Sex Workers Masked Parade

© 2009 Peter Marshall

There isn’t a great deal I can say about sex workers from personal experience. I’d suggest than its worth reading the preliminary report of a project, Migrant Workers in the UK Sex Industry from the Economic and Social Research Council of London Metropolitan University which appeared recently.  Of course not all sex workers are migrant workers, but many are, and current government thinking on making laws in this area are very much based on the need to take action against the trafficking of women for sex.

There are nine bullet points in the initial report which says that most migrant sex workers were not forced or trafficked, but take up sex work because other work they can get is very poorly paid. The main problems they face are their stigmatisation as sex workers and the lack of official documentation that opens them to abuse and violence. They report that most of their contacts with clients involve mutual respect and consent.

In Soho, many women work from their own or shared flats, and Westminster Council has been trying to get rid of these. The local community association – the Soho Society – and local people, including the rector of St Anne’s, Soho, have supported the women. Working from a flat is much safer than working on the street and also creates less nuisance.

The parade was in part to thank the people of Soho for their support, but also to oppose the  Policing & Crime Bill currently going through parliament which will criminalise clients and also make it easier for the police to persecute sex workers. It was organised by the ‘Soho Working Girls‘ and the ‘English Collective of Prostitutes‘, who state “We are mothers, daughters, sisters, grannies, aunties struggling to support ourselves and our families, just like other women.”

Those taking part in the parade were masked (although I saw many of them before they put their masks on) but otherwise they seemed very little different to any group of women one might meet on the streets of London, as this statement suggests. Although it’s a story that has attracted a great deal of interest because of the subject matter, in fact there was very little titillating about the event, though the masks and costumes made it fun to watch and photograph.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

You can read more about it and see many more pictures as usual on My London Diary.

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