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British policy makes sex workers vulnerable

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 25 January 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:187
  1. Sophie E Day, professor of anthropology, Goldsmiths College, London,
  2. Helen Ward, clinical senior lecturer, Division of Epidemiology, Public Health and Primary Care, Imperial School of Medicine, St Mary's Campus, London

    We welcome the timely call for decriminalisation of sex work in the editorial by Goodyear and Cusick (BMJ 2007;334:52-3). The murders of sex workers in Ipswich have led to the repetition of stereotypes that only serve to dehumanise women in the sex industry and make them more vulnerable. We wish to highlight some further flaws in the evidence used by the government and others in justification of their demonising of sex workers.

    There is no evidence that 90% of UK sex workers are addicted to heroin or crack or that 45% were abused as children. These data, along with numerous alternative versions in the media, are attributed to the Home Office consultation exercise Paying the Price (2004), but we have heard nothing about the many responses that refuted these stereotypes in detail. Our research in London has followed sex workers from the mid-1980s to 2000, and our study is, to our knowledge, the only one to provide evidence …

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