From our sister group ECP — Press Release 10/30: Government research proves sex workers feel unsafe under the current law

Government research proves sex workers feel unsafe under the current law; they want decriminalisation and so does the public.

Government research published today provides evidence that the current prostitution laws increase the chance of harm and undermine sex workers’ safety.

Laura Watson from the English Collective of Prostitutes which submitted evidence from its national network of sex workers working on the street and inside said:

“This research confirms that financial need and criminalisation create the “perfect cocktail of conditions” for undermining sex workers’ safety. The government must urgently introduce legislation to decriminalise sex workers as recommended by the Home Affairs Committee which initiated this research and reverse austerity cuts which have pushed more women and single mums in particular into prostitution to survive.”

  • Of the 500 people who submitted evidence to the inquiry,the majority linked the fear of physical or sexual abuse with the “legal environment”. One woman said, “The law is impossible to navigate, because all of the stuff that makes me safer is illegal.” Police raids were described as a “constant threat”.
  • Financial need was the reason given by many for starting sex work.Some specifically mentioned caring responsibilities or disabilities as the reason for selling sex. Most sex workers are mums working to support families. “Survival sex” has increased as a result of austerity cuts, 89% of which have targeted women.
  • The stigma of sex work undermined their ability to report violenceto the police sex workers said.

The English Collective of Prostitutes gathered 11,000+ signatures on a Government petition, as part of its #MakeAllWomenSafe campaign, calling for sex workers on the street and in premises be decriminalised. This demonstration of public concern was confirmed by a recent poll that showed that a majority of people thought the law should be changed.

Decriminalisation increases sex workers’ safety and well-being. New Zealand decriminalised sex work in 2003 with verifiable success. Over 90% of sex workers said they had additional employment, legal, health and safety rights.

Note: This research by the University of Bristol Centre for Gender Studies was commissioned by the Government in response to the 2016 Home Affairs Committee (HAC) report recommending that sex workers working on the street and in premises be decriminalised.


020 7482 2496

The ECP is a self-help organisation of sex workers, working both on the street and in premises, with a national network throughout the UK. Since 1975, we have campaigned for the decriminalisation of prostitution, for sex workers’ rights and safety, and for resources to enable people to get out of prostitution if they want to.

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