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Sex work must be decriminalised to help women thrown into ‘hidden crisis’ by coronavirus, say English Collective of Prostitutes

Vic Parsons March 27, 2020
Sex work must be decriminalised at once due to coronavirus, says ECP

An English Collective of Prostitutes banner at the sex workers strike on International Women's Day 2020 calling for the full decriminalisation of sex work. (Ollie Millington/Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown sex workers into a “hidden crisis” that means sex work must immediately be decriminalised, the English Collective of Prostitutes has said.

Millions of British people are facing uncertainty and loss of work because of the global health crisis, and the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) are warning that this is exacerbated for sex workers who already face criminalisation, stigma and discrimination.

Hundreds of thousands of families in the UK rely on the income from sex work to survive, but sex workers have been excluded from the government’s emergency financial measures because sex workers are denied status as workers.

This means sex workers are excluded from the support that other workers are receiving at this critical time.

The ECP, which was founded in 1975 and campaigns for sex workers’ rights to safety, the decriminalisation of sex workers and the provision of financial alternatives to sex work so that no women are forced into sex work by poverty, has four demands for the government to mitigate this crisis for sex workers.

The collective emphasises that sex workers are mostly mothers, many of them single parents, who rely on sex work to feed their children.

First, they demand that sex work immediately be decriminalised to increase sex workers’ safety. This includes stopping all sex-work related raids, arrests and prosecutions.

Implementing this would be in line with the Home Affairs select committee’s 2016 recommendations to decriminalise both street-based sex workers and sex workers working together indoors at the same premises.

Second, the ECP are calling for immediate, appropriate and easy-to-access financial support for sex workers in crisis – and worker status. Emergency housing must be made available for homeless sex workers during coronavirus pandemic, they say.

The government has announced a raft of packages for workers that can’t currently be accessed by women working in the sex industry. Sex workers, just like all other workers in the UK, need money to pay their rent, mortgages and utility bills, the ECP say.

Third, the ECP supports the Global Women’s Strike in demanding an income for the invisible care work done mostly by women. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how essential the work of caring for people is, yet most of this is unpaid.

Finally, the ECP also supports the demands of other organisations to release those currently being held in immigration detention centres and non-violent offenders being held in prisons. Fear of deportation means ill people are not seeking healthcare because they fear being deported, which is harmful to the safety and welfare of all.

The number of people in the UK who have died from the coronavirus jumped by more than 100 in a day for the first time today.

The death toll has risen from 475 to 578, health officials confirmed.

There are now 11,658 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

More: Coronavirus, English Collective of Prostitutes, global women's strike, sex work

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