Met police name and shame sex workers

// 8 August 2010


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, shared under a Creative commons license.

Comments From You

Anji // Posted 8 August 2010 at 2:41 pm

Disgraceful. Just disgraceful. How in the world is that helpful in the least?!

beth // Posted 8 August 2010 at 2:45 pm

seriously, is there something we can do about this? these women must be far more at risk now than they were before. both from people who object to sex work and start to harrass them, and also by people who think that if they’re prostitutes they must be up for anything and try to hassle or rape them. all i can think of doing is writing to the Met but i can’t imagine one letter would make much difference :( is there anything else? or would anyone else write too?

dronemodule // Posted 8 August 2010 at 5:08 pm

Several problems with this. Isn’t name-and-shame usually used against those who commit sexual assault or those who are considered politically or morally corrupt? The point being to make the wicked feel remorse, to confess their guilt to us who despise them- us who are, by the fact of our division from them- pure and good and holy.

At the same time this follows a story of a young girl forced into prostitution giving evidence against the men who subjected her to it. Evil men are evil. Evil social conditions are…erm…well, we’ll ignore all that.

dronemodule // Posted 8 August 2010 at 5:10 pm

Also, didn’t the ‘name-and-shame’ policy used to be used on the men who went to prostitutes? What shift has occurred in morality for it to have become reversed?

annifrangipani // Posted 8 August 2010 at 6:14 pm

This is an absolute disgrace. As a feminist and trade unionist, I’ve followed the Demand Change campaign from our women’s conference to our national conference (Unison) and it really shocks me that the police don’t seem to have read it, or indeed have any understanding of the situations that drive women into selling sex. They need support, not punishment.

I think we can all agree that this is a terrible decision but with so much diversity in opinion on prostitution within feminism, it’s difficult to make a united forward step. Indeed, I’m sure many feminists disagree with Demand Change.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 8 August 2010 at 7:15 pm

Demand Change focuses on the men who attempt/and or purchase wome/girls involved in prostitution. The aim of Demand Change is to rightly put the focus on male demand and criminalise the male buyers – not the women involved in prostitution. Feminism is about women’s and girls’ right not to be reduced to men’ disposable sexual service stations.

However, the police have once again reverted to the misogynsitic presumption that male demand and pseudo male entitlement to women’s bodies is not the problem – instead it is women involved in prostitution who should apparently be ‘named and shamed.’

As a result of the male-dominated media hysteria concerning woman-murderer Steve Wright, the focus was rightly placed on providing exit strategies and long-term support to women involved in prostitution. Males who attempted to purchase women involved in prostitution were rightly targetted by the police.

But of course the fact police did not centre their efforts on prosecuting/shaming women involved in prostitution was ‘a flash in the pan.’ Now once again male demand is invisibilised and it is women who are being prosecuted and ‘shamed.’ The innumerable Johns remain as always ‘anonymous’ and free (sic) to continue purchasing women and girls involved in prostitution.

Not forgetting that male supremacist institutions want prostitution to be hidden out of sight prior to the much over hyped olympics. This is why the police are engaged in hounding women involved prostitution but conveniently ignoring and not shaming the innumerable Johns who continue to believe buying female human beings is a pseudo male sex right.

Stephen P // Posted 9 August 2010 at 4:06 pm

Laura, I think you’ll find it’s the 2003 Sexual Offences Act that contains the brothels legislation.

In any case, these women have been charged with no crime. One can see little public interest served by publishing their identities as the prospect of them constituting a danger to third parties seems remote, and you make the very good point that, if anything, the move is likely to increase the dangers for them.

[RE The Demand Change campaign…] What can you say about a motion that starts “enshrined within the UK’s current legislation is men’s right to buy women”?

Well. you can say it’s factually wrong, for a start. Where is it so “enshrined”?

Whether you prosecute buyer or seller, you displace the sellers, and displacing the sellers increases danger to them, whilst neither move addresses the problems of either sellers or buyers.

But back to the subject. This appears to be part of the ‘name and shame’ operations of the Met’s ‘Human Exploitation and Organised Crime’ unit. My suspicion is that we’ll see a lot more of this irresponsibility between now and the 2012 Olympics.

Jeff // Posted 9 August 2010 at 7:25 pm

I note that the police have taken great care only to name those who do not have the means to mount a legal challenge. I’m betting a decent lawyer could make a good argument that this constitues an unlawful endangering of these womens lives.

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