Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Stop dodging the real issues of sex workers

I REFER to the letter from Jim Wells MLA, 'Any debate on prostitution needs all the facts' (Write Back, February 13).

In my evidence to the Stormont justice committee, I spoke of decriminalisation and women being able to work together for safety.

I did not ask that a section of Belfast be set aside for scantily-clad sex workers to dance suggestively in the windows. I did not advocate Northern Ireland adopting the Netherlands model of legalisation.

Mr Wells seems determined to avoid discussing the real issues and, instead, talks of these 127 murders of sex workers in the Netherlands. Given his obsession with this 127 statistic, I'd like to clarify: the statistic relates to 118 murders that occurred between 1985 and 2012 being investigated by a police cold case team in the Netherlands. In 25 of the cases, the victims were not sex workers, or it is not known if they were sex workers or not. Most of the sex worker victims were working illegally and outdoors, not indoors. Eighty-six of the murders took place before October 1, 2000 (i.e. before prostitution was legalised in the Netherlands).

Sex workers want the justice committee to consider the safety and welfare of sex workers in Northern Ireland. Mr Wells is, instead, trying to take this debate off-topic by quoting incorrect statistics about sex-worker murders in another country whose example nobody is recommending that Northern Ireland follow.

LAURA LEE

International Union of Sex Workers

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