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A group of sex workers, including representatives of the International Union of Sex Workers held a vigel on the 17th December outside the Bradford courthouse on the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Today Stephen Griffiths starts a life sentence after being convicted in that same courthouse for the murder of three sex workers. Stephen Griffiths admitted to killing Suzanne Blamires, 36, Shelley Armitage, 31, and 43-year-old Susan Rushworth.
Our Government learnt little from the deaths of the Ipswich sex workers. These three deaths in Bradford were totally avoidable. The following press release was released today by the IUSW.
The International Union of Sex Workers
Tuesday 21st December 2010
Stephen Griffiths starts life sentence for the murder of three sex workers.
International Union of Sex Workers calls for policies that prioritise safety:
December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, was marked by an IUSW vigil in Bradford. Sex workers and allies from the local community gathered with candles and red umbrellas – symbol of the international sex workers’ rights movement – in commemoration of the harms done to people who sell sex, by individuals and by society.
How the law harms sex workers
Since the Policing & Crime Act 2009, people who sell sex on street – like Suzanne Blamires, Shelley Armitage and Susan Rushworth – can have contact with the police no more than four times a year without risk of arrest for “persistent” soliciting, which is defined as twice in three months.
People who sell sex indoors – male, female, and transgender, though the law is overwhelmingly enforced against women – are criminalised if they work together: any building used by more than one sex worker can be raided as a brothel and legislation on “controlling for gain” covers almost every way of working with or for a third party.
Decriminalisationis an essential step in order to give sex workers the full protection of the law – while we are criminalised for working together, we can never be safe. Catherine Stephens, an activist with the IUSW says, “The law builds in vulnerability and isolation at the most fundamental level. Would we be safer if we could work together? Yes. Is that legal? No.”
In addition, the IUSW calls for the “Merseyside Model” to be adopted nationwide. In Liverpool, crime against sex workers is treated as hate crime: there is a 68% detection rate for rapes committed against street sex workers and 90% of violent cases that went to court resulted in convictions. This shows that, with the political will, we can tackle violence against people in the sex industry.
Further action to increase safety would be for the government to fund a proposed UK wide “Ugly Mugs” scheme, managed by the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, to enable earlier detection of perpetrators of crimes against sex workers. “Ugly Mugs” information sharing was created by sex workers as a response to the absence of police protection – many members of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects have developed such schemes but there is currently no mechanism for them to share information and there are some areas of the UK with no scheme at all. The Association of Chief Police Officers supports the introduction of a UK wide “Ugly Mugs” scheme.
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workerswas created by sex workers as a way to speak out against those who would silence us, whether by direct violence, the violence of the state or those who would rather speak for or about us than listen to us. This day has been marked by sex workers to commemorate the harms done to our community since 2003, in reaction to the comments of the “Green River Killer” who murdered at least 71 women. “I picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing … I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”
A partial list of the global events marking December 17 can be found at
The red umbrella, symbol of the international sex workers’ rights movement, originated in Italy in 2001. Red for our strength and our pride, it represents both the literal shelter from the weather needed when working on the street, and a symbolic protection from the prejudice, discrimination and abuse still endured by sex workers everywhere.
How “Ugly Mugs” works.
Sex workers can report crimes against them to the local sex work project, providing detailed descriptions of the incident. With permission, this information is passed by the project to local police with no risk to the victim of the crime. For more details http://www.uknswp.org/news.asp?id=59
The International Union of Sex Workers:
For our human, civil and labour rights. For our inclusion and decriminalisation.
For freedom to choose and respect for those choices, including the absolute right to say no.
For the full protection of the law. For everyone in the sex industry.
ONLY RIGHTS WILL STOP THE WRONGS.