSW have received criminal convictions as a result of sending two dozen text messages – over a period of two years – ensuring another woman would be present for her shift at a brothel and for working from a holiday flat, rented for a fortnight, with another woman on the basis that both were running the brothel created by the other’s presence.

 

Article 21.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

 

People in the sex industry are isolated and endangered by criminalisation and stigma. Exposure risks police investigation of ourselves or our workplaces, potential problems with child custody, possible loss of employment (even if our sex work experience is completely in the past) and chance of eviction if we work from home.[iii] [iv] [v] These vulnerabilities impede us from participating in the policy discussions that will affect our lives and livelihoods. Sex workers who speak out have little personally to gain and much to lose – the hazards of drawing attention are exacerbated by anti-sex workers rights’ campaigners who prefer to try to dismiss us as “pimps” rather than respond to our arguments.[vi] [vii] The more closely we can be identified, the more dangerous this is – to clear ourselves of such accusations of illegality, we would need to make clear we work in complete isolation, informing those who might wish to do us harm of our vulnerability to attack.[viii]

 

Article 21.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

 

The harmful effects of criminalisation on access to services are widely recognised. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon specifically notes the harms of discrimination against people in the sex industry: “In most countries, discrimination remains legal against women, men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users, and ethnic minorities. This must change.”[ix]

 

The UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work describes problems caused by “laws, policies and practices [that] drive sex work underground” and increase stigma and discrimination against people in the sex industry. This view is endorsed by UNAIDS co-sponsors UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, ILO, WHO, the World Bank and the UNAIDS Secretariat.[x]

 

Notes:

The IUSW is a an unfunded organisation (all work is by volunteers) of sex workers and allies who believe that

  • everybody in the sex industry, whether there by choice, circumstance or coercion, is entitled to the same human, civil and labour rights as others
  • protection of human rights and safety must be a priority
  • practice and policy on the sex industry should be created through meaningful inclusion of those most affected – people who currently sell sex, not ideologically-driven NGOs or campaigners

and

  • policies that solve problems are based in reality and on evidence, rather than on ideology, emotion, stereotypes, dramatic individual cases or cherry-picked data.

 

References

[i] http://www.nswp.org/news/nswp-issues-statement-support-amnesty-international-and-launches-online-petition

http://www.sexworkeurope.org/news/general-news/icrse-1100-organisations-and-individuals-ask-amnesty-international-support

[ii] Massey Judgement, Court of Appeal 2007

[iii] http://gothamist.com/2011/10/18/alleged_dominatrix-for-hire_assista_1.php

[iv] http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/07/08/canada-dancer-asked-to-leave-ballet-school-for-appearing-in-gay-porn/

[v] http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/female-athlete-year-award-wont-have-olympian-suzy-hamiltons-name-it-after-she-says

[vi] https://twitter.com/pastachips/status/350555314971611137

[vii] An Unlikely Union Julie Bindel Gaze April 2013

[viii] http://lauraslifeandthoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/a-level-playing-field.html

[ix] http://www.un.org/apps/news/infocus/sgspeeches/search_full.asp?statID=297

[x] UNAIDS Guidance Note HIV and Sex Work April 2007

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admin http:// <![CDATA[Dr Catherine Hakim researching for the Institute of Economic Affairs]]> http://www.iusw.org/?p=1002 2015-08-07T13:56:23Z 2015-08-07T13:56:23Z Stephen Jardine, Dr. Catherine Hakim & Jan McLeod  and Laura Lee talk about decriminalisation of the sex industry on the Stephen Jardine show.  Dr Catherine Hakim researching for the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is calling for the total decriminalisation of the sex industry. Laura Lee  a sex worker supporting decriminalisation for the  protection of […]

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Stephen Jardine, Dr. Catherine Hakim & Jan McLeod  and Laura Lee talk about decriminalisation of the sex industry on the Stephen Jardine show.  Dr Catherine Hakim researching for the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is calling for the total decriminalisation of the sex industry.

Laura Lee  a sex worker supporting decriminalisation for the  protection of sex workers battles against Jan McLeod (woman’s support project) who supports the Swedish model and criminalisation of purchase.

This interview came about because of the new research paper by Dr. Catherine Hakim and the increasing number of organisations across the world supporting decrimilization of sex work, most recently Amnesty International who are this week voting on the policy

Laura replies to the ‘planted text’ message right at the end with a good reply.

 

 

Full text of the report can be found on the IEA website here.  The research paper can be downloaded here DP_Supply and Desire_61_amended_web.

 

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admin http:// <![CDATA[Have YOU told your prospective MP your views on prostitution.]]> http://www.iusw.org/?p=952 2015-04-07T13:28:16Z 2015-04-07T13:28:16Z In parliament last November, some MPs tried to make it illegal to pay for sex. Campaigners for increased criminalisation have met with senior politicians and will keep up the pressure for increased repression. The Northern Ireland assembly passed a law making it illegal to purchase sex, this comes into affect in June 2015. These well-funded and […]

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In parliament last November, some MPs tried to make it illegal to pay for sex. Campaigners for increased criminalisation have met with senior politicians and will keep up the pressure for increased repression. The Northern Ireland assembly passed a law making it illegal to purchase sex, this comes into affect in June 2015. These well-funded and well-organised crusaders promote the view that they speak for the majority, although approximately 70%+ of the population accept that people in the sex industry have a right to exist and to consent to sex (see below for references).

Just five minutes is all it takes to email your PPCs (Prospective Parliamentary Candidates) and the politicians who met pro-criminalisation lobbyists via OurConsentCounts.uk. OurConsentCounts.uk is run by the IUSW, long term advocates for the rights and safety of people in the sex industry.

Take action to prevent criminalisation of consent to sex for money.

Please pass this information onto other sex workers, escorts and allies. We must gather momentum and inform our potential representatives what would make life safer for us.

Public opinion is in favour of tolerance

71% of The Big Questions (BBC1) audience said prostitution should be accepted
72% voted for complete decriminalisation of prostitution on ITV’s This Morning
73% of Independent readers said prostitution shouldn’t be illegal
85% of Daily Mirror readers when asked ‘Should buying sex be a crime?’ said ‘no’.

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admin http:// <![CDATA[IUSW Response to the Amnesty International consultation on decriminalising sexwork]]> http://www.iusw.org/?p=891 2014-04-08T09:14:05Z 2014-04-08T09:06:09Z The IUSW was asked by Amnesty International for our thoughts about decriminalising sex work.  We have responded with this document in pdf format Sex Work And Human Rights  

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The IUSW was asked by Amnesty International for our thoughts about decriminalising sex work.  We have responded with this document in pdf format Sex Work And Human Rights

 

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admin http:// <![CDATA[Laura Lee, Dr Belinda Brookes-Gordon on Newsnight]]> http://www.iusw.org/?p=870 2014-02-21T15:24:33Z 2014-02-21T10:21:02Z Laura Lee and Dr Belinda Brookes-Gordon appeared on Newsnight to discuss the impending debate in the European parliament which intends to criminalise the purchases of sex.  Dorcas Erskine from Eaves was there to support Mary Honeyball who proposes this bill. It was an infuriating debate with Dorcas Erskine shouting down  Belinda when Belinda was given […]

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Laura Lee and Dr Belinda Brookes-Gordon appeared on Newsnight to discuss the impending debate in the European parliament which intends to criminalise the purchases of sex.  Dorcas Erskine from Eaves was there to support Mary Honeyball who proposes this bill.

It was an infuriating debate with Dorcas Erskine shouting down  Belinda when Belinda was given the floor to speak, and was arguing that Dorcas’s statistics were misrepresentative.   Dorcas was so dismissive of academic peer reviewed  research. Throughout this debate  Belinda and Laura were silenced by the incessant interruptions from Dorcas.  Interesting to see various comments from impartial tweeters back up this view.

A video of the debate will be posted here in the next few hours, and then later the Newsnight visit to a German brothel.   Newsnight chose to visit a brothel and Germany, and did not explore alternatives like total decriminalization.  The alternative supported by us is the total decriminalization model as is practised in New Zealand.  This model gives power to sex workers to work how they want, whether that is a big brothel, a small brothel set up by women working together, lone sex workers, or street work.  In all cases the sex worker has the tight to refuse clients and to contact the police.

Newsnight debate 


Newsnight German brothel video coming.

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admin http:// <![CDATA[Catherine Stephens and Mary Honeyball argue Mary’s proposals.]]> http://www.iusw.org/?p=864 2014-02-21T09:53:30Z 2014-02-17T21:41:25Z Catherine Stephens sexworker from the IUSW and Mary Honeyball MEP argue the Nordic Model on the 14th February 2014 LBC with Duncan Barkes.  Mary proposes that the EU should recommend criminalising the purchase of sex throughout Europe.  There is a vote in parliament towards the end of February. The audio of this discussion is here. Audio.mp3 

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Catherine Stephens sexworker from the IUSW and Mary Honeyball MEP argue the Nordic Model on the 14th February 2014 LBC with Duncan Barkes.  Mary proposes that the EU should recommend criminalising the purchase of sex throughout Europe.  There is a vote in parliament towards the end of February.

The audio of this discussion is here. Audio.mp3 

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admin http:// <![CDATA[Brooke Magnanti talks at the Oxford Union about the Sex Industry]]> http://www.iusw.org/?p=859 2014-01-23T20:46:32Z 2014-01-23T20:46:32Z Brooke Magnanti talks about the sex industry and the rights and freedoms that sex workers do not have due to permissions given by the state. Filmed on Wednesday 4th December 2013.  

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Brooke Magnanti talks about the sex industry and the rights and freedoms that sex workers do not have due to permissions given by the state.
Filmed on Wednesday 4th December 2013.

 

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admin http:// <![CDATA[Police take action against Birmingham brothels.]]> http://www.iusw.org/2013/10/police-take-action-against-birmingham-brothels/ 2013-10-23T11:40:02Z 2013-10-23T11:40:02Z Cross posted from the English Collective of Prostitutes. Please read and be very afraid of the actions police can take to the detriment of our safety. West Midlands police claim to have “rescued five women believed to be sex trafficking victims” during raids on “suspected brothels” in Birmingham. Closure orders[1] have been used against over […]

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Cross posted from the English Collective of Prostitutes. Please read and be very afraid of the actions police can take to the detriment of our safety.

West Midlands police claim to have “rescued five women believed to be sex trafficking victims” during raids on “suspected brothels” in Birmingham. Closure orders[1] have been used against over 30 flats. However, no charges of trafficking have been brought. “Two women and three men were arrested on suspicion of managing a brothel”. Brothel-keeping (s33, SOA 1956) is the charge most often used against women working together consensually. No force or coercion needs to be proven. If the women were victims of trafficking, why are charges of rape, assault and kidnap not being brought against their assailants, instead of prostitution charges? 

 

It appears that this may not be an example of “modern day slavery”. Rather anti-trafficking laws are being once again used to justify raids and closures of flats where sex workers are working with others under less exploitative conditions than McDonalds, Sports Direct . . . zero hours contracts.

 

Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes commented: “It is ten times safer for sex workers to work inside than on the streets. What will happen to the women who were “saved”? Immigrant women caught up in similar raids have been deported.

 

Fabricated or “speculative” figures[2] about the numbers of victims are widely quoted by politicians and the police. Meanwhile, genuine victims are frequently deprived of “protection, access to services and justice” and “treated as immigration offenders facing detention and removals.[3] Child victims, forced to work as servants, won compensation because the police systematically refused to investigate the horrific abuse they suffered.[4] 

 

Over 70% of sex workers are mothers supporting families (in the UK or in other countries). Increased poverty and cuts in wages, housing and benefits mean that most women don’t have the option to give up prostitution and will have to find other ways of working – either alone to avoid brothel-keeping charges, or on the street. Similar crackdowns have occurred recently in Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh and Luton among other places. Police and council co-ordinated crackdowns of sex workers were the prelude the murders of the five young women in Ipswich seven years ago.

 

Last night’s BBC Inside Out focussed on the fact that “the high proportion of violent crimes and rapes committed against sex workers rarely result in convictions”.  It featured a woman from the ECP’s network who was attacked whilst working in a flat. Like thousands of other women, she did not report this crime because she was fearful of being arrested. Several months later, 25 police officers burst into the premises and arrested her for brothel-keeping. This perverse use of police resources won’t change until prostitution is decriminalised.[5]

 

The ECP Know Your Rights sheet[6] is being used by sex workers and supporters around the UK to oppose police crackdowns of this kind.

 

English Collective of Prostitutes   020 7482 2496    www.prostitutescollective.net

______________________________

[1] Closure Orders (Policing and Crime Act 2010) can be opposed. An appeal against the Closure notice must be lodged within 48 hours (and an adjournment can be requested).  Police often overreach their powers and where their claims of anti-social behaviour or criminal offences are challenged in court they have often been found to be without foundation.

2 http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/oct/20/trafficking-numbers-women-exaggerated

3 Joint Committee on Human Rights report on Human Trafficking, 2005

4 URL: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2011/1246.html

5 Evidence from New Zealand which decriminalised in 2003 shows:: no rise in prostitution; women able to report violence without fear of arrest; attacks cleared up more quickly; drug users viewed as patients not criminals; women finding it easier to leave prostitution as convictions are cleared from their records.  http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy-and-consultation/legislation/prostitution-law-review-committee/publications/plrc-report/report-of-the-prostitution-law-review-committee-on-the-operation-of-the-prostitution-reform-act-2003

6 http://prostitutescollective.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/ECP-rights-sheet-folded-A4-print-version-1.pdf

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admin http:// <![CDATA[West Midlands police clamp down on street workers and clients]]> http://www.iusw.org/?p=851 2013-06-23T15:36:45Z 2013-06-23T15:35:09Z The West Midlands are having a clamp down on street sex work. Targeting street walkers and their clients on Hagley Road. Listen to interviews from Catherine Stephens from the International Union of Sex Workers on why the police action will fail, as has police action failed for the last 50 years. Additional interview from Laura […]

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The West Midlands are having a clamp down on street sex work. Targeting street walkers and their clients on Hagley Road. Listen to interviews from Catherine Stephens from the International Union of Sex Workers on why the police action will fail, as has police action failed for the last 50 years. Additional interview from Laura Lee a human rights campaigner on why the police should be following the example of the Liverpool police.

The International Union of Sexworkers condemn the action of the West Midlands police force. Their action will endanger sex workers, disperse sex workers across the community causing more disruption. The IUSW call on West Midlands police to work with sex workers to find a solution to anti social behaviour. It has been proved time and time again, that police action is ineffective and only results in short term solutions. Street walking has been criminalised for over 50 years, and still persists.

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