ENGLISH COLLECTIVE OF PROSTITUTES . . . PRESS RELEASE
Stop new laws vs consenting sex!
As the governments announces new prostitution offences, we ask: who benefits from criminalising sex workers & clients?
The English Collective of Prostitutes co-ordinates the Safety First Coalition
On Wednesday 19 November, under the guise of protecting women from trafficking, the government will announce new laws against prostitution. While they claim to target men who have sex with a woman controlled for gain, what will be their effect on women? Bitter experience tells us that any law against consenting sex forces prostitution further underground and makes women more vulnerable to violence. Women Against Rape agrees: “We know from women we have helped over the years that criminalisation is the main obstacle to sex workers reporting rape and getting justice.”
In our submission to the government, we said:
“Prostitution is not an offence at present and we see no reason why sex between consenting adults should be criminalised just because one party pays the other for her or his services. While the new proposed offence speaks of sex with a person controlled for gain, how will it be established that the person is controlled for gain? Controlled by whom? For whose gain? Will a co-worker, a maid, a partner or any one else who relates to a sex worker be considered guilty? Are clients expected to know what sex workers’ working arrangements are? Which arrangements will be deemed legal and which not?” For full submission see: www.prostitutescollective.net
Just like in any other job, many women prefer to work together: it is safer and less boring. Often younger women work for older ones. Under the proposed offence, any client of a woman working for another could be convicted. But what is his crime? The woman is working voluntarily and is likely to be making a better income than most women in commonly available low waged jobs.
2. WIDESPREAD OPPOSITION: PUBLIC MEETING
Tuesday 25 November 2008 6-8pm, Committee Room 16, House of Commons
Come and hear how wide ranging opposition to the government proposals is.
The meeting is hosted by John McDonnell MP.
Speakers so far:
Niki Adams, English Collective of Prostitutes
Victoria Andrews, lap-dance club manager & ex lap-dancer
Sian Berry, Green Party candidate for Mayor of London
Toni Cole, ex-sex worker, first successful private prosecution for rape in England & Wales
Sue Conlan, Solicitor
Niamh Eastwood, Head of Legal Services, RELEASE
Richard Faulkner, House of Lords
Jean Johnson, Hampshire Women’s Institute
Catherine Stephens, International Union of Sex Workers
Dr Helen Ward, Dept of Epidemiology & Public Health, Imperial College, London
3. SOME FACTS
Public opinion is increasingly hostile to repressive policies that force prostitution underground, and make it less safe for sex workers.
o In February, the Safety First Coalition with MPs and Peers defeated government attempts to “rehabilitate” sex workers and increase arrests.
o On 14 November, the IQ2 debate at the Royal Geographical Society defeated “It is Wrong to Pay for Sex “by 449 to 203.
o The Communications Workers Union has voted for decriminalisation.
o Long established women’s organisations are canvassing their members.
o Lapdancers handed into Downing Street a 3,000-strong petition against tightening licensing laws.
o Internationally, New Zealand’s five-year review showed decriminalisation is a success. In US, the historical election that voted Barrack Obama as president by a landslide, was also memorable in San Francisco for Proposition K to decriminalise prostitution in the city. Prop K got 43% of the votes – astonishing given that its sex-worker-led campaign had no funding, and that the police, District Attorney and Mayor used their position to misinform and scare voters.
Workers don’t benefit from criminalisation. The ECP has been inundated by women who have been raided, arrested and charged, and face imprisonment for running safe, discrete premises where no coercion is taking place. Anti-trafficking legislation is being used to justify these raids. Who will support families hit by recession when mothers and daughters who sell sex are imprisoned? How can women who want to get out of prostitution find another job if they have a criminal record?
Pimps, violent men and “rehabilitation” projects benefit. Pimps are attracted by any illegal economy. Violent men know that illegal workers can’t report violence or exploitation. And more anti-prostitution projects will be funded to “save” the rest of us.
Why are resources wasted on policing consenting sex when most rapists are getting away with it? Why are anti-trafficking laws used to deport women?
Sex workers want rights, not charity. We want safety, not prison.
Listen to the workers, not the preachers.
English Collective of Prostitutes
PO Box 287
London NW6 5QU
Tel: 020 7482 2496
Fax: 020 7209 4761