Why Are Hull Prostitutes Going Underground?

July 23, 2015

There are so many people out there who hate the fact that there are some earning their living by selling sex, and because they find the idea of sex work as real work, they want to get rid of it completely.

So far the UK has managed to fight off the Nordic model, which would see the client criminalised and the industry pushed further underground, but it seems that in Hull sex workers are already having to go underground to continue working, making it tough for the local charities aiming to help them to do their job.

The UK’s perceptions of prostitution

One of the biggest problems facing sex workers isn’t necessarily the law – it is the perception of prostitution that makes the law in the first place. People have strange ideas about the industry that have been enforced by the media.

Films like ‘Pretty Woman’ have made it seem that all that sex workers really need is a white knight to come and save them and that everything will magically be okay again after that, and newspapers will often talk about the latest raid on a brothel which has led to the arrests of many Romanian women.

We rarely hear about the men in the industry, or those from a country other than Romania. People are starting to believe that being Romanian automatically makes you a prostitute, and one woman found herself being turned away from a hotel because of that.

Alecsandra Puflea had booked a room online for the Holiday Inn Express in Hull for her and her boyfriend. It was going to be a nice romantic night away for them both, but when they arrived they were turned away while being told “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept Romanians”.

When Puflea contacted the police, she discovered that the hotel had a new policy for screening guests in case any were using the rooms for illegal activity. So she was turned away for the simply belief that she was a sex worker. She described the moment she found out their reasoning to the Hull Daily Mail, explaining “I was very upset when I found out the reason they had told me to leave. Not all Romanians are prostitutes, it is a very small percentage. You can’t tar everyone with the same brush because of their nationality.

Unfortunately unsurprising

This is just one incident where the stigma surrounding sex work has caused problems for people, and given the many others that we hear about each and every day, it is hardly surprisingly that the industry is already being pushed underground. It looks like we don’t even need the Swedish model to do that!

Well, Hull has taken steps to move against prostitution, and it was back in November that Section 222 was introduced by Hull City Council. The order meant that many sex workers were banned from a popular area of Hull known for street prostitution between the hours of 7pm and 8am.

It might not sound that bad, but these sex workers are now having to go into unfamiliar territory to continue their work, and this is putting them at risk. Their regular clients might not know where they have gone, and so the prostitutes are now having to take clients they might be unsure of.

Section 222 is part of an old act, specifically the Local Government Act of 1972, but that hasn’t stopped people from using it. Strangely enough, although this act has been around for a long time, it is actually the first time it has been used to try and “tackle” prostitution anywhere in the country.

The ruling means that “prostitutes and kerb crawlers found breaching the order by loitering, soliciting or having sex face arrest and a court appearance”, and so many are going underground to continue working and to avoid being caught out.

Arrests have been made

Arrests have already been made using this order, and one 45 year old woman has been sentenced to two weeks in jail. She is the first to have been sentenced following the new order, but will not be the last.

The sex workers in the area are speaking out about this, as are the charity Hull Lighthouse. Hull Lighthouse project “has been helping prostitutes in the city for a number of years”, and they have “always insisted the best approach is to help rather than punish the women”.

That is a sentiment shared by sex workers all over the world. If you give them the support they need to make their working environments safe like any other working environment, the sex industry will be so much better as a result. Of course, that would then mean accepting that people can do what they want with their lives, and we can’t go around doing that, can we?

The Lighthouse project has stated that this new order has given them difficulties, as they have been unable to talk to those most in need of support. “We have struggled to make contact with the most vulnerable of Hull’s women in order to offer them the support we have always done.”

They also spoke out about the way the order was introduced, stating that “we were disappointed we were not warned of the order, so that we could have prepared for the change in conditions the women now face, and maintain contact in order to offer them the vital help they need.”

This whole situation seems to be suggesting that Hull is ready for the Swedish model to come in, but is the rest of the UK? There are cities around England that are more tolerant of sex workers, so is Hull the odd one out, or are the Hull escorts just as likely to get this treatment elsewhere?

You can let us know what you think about this by leaving a comment in the box below to tell us what you really think.

Lara Mills
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