17th December 2011
December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, created to draw attention to crimes committed against sex workers all over the world. It has become a day when sex workers and allies in towns and cities from around the world come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence (Note 1). This year is particularly pertinent in the UK five years on from the tragic murders of five women in Ipswich.
During this week UK Network of Sex Work Projects is pleased to announce that they will be coordinating a pilot of a UK wide Ugly Mugs scheme funded by the Home Office, which will be launched in spring 2012. UKNSWP carried out a feasibility study for such a scheme during 2010-2011 funded by the home office. Local Ugly Mugs schemes are third party reporting schemes which encourage sex workers to report crimes against them and aid in the investigation and prosecution of offenders who are a danger to sex workers and the wider community of which sex workers are a part. Ugly Mugs was originally developed by sex workers themselves to alert each other to dangerous individuals. Many sex workers are still reluctant to report crimes against them to the police for a number of reasons for example: fear of arrest, fear of not being taken seriously or treated with respect and fear of being publicly identified. The stigma attached to sex work and criminalisation of sex work create barriers to reporting, as the police are responsible for both protecting sex workers and enforcing the laws on sex work. In this unsatisfactory situation it is important to have practical ways sex workers can access public protection and justice.
The Home Office decision to fund a UK wide pilot is the outcome of the efforts of many people including: sex work projects, sex workers’ organisations and the police. This scheme has the full support of the National Association of Police Officers Lead on Prostitution & Sexual Exploitation.
This scheme will link existing local schemes run by sex work projects and sex worker online forums so all reports about crimes against sex workers can be centrally collated. It will also provide a means for sex workers themselves to report crimes committed against them and to receive warnings about perpetrators. UKNSWP has local member projects who have seen ugly mugs initiatives play a major role in investigating crimes and bringing offenders to justice. UKNSWP believes a UK wide scheme can play a role in preventing, murder, rape and other crimes committed against sex workers through; increased reporting better intelligence, earlier identification, detection and increased prosecution of repeat, mobile and dangerous offender
Rosie Campbell, UKNSWP Board Member/ACPO Liaison commented
“The safety of sex workers is a priority for UKNSWP and our member projects. This is a very important step in recognising sex workers’ rights to public protection from the police and criminal justice system. It is a practical initiative to encourage reporting by sex workers of crimes against them and to help in the detection and conviction of offenders who target sex workers and other members of the community. UKNSWP is proud to have the opportunity to coordinate this pilot scheme & we look forward to working with others to develop the scheme”.
SAAFE (Support and Advice For Escorts) Forum commented
“Sex workers have always collaborated to protect ourselves and SAAFE Forum is glad to have worked with UKNSWP in the development of UK wide ugly mugs. We very much welcome government support of this vital work”.
ACPO lead on prostitution, Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne said
“ACPO has been actively supportive of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects led national “Ugly Mugs” development project since its inception and welcomes the continued Home Office support for the roll-out of the scheme. This is a real opportunity to protect vulnerable people from violent sex attacks.”
Lorraine Galatowicz Chair UKNSWP firstname.lastname@example.org 07811442479
Rosie Campbelll UKNSWP Board & ACPO Liaison email@example.com 07870695883
UKNSWP Administrator firstname.lastname@example.org 01616299861
Note 1: To read more about International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and learn more about events taking place globally go to www.swopusa.org/dec17/
Note 2: UK Network of Sex Work Projects is a non-profit, voluntary association of agencies & individuals working with sex workers. It enables networking activities through which projects who provide frontline services to sex workers can share good practice. UKNSWP’s mission statement is to “promote the health, safety, civil and human rights of sex workers, including their right to live free from violence, intimidation, coercion or exploitation, to engage in the work as safely as possible, and to receive high quality health and other services”.