Policing and policy on prostitution during London 2012 Olympics: “Harm Was Done”

Policing and policy on prostitution during London 2012 Olympics: “Harm Was Done”.

Frontline services say:

  • our expertise was ignored
  • vulnerable women were put in danger
  • there was greater risk to public health
  • policy was based on ideology not reality

Despite all the hype about trafficking and prostitution in the run up to the Olympics, no service interviewed saw more people selling sex or more potential victims of trafficking – just as well, since none received substantial increased funds and two had substantial cuts to the service they could offer. One interviewee for our report (see Notes) commented “All this panic and hype, but no money for services!”

Support services say:

  • “The Games were used as an opportunity to perpetuate the myths around prostitution and major sporting events by organisations and individuals who take an ideological view of prostitution, rather than one informed by the evidence base.”
  • “[Many of the attendees at the GLA meetings] didn’t seem to know anything about the ordinary reality of the sex industry in London, and when you talked about that it was like being the kid pointing out the emperor’s new clothes, nobody wanted to know.”
  • “Policy was based on the ideology – the belief that prostitution is a form of exploitation – of a few projects who were driving the agenda and using trafficking to get support for their work, both financial and political.”

And the harm continues – one service provider said “It’s not just the Olympics – they’re still shutting places down and they don’t think of the consequences for the women, it’s driving it underground and we don’t get any access to deliver services at all. Women still have families living in poverty, they still have to make a living, and they’re less safe doing it.”

An IUSW report for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (17 December) reveals that concerns raised by frontline services for people in the sex industry were ignored by the GLA’s “Sexual Exploitation” group. Services say:

  • “[Sex workers are] less likely to report crimes because they don’t trust the police as much as they used to”
  • “It was just horrendous. Women being thrown out [of brothels] with no regard for their safety” “Places you’d been going to for ages would close, and you’d lose touch with all the people you’d been supporting there”
  • “If [policy makers] listened to us, they wouldn’t have done what they did.”