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Studying the rights and safety of sex workers

Queen Mary, University of London is to host a seminar highlighting the plight of sex workers, the affect of the built environment on their lives and benefits and challenges inherent in the legalisation of prostitution, on Wednesday 18 February.

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Entitled ‘Locating Sex Work: Red Light Districts, Hot Zones and Safe Places for Women’, the afternoon event, being run by the London Women and Planning Forum (LWPF), features a panel of experts discussing whether the provision of safe locations for sex work would help prevent violent crime against women, and whether legislation of prostitution would protect sex workers or further normalise the trade in women’s bodies.

Kate Hardy, a researcher in sex work, member of activist group Feminist Fightback, and key note speaker at the seminar, believes that the location of sex work is central to debates about the safety and human rights of workers in the industry and the appropriate legislative structures which can ensure these.

“Plans for places of sex work do not feature in town and city planning, meaning that strategies for ensuring the well-being of sex workers are not fully thought through,” said Kate.

The seminar will also explore whether the growth in lap dancing clubs on main roads and close to business premises is making the trade in women’s bodies an everyday, and highly visible, part of urban life.

”Safeguarding sex workers’ lives is a priority for all feminists, but the issue of how this is best achieved continues to be hotly contested by academics, journalists, non-governmental organisations and sex workers themselves. There is an urgent need for open public debate on appropriate measures and policies, and this must be inclusive of sex workers’ voices; routinely excluded from the debate,” Kate added.

Confirmed speakers at the event include:

•    PhD student Kate Hardy, of Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London;
•    Catherine Stevens of the International Union of Sex Workers;
•    Denise Marshall, Chief Executive of the Poppy Project (providing accommodation and support to women who have been trafficked into prostitution);
•    Sandrine Leveque, Object (campaign group challenging the objectification of women by the media and popular culture);
•    Dr Teela Sanders (Sociology, University of Leeds)
•    Professor Phil Hubbard (Geography, Loughborough University).

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