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The Met’s Operation Monaco team have issued ASBOs to six street sex workers in London and published their full names, photos and dates of birth on their website because they were “persistent offenders”. Quite how naming and shaming women who are already engaged in a dangerous and highly stigmatised activity will bring any benefit to society is anyone’s guess, and may well increase the risks these women face.

Two other indoor sex workers also had their home raided and photos taken. These photos then ended up in the News of the World:

“Why have the police done this to me?” said Vicky, one of the two. “I work as a childminder and a cleaner and do some sex work to make ends meet. I pay tax and national insurance and am not doing anything illegal. A lot of people know me, and even though the News of the World blocked out my face I’m still identifiable by my hair, clothes and jewellery.”

“The police were looking for money and found £50 from a customer,” she added. “We never use drugs and are always sober when we’re working. The police kept asking us over and over again if we’d been trafficked. We haven’t been, and we signed a piece of paper to say that.

“If the police continue to behave like this, none of the women doing sex work will speak to them if they do have information about any crimes. I think they have been watching too much Diary of a Call Girl.”

Presumably these two women were believed to be breaking the law under the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which bans two or more individuals from selling sex indoors (i.e. from a brothel). Yet the main underlying issue for these two women (from the limited information given) would appear to be that our society so undervalues childminders and cleaners – and so values women as a source of sexual titilation – that they have to undertake sex work to “make ends meet”, not that they are technically working in a brothel. Addressing the poverty and sexism that leads to some women opting for sex work when they would perhaps not do so in better financial circumstances would surely be more sensible and much fairer than criminalising and shaming them because they engage in sex work.

Image by ﴾͡๏̯͡๏﴿ /streetart#+_♥.tk www.ALT3.tk, shared under a Creative commons license.