Letter: Prostitutes just want their legal rights

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The Independent Online
Sir: We welcome your call for 'the full decriminalisation of prostitution' (leading article, 26 July) but must call attention to some inaccuracies.

Telephone boxes are not 'a battleground between pimps who want to stick advertising postcards in them, and the police who want to pull those cards down'. Card women and men are usually unwaged young people or pensioners whose 'crime' is to be helping prostitute women to support their families independently of pimps.

The 'battleground' was initiated by BT cutting the phone lines of prostitute women who advertised in phone boxes. Following our legal action against BT, Oftel ruled that the phones should be reinstated, and a House of Lords committee accepted our submission that the criminalisation of placing cards would drive people on to the streets.

The editorial is also imprecise. Decriminalisation can mean abolition of all prostitution laws, and therefore civil, economic and legal rights for sex workers, including the right to work from premises. Or it can mean legalisation: being forced to work in licenced brothels and to register with the police.

Birmingham Council has called for a change of law that would allow 'zones of tolerance' to be set up (report, 26 July). It is not toleration that women want but rights, including police protection and viable economic alternatives.

Power to the sisters,

NINA LOPEZ-JONES

CARI MITCHELL

English Collective of Prostitutes

London, WC1

28 July

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