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As everyone now knows, speculation about the relationship between big sports events and sex trafficking continues despite evidence that no such relationship exists. Seemingly endless reports before the Olympics began in late July worried about what might happen, justifying all manner of awareness-raising and misleading rhetoric (from the EWL, from Stop the Traffik and of course from the police).

We at x:talk have made a questionnaire for those who worked in London during the games (including the Paralympics). The purpose is to find out from those directly involved: Was business better or worse? Did people travel to London to do business? Did they see anyone forced to do sex work? What experience with the police did they have if any? The survey, called Did the Olympics affect London’s sex industry? can be found right here: Do please disseminate far and wide, but don’t participate unless you actually worked in London during the Olympics. Here’s the description at the start of the survey:

Help give a voice to London’s sex workers and adult-entertainment businesses

Xtalk Project Limited, a co-operative led by sex workers in London, would like to know if and how the Olympics affected your business. If you worked in the sex industry - in any kind of adult-entertainment business – in any capacity, whether as employee, independent, owner or manager from 27 July to 10 September 2012, please take 10 minutes to answer some brief questions.

* We are not asking your name, address, age, gender or any other personal details.

* We will not record your ISP in order to track your computer or where you were when you filled out this questionnaire.

We will be reporting how many respondents answered questions and what they said, in order to contribute to ongoing debates about sex work and adult entertainment in the UK and abroad.

Everyone who worked is invited to complete this questionnaire: people who sell sex or erotic services, people who have support roles in or provide professional services to adult-entertainment businesses, managers and owners. If you had any of these roles in London during the Olympics you are eligible to do this questionnaire.

Please do not answer this questionnaire if you did not work in London’s sex industry during the Olympics. We want to provide unbiased information about what happened.

If you have any questions, please contact us at xtalk.olympics [at] yahoo.co.uk or visit xtalkproject.net

Click here to take the xtalk Olympics survey

Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist


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If you are in London next Monday, come to the launch of the Stop the Arrests campaign. The event will be short and sweet and it would be good to see a lot of people not only turn up but also join the resistance to yet more policing and repression of sexual practices involving money. It’s also a good central location with numerous pubs nearby for socialising afterwards.

It’s not to late to put your signature on the list of supporters.

I will be speaking about the lack of evidence linking sporting events with trafficking. I wrote about the background to this initiative a while back.

INVITATION: Stop the Arrests Campaign Launch

WHEN: 1830 Monday 18 June 2012

WHERE: Centre for Possible Studies, 21 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8HR (nearest tube: Marble Arch)

Campaign group Stop the Arrests will hold a public launch in central London this Monday to outline its call for a moratorium on sex worker arrests during the London 2012 Olympic Games. The panel includes Laura Agustín, trafficking expert and author of Sex at the Margins, Georgina Perry, manager of Open Doors, a sex worker health project operating in Hackney and a video link up with Brooke Magnanti, aka Belle de Jour and author of The Sex Myth. Stop the Arrests is concerned that the policing of sex work and sex establishments in the lead-up to the Olympics threatens to compromise the safety and autonomy of sex workers.

The launch will also feature voices from workers in the sex industry.

The Met have recently been in touch with Stop the Arrests to inform that they have developed ”an alternative system of dealing with sex workers during the Olympic period”. This protocol, which will be made public on Monday 18 June,  has been developed without any input from sex worker organisations or other specialist services working with sex workers, such as health and harm minimisation organisations.

Ava Caradonna, Spokesperson for x:talk said: Stop the Arrests has tried for months to get an audience with the Met to discuss policing protocol during the Olympics. A senior Met officer has assured us that that the relevant department is aware of xtalk and the proposal for a Moratorium and yet we have not been consulted. The current laws and policing around sex work have been criticised from many different quarters for the lack of consultation with sex workers and sex worker-led organisations, and the failure of these policies to take into account the realities of the sex industry. It is deeply worrying that the Met continues to develop policies that ignore these criticisms and the views of those affected.

Media Enquires:

Xanthe Whittaker: 07901335613
Katie Cruz: 07917732990


1. Campaign group Stop the Arrests issued the Mayor of London with a letter on June 6 calling upon him to use his powers, in co-operation with the police and UK Border Agency, to stop the arrest, detention and deportation of sex workers during the Olympics. Signatories to the letter, which was initiated by the xtalk project, include John McDonnell MP and chair of the Green Party, Jenny Jones, author Brooke Magnanti (Belle de Jour), Jane Ayres, manager of The Praed Street Project – a sex worker health project operating in London, and the UK Harm Reduction Alliance. Full details of campaign and list of signatories here.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist


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The European Women’s Lobby – which should not be allowed to call themselves that – continue to use public money to further a campaign that contradicts the laws of several European states that allow people to sell and buy sexual services. This red-card nonsense is part of Together for a Europe Free From Prostitution, which overtly spreads what they themselves call abolition: true missionary endeavour, even if these missionaries look like so-called liberated western women. How do they get away with this? Is there no oversight for funding to such groups? I suppose the Germans, Dutch, Czechs et al just ignore it all, but in times of purse-tightening it is annoying that zealots are allowed to throw public money around like this. I wonder what happened to the question that was put in the European Parliament about this?

Money is the key: It has become easy to get funding nowadays to campaign against trafficking; no thinking is required; just flash your ideology like a red card. Funders then get to tick the box showing they care about trafficking, which in turn makes them look good. Never mind that the message is a lie, since there is no evidence that sex trafficking increases when big sporting events take place. Evidence is irrelevant to ideological fanatics, of course, but it shouldn’t be to Brussels technocrats. Two mega-events are cited, the London Olympics, which begin in late July, and the UEFA European Football Championship, which begins any minute now.

The text accompanying this message deliberately misinterprets that evidence, provided by relatively sound investigation and staid sources.

This year, thousands of young girls and women are at risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation to satisfy the demand for prostitution on the sidelines of the Olympic Games in London and the UEFA Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

The number of human trafficking victims in Greece increased by 95% during the 2004 Olympic Games. Ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, predictions were for more than 40,000 women and children to be trafficked into the country to meet the prostitution demands of millions of football fans. During the 2011 World Cup, South African authorities noted a ‘huge’ increase in the sex trade, with the number of women and girls involved in prostitution, as well as the number of brothels, doubling.

The European Women’s Lobby has called on Members of the European Parliament to take a stand against prostitution at sporting events. Nineteen MEPs supporting the EWL campaign have been invited to gather for a group photo with the EWL red card ‘Be a sport. Keep it fair… Say NO to prostitution’.


On the sidelines of this visual event, the EWL will present an awareness-raising video clip ‘Sport, sex and fun’, as well as issue a press release and briefing about prostitution at sporting events.

The evidence, once again, is:

Germany: 2006 World Cup

  • SIDA/IOM report: The first significant attempt to assess whether women were trafficked (forced) to sell sex at a major sporting event was financed by the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA) and published by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Despite predictions that 40 000 women would be trafficked, only 5 cases of trafficking were found to be linked to the World Cup. Report published in 2006.
  • German government report: Subsequently, the German Federal Government produced a report for the Council of the European Union, finding no increase in cases of trafficking related to the World Cup. Report published in 2007.

South Africa: 2010 World Cup

Research was carried out by the Sex Work Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and the African Centre for for Migration & Society, commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This investigation included a survey of local sex workers; no cases of trafficking were found associated with the World Cup. Report published in 2010.

Note at the end of the EWL disinformation: More infotainment on the way! Forget the facts, show a naff video! The EWL can scarcely surpass their video of a male made miserable by licking the pussies of his clients, though: surely that ought to win some award.

Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist


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Olympics Sex Workers

Now you can sign up by clicking a button on the website for Stop the Arrests, either as a group (best, if you can do it) or as an individual. Here’s the list of those who’ve signed so far. You can be located anywhere in the world, but if you are a UK group it’s really important your name is there! The letter will go to Mayor Boris Johnson soon. I discussed this campaign a while back, including a list of all the laws that criminalise sex workers in England and Wales.

One menu tab on the site is called Evidence, and it says:

No research has proved an increase in human trafficking caused by large sporting events.

Three research projects have been conducted specifically to assess cases of trafficking associated with major sporting events after those events were over.

Germany: 2006 World Cup

  • SIDA/IOM report: The first significant attempt to assess whether women were trafficked (forced) to sell sex at a major sporting event was financed by the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA) and published by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Despite predictions that 40 000 women would be trafficked, only 5 cases of trafficking were found to be linked to the World Cup. Report published in 2006.
  • German government report: Subsequently, the German Federal Government produced a report for the Council of the European Union, finding no increase in cases of trafficking related to the World Cup. Report published in 2007.

South Africa: 2010 World Cup

Research was carried out by the Sex Work Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and the African Centre for for Migration & Society, commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This investigation included a survey of local sex workers; no cases of trafficking were found associated with the World Cup. Report published in 2010.

Other major sporting events have been speculated about: the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and several US Super Bowls. A report from GAATW (the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women) gathers together existing data. Many other reports deconstruct and debunk the idea that trafficking increases when major sporting events take place, but only the two on Germany and one on South Africa contain data gathered in the relevant places, after the events.

This campaign was initiated by x:talk (I am a member).

Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist



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Those who wish evidence were the basis for social policy have been endlessly frustrated and annoyed by the survival of the myth saying sex trafficking – forced prostitution – increases enormously on the occasion of major sporting events. Despite enough evidence to convince most people that there is no such surge (see SIDA’s report on the 2006 World Cup and SWEAT’s on the 2010), it’s obvious that evidence doesn’t matter where the fear of hidden crime is constantly threatened. In other words, if the police haven’t found many women in chains, the victims must be too well hidden, which justifies further money for more intense policing.

Some NGOs against human trafficking do now acknowledge that there’s no proof that trafficking increases around big sporting events.  But they like to argue that their own efforts to prevent trafficking are the reason – Ta Da! There must be a name for this kind of logical fallacy.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)  has set up its own anti-trafficking programme called UN.GIFT, which now gives funds to a lot of the people sustaining this kind of scare-mongering. Stop the Traffik (sic – why have they spelled it like this?) is one, here maintaining that

campaigns countering human trafficking and increased law enforcement, before and during the events, are necessary to prevent the trade. International sporting events can increase human trafficking due to the short-term increased demand for prostitution, construction work, and all other sorts of labour.

So the funding gravytrain tootles along. But now they have a new justification for their activities:

prestigious sporting events can play a central role in attracting attention to the issue of human trafficking, and can function as an opportunity to increase engagement across communities. Most importantly, as there is evidence of continuous human trafficking in London and across the entire UK, we should use this opportunity that the London Olympics presents us with.

So now, whether there was ever going to be any increased trafficking or not, campaigns that worry people that their might be are doing a good job of raising awareness. In NGO-speak this is called prevention. If there is more self-serving silliness I don’t know about it.

With great solemnity, based on this absence of evidence, we find troops of volunteers ready to worry everyone in London about the hidden scourge. Here’s one (with funding from Stop the Traffik) in Tower Hamlets, one of London’s Olympic boroughs (meaning some Olympics activity actually occurs there). Do you wonder what these people will do?

This will involve running outreach sessions with local schools, hotels and faith groups using data gathered from borough-specific research, which volunteers would also be conducting. There will also be the opportunity to organise a local fundraising event to generate additional income and attract more volunteers from the local area.

I’d like to know how that research is being done. Meanwhile, the photo at the top shows a UN.GIFT box that’s going to be unwrapped during the games. (Warning if you click on that link that you are subjected to the soundtrack of a promotional video portraying cruelty.) The purpose is described as

to inspire visitors, both from the UK and abroad, to take action to stop the trade. . . a giant public art installation, which will demonstrate to people how victims of human trafficking can be deceived; beyond the promises of exciting opportunities that will entice people to the box, once inside, the stark reality of human trafficking will be revealed. . .  family-friendly and will inspire people to advocate and end trafficking in their own communities.

This is all what happens when a fear (panic, myth) takes on a life of its own. Evidence that there is cause for such fear is simply irrelevant. Unfortunately, there are unsought side-effects, as police make raids and arrests of sex workers to show they are looking for traffickers and their victims. Thus x:talk’s call for a moratorium on arrests in London.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist


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A friend took these photos of a parked van while having a drink in Brixton, in the London borough of Lambeth (where Waterloo Station is). Buy Sex – Pay the Price is the message, with a man’s silhouette as a sort of parody of the cliché prostitute silhouette. At first I thought this bad boy was smoking, but on closer inspection I see he is looking at a phone.

According to the sign, the consequences of getting caught buying sex are:

- be arrested
- be convicted
- receive an anti-social behaviour order
- lose your job

- lose respect from family and friends

However: No borough can unilaterally criminalise something just because they want to; they have to follow official law. Several laws prohibit particular client behaviours in the UK: paying for sex with someone found to be controlled for another person’s gainkerb-crawling and soliciting women for (sex) business. Perhaps the campaign means Lambeth police will be more aggressive in pursuing these laws. I wrote about the more drastic version of the legislation about gain when it was being considered, but all my arguments still apply to the watered-down version.

But the way the advert is worded does imply that End Demand has been imposed in a single London borough – and presumably some people will believe it, or feel too worried to do something they want to that is not actually illegal - pay for sex with an independent worker, for example, or tip a stripper or lap-dancer. This is what social-purity campaigns do: make at least some people feel worried and guilty so that they repress themselves. The advertisements were funded by Lambeth council’s Violence Against Women campaign, described in this press release.

Social Purity campaigns were linked to gender equality a hundred years ago, too – with a good deal more cause: women didn’t have the vote. That social purity as an ideal should be back in crude form in cosmopolitan Lambeth might derive from the abolitionist presence of Eaves Housing for Women, where the Poppy Project is sheltered, in the borough. Or will this idea spread to other boroughs?

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist


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x:talk, a workers’ collective in London, is calling for a stop to all arrests of sex workers as a way to reduce the harm associated with police handling of ‘trafficking’ associated (erroneously) with large sporting events. London is another place where selling sex is legal but surrounded by many vaguely defined activities that can cause arrest, notably the prohibition on working alongside someone else (even if they serve as your receptionist or security guard). Adverts like these in public phone boxes are also prohibited but continue to proliferate. Just about every prohibition is now justified as a way to stop trafficking, when most of the offences date back to efforts to limit the nuisance caused by prostitution.

Note the call is for a cessation of arrests of workers, not clients. Criminalisation of purchasing sex (an anti-client law) exists in a diluted form here that makes it an offence to pay for sex with a person controlled for another person’s gain, which clients may be charged for whether they knew about the control or not (what’s known as a strict liability clause). Yes, it’s a very vague idea and difficult to prosecute.

x:talk will be sending a letter to the Mayor of London requesting the moratorium. Get in touch if you are willing to be a signatory to the letter or if there is any other way you can support the campaign: moratorium2012 [at] gmail.com.

Sex Work and the Olympics: The Case for a Moratorium

1. x:talk and its supporters are calling for a moratorium on arrests of sex workers in London with immediate effect until the end of the Olympic Games.

2. Governments, charity organisations and campaign groups have argued that large sporting events lead to an increase in trafficking for prostitution. These claims, often repeated by the media, are usually based on misinformation, poor data and a tendency to sensationalise. There is no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution.[1]

3. These claims can lead to anti-trafficking policies and policing practices that target sex workers. In London, anti-trafficking practices have resulted in raids on brothels, closures and arbitrary arrests of people working in the sex industry. This creates a climate of fear among workers, leaving them less likely to report crimes against them and more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.[2] This is an inadequate response to sex work and to trafficking.

4. x:talk is aware of “clean-up efforts” already underway in London, particularly east London, in the run up to the Olympics. These include multiple raids and closure of premises. We anticipate that until the end of the Olympic games there will be a continued rise in the numbers of raids, arrests and level of harassment of sex workers.

5. A series of violent robberies on brothels by a gang in December in Barking & Dagenham demonstrates the effect that this climate of fear can have on the safety of sex workers. The effect of raids on brothels and closures in the area had eroded relations between sex workers and the Police with the result that the sex workers targeted by the gang were unwilling to report the attacks for fear of arrest. The gang were able to attack at least three venues in December 2011.[3]

6. In light of this, x:talk and its supporters are calling on the Mayor of London and London Metropolitan Police to suspend arrests and convictions of sex workers under the criminal laws laid out in Appendix 1.


Suspension of offences that refer directly to sex workers:

-  Soliciting (this should include soliciting penalties: rehabilitation orders and Anti-Social Behavioural Orders), s.1 (1) Street Offences Act, s.16, s.17 Policing and Crime Act 2009, s.1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

-  Keeping a brothel, where the person deemed to be “keeping a brothel” is one or more of the people selling sexual services. Effectively, this means we are calling for a suspension of any arrests of sex workers who work collectively.



S. 1 (1) of the Street Offences Act 1959 makes loitering or soliciting for purposes of prostitution an offence. Section 16 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 amended s.1 of the Street Offences Act 1959 inserting the requirement that soliciting be “persistent”, defined as occurring twice within a three-month period.

A logical corollary of the suspension of laws relating to persistent soliciting would be the suspension of any new rehabilitation orders, as defined by s.17 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009, and Anti-Social Behavioural Orders, as defined by s.1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, that may follow breach of a rehabilitation order.

Keeping a brothel


S.33A of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, as inserted by s. 55(1) and (2) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, creates an offence of keeping, managing, acting or assisting in the management of a brothel to which people resort for practices involving prostitution (whether or not also for other practices). Prostitution is defined by section 51(2) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 as follows: a person (A) who, on at least one occasion and whether or not compelled to do so, offers or provides sexual services to another person in return for payment or a promise of payment to A or a third person.

S.33A therefore covers premises where two or more people provide sexual services at the same time. Where one or more person (who may or may not be offering sexual services) are found to be keeping, managing, acting or assisting in the management of that brothel they will be charged under s.33A. The required level of control over brothel activities varies but will be satisfied where there is evidence of a person seeing customers onto the premises, handling payments from customers, paying bills, placing advertisements in local papers (R v Alexsander Sochaki (2010) EWCA Crim 2708). However, we draw attention to the recent case of Claire Finch, who was unanimously acquitted of brothel keeping. Finch had accepted that she worked collectively from her own home providing sexual services and gave evidence it would be too dangerous for her to work alone. Finch’s barrister, relying on evidence that there had been numerous serious violent attacks on solitary street sex workers in Bedfordshire in recent years. successfully argued that Finch was entitled to rely on the defence of necessity.

Suspension of arrests of sex workers, administrative detainment and / or removal, during the enforcement of offences relating to third parties:

-  Sections 52-53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 make it an offence to cause, incite or control a prostitute for gain. Section 54 defines gain as ‘any financial advantage, including the discharge of an obligation to pay or the provision of goods or services (including sexual services) gratuitously or at a discount, or the goodwill of any person which is or appears likely, in time, to bring financial advantage.’

Causing, inciting, controlling for gain

These offences, particularly s.53 controlling a prostitute for gain, are often the basis of raids[4] and will be accompanied by the arrest of sex workers for immigration offences.

During the enforcement of these offences we are calling for a suspension of all arrests of sex workers, including arrests and deportation procedures for immigration offences.

Suspension of the closure of premises:


-  S.21 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which allows the closure of premises for up to three months where the police have reasonable suspicion that prostitution related offences (as defined by ss.52-53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003) are being committed.

-  Brothel keeping charges make it an offence keep, manage or assist in the management of a brothel and for a landlord or tenant to let or permit their premises for the purposes of prostitution: s.33A-36 Sexual Offences Act 1956. Those keeping a brothel, landlords and tenants might be informed that if the behaviour does not desist, and the premises close, they will be liable for prosecution.[5]

Closure Notices and Orders

A Freedom of Information request issued by x:talk to the MET has revealed that in four of the five London Olympic boroughs only one closure order and notice has been applied for pursuant to s.21 of the Policing and Crime Act. However, the FOI states that “this response does not mean that no premises were closed, instead it confirms that no premises were closed in these four boroughs as a result of a notice issued under Section 21, Schedule 2 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 … premises usually respond to requests from Police to close and often other legitimate means of closing them are adopted, such as consultation with the landlord & follow through action resulting from that. Barriers to use of closure notices include civil court fees and consultation process.”

We therefore call for a suspension of police efforts to serve notices and close premises where they suspect prostitution offences are being carried out, whether in the pursuance of a closure order / notice under s.21 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009, ss.33A-36 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, or any other legal measure. However, it is important to note that our call for suspension does not apply to premises where child related prostitution or pornography offences are suspected (ss.47-50 Sexual Offences Act 2003). Our call relates solely to premises where prostitution offences under s.52-53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 are suspected.

[1] Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), (2011) What’s the Cost of a Rumour? A Guide to Sorting Out the Myths and Facts about Sporting Events and Trafficking. http://www.gaatw.org/publications/What’s_the_Cost_of_a_Rumour-GAATW2011.pdf

[2] x:talk (2010), Human rights, Sex Work and the Challenge of Trafficking

[3] Owen Bowcott, “Call for change in law to protect prostitutes from violent crime”, Guardian 6/01/12, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jan/16/change-law-prostitutes-crime-violent

[4] Crown Prosecution Service guidance for enforcement of s.53: “In investigating cases of controlling prostitution, the police may raid and disrupt brothels where local police policy previously had been one of toleration of off street prostitution.” http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/prostitution_and_exploitation_of_prostitution/

[5] Ibid 3, Owen Bancroft, Guardian 6/01/12

Quote from Metropolitan Police: “a notice has been served to the registered owner of the venue in Victoria Road under the auspices of section 33a of the Sexual Offences Act 1956. The notice formally notified the recipient that they were liable to prosecution should the premises in Victoria Road remain in use as a brothel.”

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist


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Waltham Forest Town Hall

On 27 April 2011 I appeared as an expert witness to discuss sex trafficking in relation to the London Olympics of 2012. Five London boroughs are considered to be ‘hosts’ of the Olympics, meaning that actual events and buildings are located within their boundaries. This meeting took place in the council chamber of Waltham Forest town hall.,the grandness of which took me by surprise.

Others invited to testify at the meeting included the head of SCD9, the London Metropolitan Police’s year-old anti-trafficking unit. Despite being described by his colleague as the gold standard for understanding of human trafficking, Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin made errors of fact when talking about Germany and Holland and did not refer to the previous palpable failures of the national anti-trafficking unit in Sheffield (lots of money spent, few people arrested or saved, disbanded as ineffective). He also did not acknowledge that different British police authorities have published contradictory figures to describe arrests and rescues. This seemed to be a whitewashing of history through omission and a refusal to acknowledge any lessons learned even from not long past. Martin also did not mention recent raids on sex work venues in East London reported in the Observer, and he responded to my question about them by saying that SCD9, his unit, were not the ones to carry them out. Hm. Anyway the raids were reported as a typical anti-trafficking tactic – that is, a police move to repress a dangerous activity just in case something scary might possibly be on the cards.

Everyone present, including the Poppy Project, agreed that panics about sex trafficking and big sporting events have not occurred anywhere. No one attempted to scare the council about an impending avalanche of either trafficked victims or rapacious border-crossing sex workers. That seems like a small advance, although of course it may not last. I was happy to advise the council that there is no necessity for them to start up any pricey anti-trafficking campaign or raids on sex venues. Take it easy, was my message. And don’t stigmatise foreigners who are selling sex and don’t reproduce negative ethnic stereotypes (I was made uncomfortable by the way people referred to ‘eastern European women’ as the latest victims).

Charlotte Cooper and two other new friends living in East London accompanied me to the meeting; Charlotte wrote an account of it called Fat, Sex Work, Rescue Industries, and she took a photo of the imposing council chamber: I am over at the far right with Georgina Perry from the Open Doors sexual health project.

I enjoyed participating in this meeting for one important reason: the people listening really wanted to hear from the witnesses. They were interested and receptive, and, in my case, amazed to hear what I had to say. Afterwards several councillors came and said to me, We never hear this kind of information, I had no idea, Where do we find out more? and so on. In fact, even ordinary well-educated people never get to hear about undocumented migration, smuggling and pragmatic migrant sex work, because there is what amounts to an embargo on this information in the mainstream media. The BBC invited me to Luxor because that was called a debate, and as I had to explain to UN no-goodwill ambassador Sorvino, debate in the British tradition signifies dissent and difference of opinion. And while a lot of television and radio shows do some form of debating, many topics are taboo. Ludicrously, a Guardian editor once justified hiding my article The Shadowy World of Sex Across Borders by claiming ‘Our readers are not interested in trafficking.’ Oh, please. [Note: Fifteen minutes after the article appeared on the Guardian website it was removed and tucked out of sight, so that no one saw it and few commented. If this is not a form of censorship I don’t know what is.]

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist




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A lot of people never wanted the Olympics to come to London and are unhappy about what all the ‘development’ means in easterm areas of the city – thus the negative graffiti on a countdown meter in the photo. The boroughs most directly affected by the games know by now that there is no need to panic about 40 000 prostitutes or victims of trafficking descending: there have been too many debunkings, on this website and numerous others. People do wonder if they ought to be Doing Something though. One of these boroughs, Waltham Forest, has invited me as an expert witness to a community meeting to be held next week, on the 27th – perhaps I will see some readers there?

A report called The 2012 Games and human trafficking: Identifying possible risks and relevant good practice from other cities came out not long ago, and seems to say that everything is possible but nothing is actually known about trafficking to events like the Olympics. Just to be on the safe side, though, a special unit of the police have begun raiding flats in the Olympics’s boroughs.

London 2012 Olympics: Crackdown on brothels ‘puts sex workers at risk’

Jamie Doward, 10 April 2011, The Observer

Scotland Yard has been accused of endangering sex workers after it emerged that officers were targeting brothels in London’s Olympic boroughs as part of a coordinated clean-up operation ahead of the 2012 games. The Yard’s human exploitation and organised crime command (SCD9) was launched in April last year, bringing together expertise in the fields of clubs and vice, human trafficking and immigration crime. The command incorporates a team dedicated to tackling vice-related crime in the five Olympic host boroughs: Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Greenwich.

Figures recently released to parliament by the Home Office show SCD9 carried out 80 brothel raids between January to August 2010 in the five boroughs. There were a further 20 raids in Westminster and 13 in Camden – the two boroughs expected to play host to the majority of tourists who come to the capital for the games. In contrast, in the remaining 25 London boroughs, there were just 29 raids over the same period.

Similar vice crackdowns have taken place in other countries hosting major sporting events. The London initiative comes amid disputed claims that increased numbers of sex workers will try to work in the capital during the Olympics. But the probation union, Napo, claimed the crackdown would have unintended consequences. “Attempts to remove sex workers from the Olympic boroughs will be only a partial success,” said Harry Fletcher, Napo’s assistant general secretary. “The strategy will drive the trade underground and prohibition merely distorts the laws of supply and demand. As a consequence, the trade will be more dangerous for women. Policy initiatives should address real problems, such as housing, health and safety, and not be based on flawed ideology which distorts the market and endangers the women.” Figures from the Open Door agency, a health clinic based in East London, appear to partially confirm Napo’s claim. The agency reported that there has already been a significant displacement of sex workers throughout Newham, with a decline of 25% in referrals to health clinics since the previous year. Napo said it appeared the women had not stopped working, but were moving to other areas where they could be more at risk of rape, robbery and assault.

The decision by police to target brothels has been controversial. SCD9 specialises in helping people being held against their will or who have been trafficked to work in the sex industry. But critics say it is driven by a mistaken belief that this applies to many women in the brothels. Two high-profile Metropolitan police operations, Pentameter 1 and 2, resulted in 1,337 premises being raided. This led to 232 arrests under Pentameter 1 and 528 under Pentameter 2. More than 250 women were removed and 37 took up services from support projects.

“Research shows no increase in trafficking of women during international sports events,” said a spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes. “Figures on the numbers of women trafficked into the UK have been exposed as false, yet they are still used as an excuse to hound sex workers. Prohibition has never done anything but drive sex workers underground and into more danger. Is the government prepared for further tragedies like Ipswich and Bradford?”

The Met said so far it had not seen any evidence of an increase in trafficking of sex workers in the five Olympic boroughs, but pledged that its officers would continue to try to assist victims and seek the prosecution of those responsible. “We do not believe that tackling vice drives prostitution underground and have not seen evidence of this,” a spokesman said. “Brothels will always need to advertise, which assists us in developing our intelligence picture in this area.”


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Media writers are to blame for spreading at least half the misconceptions about trafficking and the sex industry. The London Olympics are two years away but they loom. Prostitutes will flood Essex. Where does the reported ‘information’ come from? Not from any official or researcher but from a social-work campaigner. It’s irresponsible journalism. (I also find the term rape charity unpleasant.)

The other half of the blame goes to people like the campaigner quoted, head of a local rape crisis centre, who appears to want funding to take trips to foreign lands to do ‘research’ where none is necessary. We’ve just had ample and repeated research-based debunkings from South Africa about the threat of trafficking during the World Cup, and nothing happened in Vancouver, either – which this spokesperson admits, but then she cunningly claims the credit goes to people like herself who planned correctly. What nonsense.

Sex trafficking fear as the Games loom

Sarah Calkin, 30 July 2010, The Echo

Prostitutes are expected to flood south Essex during the 2012 Olympics, a rape charity has warned. With the opening ceremony of the Games now less than two years away, experts at the South Essex Rape and Crisis Centre have already begun investigating what can be done to discourage an influx of prostitutes and protect women from being trafficked into the area. Hundreds of athletes and spectators are expected to descend on the county to train and stay for the duration of the Games.

Sheila Coates, director of the centre, based in Thurrock, said: “Research has shown that during large sporting events, sex crime actually increases because of the large number of participants and a lot of people travelling from country to country. Sadly, pimps see that as a way of increasing their income and we will see women trafficked to the area. . . The centre is preparing to research the possible impact and take the necessary steps to mitigate the impact of any increase in sex trafficking and prostitution in the area. We are going to start looking at research available from the winter Olympics in Canada and the World Cup in South Africa to see what the impact may or may not be. In Vancouver it looks like it wasn’t as big a problem as anticipated because they planned for it and planned it out.”

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said the force had not been made aware of any expected problems.

And speaking of panicking-planning early, campaigners in Glasgow have already begun in regard to 2014′s Commonwealth Games.


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