Briefing on sections 13-20 of the Policing and Crime Bill
The International Union of Sex Workers
Sections 13-20 of the Policing and Crime Bill will
• criminalise paying, or promising to pay, for sex with a person who is controlled for gain
• define persistent in terms of soliciting by street sex workers
• remove the requirement for persistent behaviour by purchasers of sexual services on the street
• enforce compulsory rehabilitation for street sex workers
• give police powers to close brothels, on grounds of suspicion only, for up to three months
This document shows that if these proposals become law they will
• place all sex workers at greater risk of violence and abuse
• impact most severely upon the most vulnerable
• facilitate trafficking and exploitation
• deter people in the sex industry from reporting crimes against themselves or others (e.g., underage girls coerced into prostitution)
• ignore the human rights of sex workers
• deny the right of adults to consent to sex
• reinforce social exclusion of people in the sex industry
• diminish support for the vulnerable, impede harm reduction and reduce the chances of exiting by those who wish to leave sex work
Wholesale criminalisation actively enables trafficking and exploitation by making no distinction between good and bad practice
If policy on prostitution continues to conflate the sale of sexual services with trafficking, abuse and exploitation, legislation will be at best ineffective, at worst harmful.
There are no more vehement or dedicated opponents of the abuse of sex workers than sex workers ourselves: we have most to gain from safe, fair and non-exploitative working environments, and from an end to social exclusion and discrimination against us.
Without the contribution of those who see the day to day working of the sex industry, it is impossible to create effective policies to target the abuses which take place within the sex industry.
The draft legislation, if enacted and enforced, will increase the vulnerability of people in the sex industry. It will drive the industry back underground. Robbery and violence will increase in both indoor and on-street sex work. This will make a repeat of the events in Ipswich in 2006 more, rather than less, likely.
There is no more valid group of stakeholders in this debate than we who work in the sex industry. We will bear the damaging consequences of poorly drafted and ill-informed legislation, however well-intentioned.
The lack of evidence to support the legislation and its alleged effects 4
Sections 13 & 14: to criminalise paying, or promising to pay, for sex with a person who is controlled for gain
• Summary 5
• Trafficking and the sex industry 5
• The reality of “controlling for gain” 6
• The role of demand 7
• The failure of the “Swedish model” 7
• Failings in principle & practice: breaches of human rights & legal unworkability 7
• How existing law enables trafficking 9
• How proposed legislation would increase violence and aid traffickers 9
Sections 15-19 increase the criminalization of street sex work and the range of punishments to which street sex workers are subject.
• Summary 11
• Violence and the vulnerability of street sex workers 11
• How proposals will increase violence against sex workers, create a more negative impact on communities and perpetuate problems 11
• The contradiction of treatment as punishment 12
• The solution: adequately resourced, timely interventions 13
Section 20 Brothel closure orders
• Summary 14
• Working flats and brothels 14
• How this legislation would increase the social exclusion of sex workers 14
• How this legislation would increase violence and exploitation in the indoor sex industry 16
Appendix 1 – controlling for gain 17
Appendix 2 – articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights breached by UK law on sex work 18
Appendix 3 – The Palermo Protocol definition of trafficking 18
1. The debate about the sex industry is generally informed more by ideology and personal emotional reactions than factual evidence and the diverse experiences of sex workers. Emotive opinions are not a sound basis for policy, particularly when contradicted by a substantial body of academic evidence, service providers working with sex workers and sex workers’ organisations. The Government is mandated to formulate sound policy with a robust evidence base, which is simply not present in this case.
2. Policies that solve problems are based in reality, not on ideology, assumption and stereotypes.
3. Ignorance about the diverse reality of the sex industry and the way it is distorted by criminalisation results in inaccurate estimates of the number of victims of trafficking and the ineffectiveness of current measures to locate them.
4. There is no evidence that demand for commercial sex is the primary cause of trafficking: trafficking occurs in the sex industry for the same reasons it occurs in other industries.
5. There is no evidence that the majority of sex workers are unwilling. Research finds a range of reasons people enter and remain in sex work.
6. The sexual behaviour of consenting adults requires no regulation by the state. There are already laws against violence, coercion, rape, kidnapping, extortion, debt bondage, forced labour and trafficking. Enforcing these laws would represent a better use of existing resources and make a beneficial difference to sex workers’ lives.
7. The legal status of the sex industry makes enforcement of those laws more difficult and actively protects traffickers by creating a hidden environment in which they can more easily exploit their victims.
8. Criminalisation of sex work facilitates violence against sex workers in general and migrant sex workers and trafficked persons in particular.
9. It ensures that the vast majority of people who are in a position to report anxieties about coercion and trafficking for sexual exploitation face enormous disincentives to do so.
10. Measures which improve the situation of migrant workers in other industries will improve the situation of migrant workers in the sex industry. Traf?cked persons are not found in businesses which operate openly where conditions are monitored.
11. Male and transgender sex workers are usually ignored in the debate about sex work used to formulate laws which will apply to them. Some campaigners and politicians maintain that prostitution is inherently oppressive to women; this argument is undermined by acknowledging male and transgender sex workers.
12. The Home Secretary acknowledges consensual sex work, but provisions decree that if a person is controlled for gain, the state overrules their right to consent to sex.
13. Despite claims by non sex workers that all sex work is violence against women, we can tell the difference between safe, fair and honest working environments and those who coerce, exploit and abuse us; between those who pay us for sexual services clearly negotiated and those who take advantage of our criminalisation and social exclusion to rape, rob or assault us. Broadly drafted legislation allows abuses to flourish because they are poorly targeted.
We in the sex industry deserve laws that recognise our rights and protect our safety. Without the same rights and protection of the law as other citizens, exploitation and violence in the sex industry will continue.
The lack of evidence to support the legislation and its alleged effects.
Trafficking and demand.
• There is no evidence that trafficking for sexual exploitation is demand led.
• There is no evidence that most purchasers of sexual services wish to buy services from the unwilling.
• There is no evidence of trafficking (referred to in the objectives for sections 18 and 19) for street prostitution.
• The Home Office has either misinterpreted or misrepresented its own data on the indoor market: the Regulatory Impact Assessment on brothel closure orders describes Pentameter 2 as identifying 800 brothels containing trafficked women. In fact, Pentameter 2 accessed 822 brothels, and located 167 victims.
Street sex work: solutions.
• There have been many studies showing the long- and short-term ineffectiveness of anti-kerb-crawling campaigns: they will disrupt, displace and disperse markets for sexual services temporarily, but offer no long term solutions.
• The Home Office’s own research shows that enforcement and police crackdowns are ineffective in terms of reducing disorder, and that the most effective solution was “the right support … available at the right time”.
• The Home Office has made little reference to the vast body of recognised academic study on this topic, including in-depth analysis of client behaviour, the role of demand and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
• The Home Office used data from “Big Brothel” (Bindel & Atkins, 2008) in the report on demand. This document does not claim to be research and was considered such an exemplar of bad practice in ethics, methodology and analysis twenty eight senior academics studying this subject signed a joint refutation.
• Although the Home Office commissioned research intended to inform new legislation, legislation has been drafted before this was received.
• This research included a literature review examining existing research to provide a concrete evidence base to create effective policy. Its absence shows there is no evidence base to the policies being presented to parliament.
Sections 13 & 14: to criminalise paying, or promising to pay, for sex with a person who is controlled for gain.
Proposed legislation does not target violence, coercion, or trafficking: “controlling for gain” makes no distinction between fair, safe and honest workplaces and premises run by those happy to exploit and abuse. Well-run premises or agencies will not offer work to migrants if the authorities assume all migrants are trafficked, thereby limiting migrants’ options to those who are happy to break the law. Clients will not report anxieties about trafficking if when doing so they will be arrested. This legislation will actually increase the dangers faced by those it purports to assist and perpetuate the harms it is intended to prevent.
• Trafficking and the sex industry
• The reality of “controlling for gain”
• The role of demand
• The failure of the “Swedish model”
• Failings in principle and practice: breaches of human rights and legal unworkability.
• How existing law enables trafficking
• How proposed legislation would increase violence and aid traffickers
Trafficking and the sex industry.
1. Migrants take enormous risks to come to the UK; if they cannot migrate legally, they will by definition use criminal networks to get here, which can lead to them becoming victims of trafficking.
2. 80,000 people are estimated to work in the sex industry – mostly women, but also men and transgender people. The Home Office estimates 4,000 women (5%) are trafficked into prostitution.
3. Pentameter 1 and 2 – nationwide, intelligence-lead police operations – raided 1,337 premises (estimated as more than 10% of the total) over two years, and found 255 victims of trafficking (equivalent to approximately 2500 across the entire industry). By contrast, a single raid on a farm in November 2008 rescued 60 victims of trafficking. Trafficking is prevalent in agriculture, construction, hospitality & catering and many other sectors, yet no such legislation is intended to tackle the issue in these areas.
4. Some so-called “indicators of trafficking” actual indicate ignorance of how the sex industry works. For example, the presence of different women on different days of the week in the same premises has been seen as a sign of “well-organised gangs moving the girls around”. However, in an industry where two people working together are automatically criminalised (as the premises will be considered to be a brothel), this is standard practice, and does not indicate the presence of organised gang activity.
5. Other indicators of trafficking are considered to include comments such as “Kissing available for £20 “depending on what you look like”, “£30 extra for anal if caller is ‘smallish down there’”, “Anal price negotiable ‘depending on size’” (Poppy Project, Big Brothel, September 2008). The only person able to make this assessment is the provider of sexual services: these comments show freedom of choice, not trafficking.
6. 2% of the 925 referrals to the Poppy Project in the five years since March 2003 are from clients, a further 6% from unspecified “members of the public” (note, this is the figure for accepted referrals, not total reporting by clients). In Turkey, in the first six months of operation, a well-publicised hotline for reporting fears about trafficking (in any field: hotel and catering, domestic service, agriculture, etc.) received three quarters of its tip offs from sex workers’ clients. Those calls resulted in the destruction of 10 trafficking networks and freedom of 100 women from coercion. Clients will report concerns if they are encouraged and know how to do so.
7. Poppy considers all prostitution to be violence against women and campaigns for the complete criminalisation of clients. This ideological position, their entirely subjective opinion, necessarily affects their estimation of abuses in the sex industry as they consider everyone who offers us a place in which to work to promote violence against us and every client a rapist.
8. In contrast, the sixty-three members of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, who offer frontline services to sex workers across the UK, all recognise that sex workers have a right to self-determination, including to stay in or leave sex work. Many of the UKNSWP’s seventeen member projects in London see more than a thousand clients a year.
9. London has high levels of migrant sex workers. Many of them are from countries regarded as potential sources for trafficking (for example, Moldova, where a third of the population has migrated).
10. The prevalence of migrants in sex work is primarily due to the low wages available in other unregulated industries (for example, the hourly wage for sex work is equivalent to a 10-12 hour shift in a commercial kitchen).
11. We estimate that 70-85% of sex workers in London are non-UK nationals – in common with other service industries in the capital, most of which pay minimum wage. This is not the case outside London: Liverpool, a city with a long history of immigration, still has only 6-8% migrants in its sex industry; 10-15% of indoor sex workers in Edinburgh are from outside the UK and in Newcastle a fraction (1-2%) of escorts are non UK nationals.
12. There is great difference between a victim of trafficking and a migrant working in the UK sex industry, even when entry to the UK was achieved by resorting to being smuggled by criminal networks. However, these categories are often conflated – some newspaper reports recently have used the estimated percentage of non-UK nationals in the London sex industry as the estimated percentage of victims of trafficking.
The reality of “controlling for gain”.
1. It is estimated that non-trafficked indoor sex workers make up from 49,000 to 73,000 (61-91%), of the 80,000 people believed to work in the sex industry.
2. Controlling for gain, as defined in law, is entirely unconnected with trafficking or exploitation. It covers almost every way of working with or for a third party.
3. If this term were strictly applied to other industries, it would include actors, authors, models, many hairdressers, mini-cab drivers, anyone who works for any kind of temp agency or other third party who arranges their work, including most barristers in chambers – for example, the footballers Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, were, and are, controlled for gain: their economic rights are owned not by their respective clubs, but by the third party company MSI.
4. Prosecution for controlling for gain 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 work there.
5. Drivers, security staff or receptionists paid by independent sex workers to offer them some measure of protection are at risk of prosecution for controlling for gain; the definition is so broad that some will be found guilty.
6. The only way to work in the sex industry free of the risk of prosecution is to work for yourself in complete isolation. Not everyone wishes to do this – sex workers demand the right to choose to work with or for someone else. The Court of Appeal judgement on “control” and a list of typical services provided by an establishment or agency which would be considered in law to be “controlling for gain” is given in Appendix 1.
7. Not everyone is capable of working independently; some brothels and agencies provide a better situation for vulnerable individuals than they would face working for themselves.
The role of demand.
1. According to the 2000 National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles 9% of men in London had paid for sex in the past 5 years, compared with 4% across the UK.
2. Less than 5% of clients said they would be deterred by legal sanctions, though 20% said they’d stop buying sex if they had a girlfriend (“It’s just like going to the supermarket” Coy, Horvath, Kelly 2007).
3. Prices for sexual services in London, accepted as the location with the greatest proportion of migrant sex workers, have been static for the past 8-12 years, a real fall as measured against inflation.
4. Many well-established working flats and individual sex workers report less custom now than in previous years.
5. If the market for sexual services (and thus for trafficked women) is demand led, static or falling prices imply that demand has fallen.
6. This has made no difference to trafficking, so attempts to reduce demand through legislation will make no difference to trafficking.
7. If the market is in fact supply led (as static/falling prices in a situation of increased supply most directly imply), again, criminalising clients will be completely ineffective in reducing trafficking.
8. Not only is criminalising clients useless in reducing trafficking whether the market is demand or supply led, dissuading clients from using the services of migrant workers is directly against migrants’ interests, whether entrapped or independent.
9. If they are independent, this will directly affect their income and therefore the resources available to them.
10. If they are entrapped, clients are one of the few groups of people likely to see victims of trafficking who could report anxieties, but are unlikely to do so if criminalised.
The failure of the “Swedish model”.
1. Criminalising clients has been unsuccessful in Sweden: Petra Ostergren, who has worked in this field for 10 years, says that no-one knows if numbers have fallen, but that sex workers feel more vulnerable because they have to operate secretly.
2. The national rapporteur on trafficking, Kajsa Wahlberg, says the number of women trafficked to Sweden has more than doubled.
3. Sex workers were explicitly excluded from any consultation about changes in the law. Lobbyists have proposed a similar exclusion in this country: those who wish to silence us do not have sex workers’ interests at heart.
Failings in principle and practice: breaches of human rights and legal unworkability.
1. Existing law relating to the sex industry infringes Articles 7, 20, 21 and 23 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (Appendix 2)
2. Resolution 1579 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognises voluntary adult prostitution, and requires states do not force sex workers underground and make us more vulnerable, but seek to empower us. The resolution recommends “respect the right of prostitutes … to have a say in any policies … concerning them”.
3. The Home Secretary acknowledges consensual sex work, but provisions decree that if an adult person is controlled for gain, the state overrules their right to consent to sex.
4. The implications of this law are that the state has a role to play in regulating the sexual behaviour of consenting adults: not that it is “wrong to pay for someone who is exploited through prostitution” because the laws do not actually target the exploitation within the sex industry.
5. Terms of strict liability are used for offences such as parking tickets. To abandon the principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty for an offence of this gravity is contrary to the most basic principles of human rights and British law. It would be inexcusable even were the legislation proposed workable and effective, which it is not.
6. If the boundaries between what is legal and what is illegal are not defined in such a way that a person informed about the law can distinguish between what is legal and what is illegal, no reasonable jury will convict, i.e., the legislation will be found unworkable once the first successful defence on ignorance grounds sets a precedent.
7. If it is legal to pay for sex, but illegal to pay for sex with a ‘controlled’ sex worker then there must be an absolute defence if one genuinely believes one is doing the former (i.e., doing something permitted by law). Otherwise, the boundary between what is legal and what is illegal is completely blurred.
8. If ignorance is no defence, it is reasonable to expect the Home Office to inform the public how to avoid breaking the law. Simply to say, or imply, that it is best not to engage in this activity at all is insufficient: it is not the business of the state to prevent its citizens from adult consensual sexual activity, or to blur the circumstances in which consent may be obtained.
9. Traffickers do not have strict liability, but are entitled to a fair trial and the assumption of innocence till they are proven guilty – this proposal holds men who pay for sex more accountable than traffickers.
10. This law makes it illegal for British subjects to engage in activities which are legal in other countries, including other EU member states.
11. Given that the Home Office has proven incapable of determining in its recruitment procedures if someone is an illegal migrant (who, by definition, gained entry to the UK via criminal networks), it is illogical to expect purchasers of sexual services to be able to do so.
12. If the circumstances in which consent may be obtained are blurred it is dangerous to women. It undermines both our ability to consent to sexual behaviour and to refuse it. Purchasers of sexual services will be told by the Home Office that “yes does not necessarily mean yes”; therefore by implication “no does not necessarily mean no”.
13. The Home Secretary has stated she envisages prosecutions only for clients at premises at the time of a police raid: this makes the chance of prosecution so low as to be an ineffective deterrent.
14. As the offence takes place even if the perpetrator only “promises payment for the sexual services” a client who phones an escort agency, meets the sex worker they send, and calls the police to report anxieties that s/he is trafficked or exploited is guilty. Guilt is incurred at the time of making the phone call, when the client has not even seen the provider of sexual services.
15. At what equivalent point when visiting an incall service does the client incur guilt? Discussing fees in public areas? Entering a private space with the providers of sexual services? If the client does not discuss fees, has sex and leaves without paying, what offence has been committed?
16. If a potential client selects a provider of sexual services on the basis that they are anxious about them (with the intent to report if they need assistance), as mens rea is not an element of guilt, their purpose is does not diminish their guilt under this law.
17. How will this offence be enforced? “Controlled for gain” prosecutions are rare. Clients could only be prosecuted after it had been proved in law that the person paid for sex was controlled for gain, a process that could take years.
18. Does this increase criminalisation of sex workers by leaving them open to prosecution for “inchoate offences” e.g., acting as an accessory? What information will clients be given to enable them to identify situations in which they might be breaking the law?
19. The law will create an open invitation for the unscrupulous to entrap and blackmail “clients”, similar to conditions that existed for gay men prior to the decriminalisation of homosexual sex. The offence provides perfect opportunity for clients to be “set up” and blackmailed. Pre-Wolfenden, this had devastating effects both on individuals – gay and straight – and on the gay community.
20. If persons convicted are placed on the Sex Offenders Register, this impairs the effectiveness of the Register to monitor those who are truly dangerous.
How existing law enables trafficking.
1. ¬No British legislation on the sex industry actually refers to coercion, violence, abuse or exploitation; neither does our trafficking legislation. For example, a driver employed by an escort agency, whose role may include not only providing transport but also waiting at a discreet distance from, say, a new client’s residence as a first point of call should something go awry, may be imprisoned for up to 14 years for trafficking under S58 of the SOA 2003. Indeed, if a person knowingly gives someone a lift to a brothel – or indeed to a gay cruising ground – they can be imprisoned for up to 14 years for trafficking in the UK, even if they give the lift for free and at the sex worker’s own request.
2. Despite the very loose definition of trafficking in UK law, it is indisputable that “victims” of trafficking, as defined under the Palermo Protocol (see Appendix 3) – women coerced into selling sex or grievously exploited when doing so, women trapped in debt bondage and under threat of violent reprisal – do exist.
3. Three groups of people are likely to see those women: sex workers, clients and those who run brothels, working flats and escort agencies. Existing and proposed law builds in structural reasons to prevent all of these groups to report anxieties about trafficking.
4. As two people working together fulfils the legal definition of a brothel, many working flats decrease their likelihood of being raided by arranging for only one individuals to work on each day of the week. Due to this “rota system” sex workers are unlikely to see other people working in the same flat, loosing another opportunity to identify and report anxieties about trafficking.
5. Sex workers who work collectively in “brothels” are discouraged from reporting concerns by fear of losing their livelihood as a result and the potential for arrest and prosecution: such prosecutions may fail or may, and have, succeeded.
6. Anyone who runs a brothel, working flat or escort agency is criminalised under legislation against controlling for gain, brothel keeping etc. so is at risk of arrest if s/he contacts the police.
7. Despite this, there have been cases where brothel owners have alerted police to suspicions of trafficking. Regrettably, there have been cases where those suspicions have been proven correct, where victims have been rescued, traffickers arrested – and the police have then returned to the source of their information, to arrest, prosecute, imprison and confiscate their assets. This acts as a considerable disincentive to report.
How proposed legislation would increase violence and exploitation and aid traffickers.
1. The political context in which this proposal is being introduced is one in which clients are seen as perpetrators of violence against women who sell sex.
2. Sexual services are different from many areas of work in that, unlike e.g., agricultural work, the consumer is able to assess for themselves the conditions in which someone is working and how happy they are to be doing that work.
3. By definition, the clients most likely to obey this law are the most law-abiding. From this we can infer that they are the least likely to treat sex workers abusively, and the most likely to report anxieties about trafficking.
4. Clients least likely to be affected by new legislation are those who already abuse and take advantage of our vulnerability in law – rapists, robbers, exploiters. If they are not deterred by existing laws against these crimes, they will not be affected by criminalising paying for sex.
5. There is evidence that a small minority of street sex workers’ clients experience heightened excitement due to a sense of doing something outside the law. There is every reason to believe increased criminalisation will have the same effect on some clients of indoor workers: the last thing that will increase our safety is the perception we are further outside the law.
6. Evidence shows that the majority of robbery, abuse, harassment and physical or sexual violence experienced by sex workers in the course of their work comes from those who do not pay for sex. Many of these assailants make no pretence of being clients, but express hatred of sex workers and appear to feel their actions are legitimated by the social attitudes of abhorrence for commercial sex. Others may approach as if they were clients, but then refuse to pay, commit assaults and robberies, or violently force return of payment after having had sex. Criminalising clients will have no impact upon these perpetrators of abuse and violence who are already committing criminal acts against sex workers.
Increasing exploitation and aiding traffickers.
7. When the situation deteriorates, as some of the most vulnerable people in the sex industry, migrants and victims of trafficking will be hit first and hardest: that’s what “most vulnerable” means. This law will increase the exclusion of migrant workers – if the presence of migrants raises the likelihood of being raided, brothels and agencies that attempt to operate safely will not offer them work, forcing them to accept worse working conditions.
8. If the law is successful in terms of reducing demand, providers of sexual services will face reduced options to generate income. Everyone, UK national or migrant, will face financial pressures to offer a wider range of services and/or lower prices and/or to accept clients they would prefer to refuse. This may include services which are physically less pleasant or more dangerous – for example, decreased condom use. If sex workers work in a brothel or for an agency, they may face pressure from owners and managers to increase variety of services/take lower fees/see unpopular clients.
9. To compensate for the greater risks undertaken, greater financial rewards will be sought by people running such flats and agencies, resulting in a poorer working conditions and reduced income for migrant sex workers and pressure on them to reduce prices and see clients or perform acts they would otherwise refuse.
10. With increasingly limited opportunities, migrant workers will end up in premises run by people more cavalier about breaking the law, more likely to be criminals prepared to exploit and abuse, less likely to report suspicions of trafficking.
Sections 15-19 increase the criminalization of street sex work and the range of punishments to which street sex workers are subject.
• Section 15 – defines “persistent” in terms of the offence of loitering etc for purposes of prostitution; deletes from statute the term “common prostitute” which we welcome.
• Sections 16 and 17 – add compulsory rehabilitation to the range of punishments to which street sex workers are subject
• Sections 18 and 19 remove the term persistent from the offence of kerb-crawling
In the 50 years since Wolfenden, legislation specific to sex work has signally failed to solve the problems associated with street sex work. Indeed many NGOs and academics consider legislation to cause or aggravate problems. Intensifying the legislation will only escalate these negative effects.
Increased criminalisation of street working women and their clients, and the experience of forced treatment for drug addiction, will further alienate women from the police and other sources of assistance. This will disrupt, rather than enhance, the circumstances needed to create effective change.
In the absence of additional funding for support services, compulsory rehabilitation will deprive those voluntarily seeking treatment from obtaining it. Any serious commitment to assist those who wish to leave street sex work must fund the support necessary to address the reasons why people are involved in the first place, and to continue support throughout the transition process. Without this financial input, again, the government is playing gesture politics with the lives of vulnerable women.
We know that targeting kerb-crawlers increases the level of violence experienced by street sex workers. This legislation will actually increase the dangers faced by those it purports to assist and perpetuate the harms it is intended to prevent.
• Violence and the vulnerability of street sex workers.
• How proposals will increase violence against sex workers, create a more negative impact on communities and perpetuate problems.
• The contradiction of treatment as punishment
• The solution: adequately resourced, timely interventions.
Violence and the vulnerability of street sex workers.
1. The vulnerability of street sex workers is widely accepted: a high proportion are survivors of child sexual abuse, have been in care, have poor educational achievement, are IV drug users and are homeless or in insecure housing situations.
2. Estimates for the number of women engaged in street sex work range from as low as 3,000 and as high as 27,000.
3. It is widely acknowledged that criminalisation of street sex workers is ineffective in addressing their problems, often simply requiring women to spend more time on the streets to raise money to cover fines.
4. Contrary to stereotype, clients are not the main source of violence against street sex workers. Violence may be perpetrated by those presenting as clients (whose aims are made easier to achieve by giving women less time to assess them).
5. A substantial amount of violence to street sex workers comes from members of the ‘general public’, such as gangs of youths, aggrieved local residents and vigilantes. Attacks include shouted abuse, projectiles (e.g. cups of urine) thrown from cars, and assaults requiring hospital treatment. The negative impact on communities in no way excuses such violence; as deterring kerb-crawlers is likely to increase the impact of street sex work on existing communities, or result in displacement to new areas, it is likely to result in an increase in violence from the general public.
How proposals will increase violence against sex workers, create a more negative impact on communities and perpetuate problems.
Section 15 – definition of “persistent” in terms of the offence of loitering etc for purposes of prostitution.
1. The definition of persistent is “on two or more occasions in any period of three months”. This is occasional, not persistent, behaviour and will increase the criminalisation of vulnerable women.
2. There is an inherent contradiction between the police roles of enforcement and protection: if sex workers know that they can be arrested if they have encountered the police at any time in the past three months, any expectation of protection from the police, and police ability to offer such protection, will deteriorate enormously. Street sex workers will effectively spend their time on the run from the police.
Sections18 and 19 – removing the word “persistent” from the offence of kerb-crawling.
1. If a man can be arrested and prosecuted on a first offence, this may happen if he has pulled over to check a map, to ask for directions, or, is in conversation with a woman in the street.
2. Crackdowns on kerb-crawling, whilst satisfying for those with objections to street sex work, show a correlation with increased violence against street sex workers.
3. Aggressive prosecution of kerb-crawlers does not increase the options and support available to street sex workers, but increases antagonism between street workers and police.
4. The clients deterred by knowledge of police campaigns against kerb-crawlers are the most law-abiding; such campaigns do nothing to affect the behaviour of the worst. An individual intending to assault, rape, abduct, rob, or kill will not be prevented by the prospect of a fine for kerb-crawling.
5. There is evidence that a small minority of clients’ excitement is increased by a sense of doing something outside the law, so this proposal could, by increasing the risk, increase their desire to pay for sex.
6. A smaller number of clients does nothing to reduce the amount of money the women need, so street sex workers work longer hours, compete more aggressively with other street workers, and are more likely to cut prices in order to secure a client, take greater risks and engage in activities they would prefer to avoid, including sex without a condom.
7. Greater desperation leads women to work in more isolated locations, further from other sex workers), to go with clients without negotiation as they have no time to assess potential clients or agree prices, boundaries, safe sex and other limits. Women are more likely to find themselves in a situation they would have declined with more time to make a decision.
8. Disrupted working hours and dispersal over a greater geographical area makes it more difficult for outreach workers to contact sex workers for safe sex counselling, drug rehabilitation or support in exiting prostitution.
9. As a result of dispersal over a wider area, more aggressive competition to attract clients and between women, and the longer hours needed to generate the same amount of money, kerb-crawling crackdowns not only harm women selling sex but result in greater impact on communities. In addition, women revert to other forms of crime as a way to make up the money that cannot be earned from sex work.
10. If it is more difficult to make money on the street, some women will trade sex for drugs in crackhouses, a profoundly unsafe environment, which gives them far fewer choices than earning cash which they can use for purposes other than drug purchase. Thus, kerb-crawling crackdowns may actually increase women’s drug consumption.
The contradiction of treatment as punishment.
1. Compulsory rehabilitation will erode trust in support services as they are seen as part of the criminal justice system and punishment process; the desire for voluntary engagement may decrease.
2. Local authorities with limited resources will prioritise funding of compulsory services; support projects may be reduced to a function of the criminal justice system.
3. Without more money, compulsory services will be offered at the cost of support to women who request it because they are ready to move on. If the priority is creating effective change, treatment sought voluntarily should always be prioritised over enforced treatment.
4. Breach of an order must not lead to more severe penalties than the original offence would have incurred, producing an unproductive treadmill that does nothing to improve the situation of the offender but eats up public funds.
The solution: adequately resourced, timely interventions.
Sections 16 and 17: a court order can require attendance at three meetings to “address the causes of the conduct constituting the offence, and find ways to cease engaging in such conduct in the future”.
1. Both street sex workers and the communities of which they are part deserve solutions that create long-term benefits and effective change, not unsustainable quick fixes which fail to address root causes.
2. Enabling someone to “exit” a complex and chaotic lifestyle which may include drug and alcohol dependency, mental health problems, a history of social exclusion etc. requires specialist, flexible, well-funded and long-term support: three one hour meetings are insufficient.
3. The probability of failure is included in the Impact Assessment: “courts may make three to four referral orders before [reverting to fining]”.
4. No additional funding is available so this work is done at the expense of other support to street sex workers: the Impact Assessment includes the Key Assumption “Capacity exists to carry out the orders” and the statement “each of the sessions … uses capacity/resources that would otherwise be used elsewhere in the voluntary, public or private sectors.” “Local projects will … have [previous] contact with those referred to them … referral workers will be identified from within dedicated support projects…”
5. Both the UKNSWP and NAPO, the organisations representing most “dedicated support projects”, consider the plans unworkable, inadequately resourced and counter-productive.
6. The Impact Assessment on kerb-crawling advocates “encourag[ing] prostitutes to seek ways out of prostitution and avoid the risks of ill health… associated with it”. Through the UKNSWP, projects delivering frontline health services, and supporting street sex workers in moving on from prostitution when they are able, have described the damage these proposals will do to that work, and thus harm the health of sex workers and their ability to exit
7. To effectively solve service users’ complex problems, services must prioritise those needs identified as most urgent by the client; attempting to enforce exiting strategies on unwilling, chaotic, drug-addicted, vulnerable women is at best a waste of public funds, at worst a route into alienation from services and custodial sanction.
8. Well-resourced effective specialised projects need to offer harm reduction services, support with drug and alcohol use, counselling and emotional support, educational development and training, employment advice and support, welfare and housing advice, all of which require funding; all these together may be needed for a woman to move on.
9. Support must also be available to partners of street sex working women. Although the classic “pimp” does exist, it is far more common that women will be in a relationship with another drug user, often presenting with a similarly broad range of issues, who engages in a variety of activities to support their drug habit, including crime and “keeping an eye” on his girlfriend at work to decrease her risk of assault or robbery.
Section 20 Brothel closure orders.
The provisions give wide-ranging powers to be used at the discretion of the police. No proof is required, and it is irrelevant whether the officer applying the order has suspicions that an offence has been or will be committed. Despite government assurance these powers will be used only to target harmful practice, the law is the law – once broad brush legislation is enacted, there is no way to impose limits on its execution.
Sex workers will be aware that the police have power to close premises immediately on grounds of suspicion only and that police have a financial interest in prosecutions under the Proceeds of Crime Act: these proposals make sex workers enormously vulnerable to the police.
Sex workers will often chose not to take the increased risk of reporting crimes against them; criminals also know the law and will take advantage accordingly. We will be without the protection of the law, and the consequences will be harmful to almost everyone in the indoor sex industry.
• Working flats and brothels
• How this legislation would increase the social exclusion of sex workers
• How this legislation would increase violence and exploitation in the indoor sex industry
Working flats and brothels.
1. A brothel is any location in which more than one person offers sex.
2. Present law makes no distinction between well-run brothels that are fair and safe, and those in which workers are coerced, exploited or treated as slaves; neither does new legislation.
3. Whilst we recognise some brothels cause nuisance to the community (and would welcome clarification of what constitutes nuisance), it is in our own interest to be unobtrusive, to be on good terms with our neighbours.
4. It is also the case that a small number of individuals from the wider community may harass an otherwise trouble free home or work place and search out reasons to complain.
5. The fact that some members of the community are uncomfortable with the idea of living or working in proximity to sex workers does not constitute “nuisance” on the part of sex workers. Using premises as a venue in which sex is sold does not in itself qualify as anti-social or nuisance behaviour.
6. This legislation will increase the vulnerability of all indoor workers to vigilante action from the local community, who are already being encouraged by NGOs to search out information on sex work locations and report them to the local authorities. Sex workers are a vulnerable group and are deserving of protection from harassment, vigilantism and discrimination in their communities.
7. Many people have chosen to work in prostitution due to economic pressure – any process which can result in immediate cessation of income will cause great hardship.
8. If people are working from home, this power will render them both homeless and without work.
How this legislation would increase the social exclusion of sex workers.
1. Further criminalisation will drive out good practice in brothel and agency management, but will not deter those who break the law with impunity, bringing sex workers into greater contact with danger and exploitation.
2. Support services are the only aspect of the state which meets sex workers on their own terms, providing user-lead services to create effective change – trust, often developed over years, is a fundamental part of successful working. Increased suspicion of the authorities as a result of this legislation will make it more difficult to access premises and to work effectively when able to gain entry.
3. It is unrealistic to give the police extensive powers but hope they will use them only to target abuse. Raids under the Pentameter operations were supposed to be intelligence lead and target trafficking, but there were instances of police using brothel legislation to arrest UK women working together for their own safety; there were also raids on premises that had enjoyed positive relationships with police and passed on information regarding suspicions of trafficked women or girls aged under 18.
4. Sex workers are already wary of the police – wide-ranging powers to be used at police discretion will only add to this. People working together will be aware the police have the ability to close premises that come to their attention and a possible financial incentive for prosecution; we will have valid reasons to see the police, who should be a source of protection, as a threat.
5. As a result reporting of crimes against sex workers will decrease, and more crimes will be committed against us.
6. The IUSW absolutely opposes child sexual abuse, whether in a commercial setting, or, as is more common, by family and friends. These provisions will not be effective in reducing underage prostitution that takes place in the indoor market.
7. Like the ordinary population, most sex workers view with abhorrence the presence of underage girls attempting, or being forced, to work in the sex industry. If sex workers know reporting this to the police may result in immediate closure of their workplace, there will be enormous risk (and consequent decrease) in reporting. Some may simply refuse to offer work to these girls and send them on their way, doing nothing to solve the problem and making it more likely they will eventually meet unscrupulous criminals willing to exploit their vulnerability.
8. The legislation also is potentially extremely dangerous to people who sell sex who have children, particularly the poor. Many sex workers prefer to see clients as “incall” (clients visit them) than “outcall” (sex worker travels to client) as they feel more secure in a familiar location. Not all sex workers choose, or can afford, to pay for separate premises for work. If a person with children is working from home, even if clients visit only when the children are absent, this legislation greatly increases the sex worker’s vulnerability to the police and indeed to blackmail.
9. Sex workers, like clients, will be an easy target for blackmail under these provisions.
10. Sex workers during the 1970s and 80s recount unprofessional behaviour from police officers, including demands for free sexual services. Such practices have decreased with changes in police culture, particularly the enactment and monitoring of professional standards within police forces. These proposals place huge power over a vulnerable population in the hands of the police.
11. The Home Secretary has power to authorise closure notices by “persons other than members of police forces” – further increasing opportunity for ill-informed, untrained, non-professionals to exert enormous power over a vulnerable group.
How this legislation would increase violence and exploitation in the indoor sex industry.
1. Existing law already has direct consequences for safety: sex workers are more likely to work in isolation to decrease the chance of being raided the police, and for prosecution to ensue.
2. Although the Coordinated Prostitution Strategy (2004) gave attention to ‘ensuring justice’ for sex workers, little has been done to ensure that crimes against sex workers were taken seriously.
3. Nowhere does new legislation send the message that sex workers are entitled to the protection of the law and that the police are encouraged to investigate complaints by sex workers.
4. A substantial proportion of violence experienced by indoor sex workers is through robbery. Gangs make a rational choice, in the expectation of a small number of people on the premises, cash available, reluctance to report, and the knowledge that if the robbery, rape or other assault is reported, the police may be dismissive in their response, the CPS wary of prosecuting due to low expectations of a conviction, and judge and jury may be influenced by their perceptions of sex work in the unlikely event a case does get to court.
5. This reluctance to report is due to mistrust of the police response, and realistic anxiety of arrest if the premises can be considered a brothel or the site of controlling for gain. If sex workers know that a call to the police could result in immediate closure of the premises they work in, reporting of violent crime will plummet from already paltry levels. Criminals will increase their attacks on sex workers accordingly, free of the fear of arrest.
6. For the same reasons, sex workers will increasingly be selected by perpetrators planning violent assaults who present as clients in order to gain access to the premises.
7. Many brothels are in ordinary residential areas, but possess an unusually high level of security equipment – cameras, CCTV, grilles on doors etc.. Proprietors may discard such equipment in the hope it will provide less evidence for suspicions a location is being used for sex work, with potential repercussions for safety.
8. Sex workers need policing that prioritises reducing exploitation and violence, rather than seeing sex workers as a handy source of increased arrest figures and potential income, when we report crimes against us.
9. As a result of this new legislation, premises may move frequently, advertise inconsistently, and operate more covertly. This will have negative consequences to sex workers, police and victims of trafficking.
10. It will be less easy for sex workers to develop a more advantageous situation when working for third parties, retain regular clients etc..
11. If police are less able to keep track of premises (at present, most premises are known to the police), they are less likely to discover potential victims of trafficking.
12. Traffickers keep those they have trafficked disorientated, ill-informed about their situation and under the impression that victims themselves are breaking the law. This will be more easily achieved in a disrupted and chaotic indoor sex market.
13. At present, a recognised phenomenon in indoor sex work is for brothels to be managed or owned by ex-sex workers.
14. Driving out good practise in the indoor sex market offers an ideal opportunity for criminals to extend exploitation and abuse: the worst kinds of international organised crime will find rich pickings under the proposed legislation.
Appendix 1 – controlling for gain.
From the Court of Appeal on R v Massey 
It is certainly enough if a defendant instructs or directs the other person to carry out the relevant activity or do it in a particular way. There may be a variety of reasons why the other person does as instructed. It may be because of physical violence or threats of violence. It may be because of emotional blackmail, for example, being told that “if you really loved me, you would do this for me”… It may be because the defendant holds out the lure of gain, or the hope of a better life. Or there may be other reasons…
… we do not see any ground for saying that the prosecution would have to prove absence of free will in order to be able to show that the organisers were controlling the activities of the women for gain…
…The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “in control of” as “directing an activity”. It defines the noun “control” as “power of directing, command”. By contrast, it does not include the words “compel, force or coerce”, although they would doubtless be forms of control”.
Typical services provided by a brothel that could be considered to be controlling for gain
• providing premises from which to work
• paying for advertising
• providing phone lines to work space
• providing receptionist/telephonist
• ensuring clients are aware of boundaries and services provided by the establishment as a whole and by individual sex workers
• providing security and security equipment, e.g., cctv
• cleaning premises
• laundry services
• providing clothing
• providing equipment
• providing a waiting room for clients
• providing a rest room for workers not with a client, usually supplied with tv, radio etc
• providing gloves, condoms and lube
• providing tea, coffee, juice, mineral water, beer, wine for staff and clients
• providing cooking equipment and kitchen space for food preparation
• running errands for sex worker – collecting dry cleaning, shopping etc.
Typical services provided by an escort agency that could be considered to be controlling for gain
• paying for advertising
• dealing with phone calls
• arranging appointments
• providing driver/security
• checking clients against the electoral roll
• checking postcodes accord with the address given
• checking arrival and departure for safety reasons
• ensuring clients are not listed as unsafe/possibly dangerous
• recording earnings and payment of agency fees etc., e.g., against credit cards
• providing a rest room for workers working from the escort agency premises, usually supplied with tv, radio etc
• ensuring clients are aware of boundaries and services provided by individual sex workers
Appendix 2 – articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights breached by UK law on sex work.
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.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Appendix 3 – The Palermo Protocol definition of trafficking
The Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, adopted by the UN in 2003 defines trafficking as:
Trafficking shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purposes of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.