Unions call for more care over women's safety

SEX workers' safety should be given a much higher priority in the wake of the murders of three Bradford prostitutes, the International Union of Sex Workers and the GMB sex workers branch said yesterday.

The groups said there was an inherent contradiction between the police role of prosecution and protection with street sex workers facing additional criminalisation in the Policing and Crime Act 2009 (which defined persistent soliciting as more than twice in three months and removed the requirement for persistence by kerb crawlers).

They also claimed that West Yorkshire Police in Bradford had acknowledged they have been using the full range of the law against women working onstreet – arrests, ASBOs and kerb crawling crackdowns.

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In a statement the groups said: "Increased enforcement endangers sex workers. It does not add to the options and support available, but increases antagonism and distrust between street workers and police.

"Those deterred by knowledge of police campaigns against kerb-crawlers are the most law-abiding; such campaigns do nothing to affect the behaviour of those intending to assault, rape, abduct, rob, or kill, who will not be prevented by the prospect of a fine for kerb-crawling.

"Greater fear of the police and a smaller number of clients does nothing to reduce the amount of money the women need, so street sex workers are more likely to interact with those they would otherwise avoid, 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.".

Greater desperation led women to work in more isolated locations and to go with clients without time to assess them, they said. "Women are more likely to find themselves in a situation they would have declined with more time to make a decision.''

The unions said there was a cost to communities in the current approach for the following reasons – kerb crawling crackdowns result in:

Sex workers' dispersal over a wider area;

Sex workers are more likely to approach passers-by in search of business;

More aggressive competition to attract clients and between sex workers;

Longer hours onstreet needed to generate the same amount of money.

All of which harms women selling sex and increases impact on communities. In addition, women revert to other forms of crime to make the money that cannot be earned from sex work.