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The International Union of Sex Workers offers a cautious welcome to the new guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Current law on the sex industry is confusing and complicated: sex workers are at risk of prosecution unless they work indoors in complete isolation. Legislation on brothel keeping and “controlling for gain” fail to target exploitation or coercion, but criminalises those working together. For those selling sex onstreet, the definition of “persistent soliciting” (more than once every three months) means they can have contact with the police four times a year without risk of arrest.
We are glad to see ACPO recognise that “the safety of people engaged in sex work must be paramount to the police service”.
We are also glad to see awareness of the practical work currently underway that increases the protection of people in the sex industry:
“As currently done by Merseyside Police, to deal with violent and sexual crimes / incidents on sex workers in the same vein as a ‘Hate Crime / Incident’ i.e. premium response and
service to the victim”
“ACPO supports the work of the UK Network of Sex Worker Projects, especially in relation to the ongoing development and enhancement of ‘Ugly Mugs’ schemes”
There is also acknowledgement that “Enforcement alone is an inadequate solution,” with clear direction to local forces: “This strategy supports partner organizations and projects offering support services to sex workers … Supporting health, welfare, education and peer-led organisations in promoting safe sex practice by sex workers “
However, there remains an inherent contradiction between the police role of protection and enforcement, and sex workers will continue to bear the consequences of this in terms of violence and other abuses.
Catherine Stephens, an activist with the IUSW, says “Like Simon Byrne, ACPO Lead on this issue, the IUSW wishes to see policy based on a sound evidence base, that draws upon the experience of sex workers in decriminalised areas of Australia and New Zealand. Sex workers deserve the full protection of the law and equal treatment with other citizens.”
Georgina Perry, manager of Open Doors service, which operates across three of London’s Olympic boroughs and member of the Board of the UKNSWP “We welcome the ACPO’s recognition that partnership work with expert local services is essential; the UKNSWP represents more than 60 such services across the UK who are the frontline of offering services to sex workers. Partnership work must include working with sex workers themselves. Laws about sex work in this country do little to protect people who are selling sex, which should be our highest priority.”
For further information contact:
activist, International Union of Sex Workers
07772 638748 / 020 7697 1057
IUSW c/o MSH Suite C Maples Business Centre 144 Liverpool Road London N1 1LA
Board Member, UK Network of Sex Work Projects
UKNSWP 114 Cariocca Business Park Sawley Road Manchester M40 8BB
Details of the ACPO strategy and statement from Simon Byrne: