Senior police officer calls for review of law on prostitution

Press Release

Senior police officer calls for review of law on prostitution
The International Union of Sex Workers
Tuesday 28th December 2010 Immediate Release

Contact: Catherine Stephens on 07772 638748 or Amy on 07510 575903

The IUSW welcomes the statements by ACPO’s lead on prostitution and sexual exploitation, Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne, that it is time to look again at the laws around prostitution.

Law surrounding the sex industry are complex, confusing and ineffective in targeting harm. In fact, it makes sex workers’ lives more dangerous. There are already general laws to target violence, coercion and abuse, which sex workers are prevented from accessing through fear of the police, as there is an inherent contradiction between the police roles of protection and prosecution.

3,000-22,000 of the estimated 80,000 people who sell sex in the UK do so on street and are criminalised under the Street Offences Act of 1959 if they loiter or solicit; the Sexual Offences Act 1985 penalises kerb-crawling. The Policing & Crime Act 2009 tweaked existing legislation: the requirement for persistent behaviour by kerb-crawlers was removed and a definition of “persistence” for soliciting or loitering was given: twice in three months. That gives this profoundly vulnerable group of women the opportunity to have contact with the police four times a year without fear of arrest.

Over the past 50 years, this legislation has entirely failed to solve the problems associated with street prostitution. The most “successful” outcomes, resulting from expensive long term enforcement, are displacement (for example, street sex workers moved to Norwich as a result of increased police action in Ipswich).

Indoors, it is possible to work entirely legally, but the only way to be free of the risk of prosecution is to work for yourself in complete isolation. Two people working together fulfils the legal definition of a brothel, so the law builds in isolation at the most fundamental level; the owner or tenant is liable to up to 7 years imprisonment.

“Controlling for gain” – legislation on “pimping” – explicitly includes people who are working of their own free will and covers almost every way of working with or for a third party.

Prosecution requires no evidence of coercion, violence or abuse; there have been several recent successful prosecutions where it was accepted in court that the defendant offered a safe, fair and honest working environment to women who freely chose to be there.

Likewise, our legal definition of trafficking fails to meet the standard of either the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking (commonly called the Palermo Protocol) or the Council of Europe Convention on Trafficking. It refers to knowledge and intent, not coercion, deception or abuse.

Catherine Stephens, activist with the International Union of Sex Workers says, “The law doesn’t just fail to target violence and exploitation, it actually facilitates it. Would we be safer working together? Yes. Is that legal? No.”

A community’s worth is measured by the way it treats the most vulnerable. It is time to treat people who sell sex with respect and to prioritise our rights and safety. It is time to decriminalise sex work so people who sell sex have the full protection of the law.

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A Lack of Transparency (re Apne Aap Women Worldwide)

By NIHARIKA S. JAIN and TARA SURI
Published: Tuesday, November 02, 2010

In a New Delhi village where a staggering 85 percent of women are victims of sex trafficking, the Najafgarh Community Centre is imprinted with the sign of Venus, the symbol for the female gender and for the anti-trafficking organization “Apne Aap Women Worldwide.” On its website, Apne Aap says it runs the Najafgarh Community Centre for the empowerment of women and children, a claim that it makes to donors worldwide. Unfortunately, the striking symbol and the large letters etched below it spelling out “Apne Aap” seem to be the organization’s only mark on the village.

We learned all this when we arrived in Najafgarh this summer with a bold idea to help the villagers transform their situation. After reading about Apne Aap and corresponding with its founder, Ruchira Gupta, we raised $20,000 to fund a vocational training program that would teach the women to sew and provide a sustainable job option as an alternative to prostitution. After an initial $12,000 donation, we received monthly reports from Apne Aap listing names of women and children involved in programs at the Community Centre. Yet we also received desperate e-mails from the community coordinator complaining that Apne Aap was not allocating money appropriately. But in light of the international accolades the organization had been receiving for its efforts to help female sex workers, we were loath to think our $12,000 contribution had been misused, Continue reading

Sherman Oaks-Based Porn Industry Health Clinic Shut Down By State And L.A. County Officials

By Dennis Romero, Thu., Dec. 9 2010 @ 4:24PM

Updated after the jump with information about another porn industry STD testing operation. First posted at 11:51 a.m.
The porn industry’s health-care clinic was shut down Thursday morning by state and county officials, a spokesman for California Department of Public Health told the Weekly.

The Adult Industry Healthcare Foundation’s clinic was served with a cease and desist order and Los Angeles County authorities shut it down, said state public health spokesman Al Lundeen.

The clinic served as the industry’s de facto STD testing service and without it it’s hard to fathom how porn production will go on this week. Continue reading

Canada: Abuse standard treatment: sex workers

Concern Over Police Conduct; Advocacy group to ask rights commission to
conduct inquiry into claims against police

By Don Butler, Ottawa Citizen
December 1, 2010

Ottawa police are facing new allegations of misconduct, this time toward the city’s sex workers.

A report to be released today by Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work, Educate and Resist (POWER) claims that city police officers regularly assault, abuse and harass prostitutes and other sex workers.

A few of the sex workers interviewed said they’d even been strip-searched by officers in public areas.

The findings have prompted POWER, a sex-worker-led advocacy organization, to ask the Ontario Human Rights Commission to conduct a public inquiry into the Ottawa police’s “systemic discrimination” against sex workers.

In an 11-page letter to the rights commission, POWER says the Ottawa 7Police Service discriminates against sex workers on three prohibited grounds — sex, ethnicity and “perceived disability.” Continue reading