Letter to the PSNI

On 17 February we wrote the PSNI (Northern Irish Police) regards policing of sex work.

The letter is here and attached recommendations are here. You can also read the letter and recommendations on Laura Lee’s blog.

We are seeking individuals and organisations to support our Proposed PSNI Indoor Adult Sex Work Policing Guidelines. We hope to get support from those interested in improving policing for both sex workers and sex trafficking victims. If you are willing to support please email info@uglymugs.ie. Thank you.

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off

UglyMugs.ie Evidence to Northern Irish Justice Committee

On 30 January 2014 UglyMugs.ie gave evidence to the Committee for Justice on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill.

Minutes of Evidence

Submission to Committee

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off

UglyMugs.ie submission to Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice Defence and Equality looking at domestic and sexual violence

The UglyMugs.ie scheme is a free service for Irish sex workers operated by Safe IQ Ltd, registered in England & Wales No. 08640270. (The UglyMugs.ie scheme was previously operated by E Designers Ltd, registered in England & Wales No. 4923492 and E Designers remains an important partner.)

Ugly Mug schemes facilitate the sharing of safety information between sex workers in a sex working community, and aim to improve the safety of sex workers, and reduce crimes committed against them, by alerting them to dangerous individuals. UglyMugs.ie was launched in its current format on 23 September 2009, though earlier schemes had been operated since 2007.

UglyMugs.ie is a free service available to all Irish sex workers. It is a closed service and access is restricted to sex workers working in Ireland only.

Some features of UglyMugs.ie are:

• Full web-based service available 24/7 on computer or smartphone
• Android app that automatically screens incoming and outgoing calls and text messages, and alerts the sex worker if they have contact with a number that is in the Ugly Mugs database.
• Basic by-SMS service for times when the sex worker doesn’t have Internet access
• Confidentially reporting of bad clients or other dangers for sex workers
• Reports are reviewed by staff and a warning to all sex workers is published
• Option for sex workers to subscribe to receive new reports by email and/or SMS alerts
• Private discussion forums and chat room where sex workers can talk with other sex workers about safety, health, legal, accommodation and other issues
• Safety advice, legal information and industry news
• Staff support available 7 days a week online or by phone/SMS
• Referrals to specialist support services for sex workers
• Service available in 16 languages, English, Bulgarian, Czech, Chinese, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian

Many different categories of incidents are reported to UglyMugs.ie. Over 4,000 incidents have been reported to UglyMugs.ie to date. UglyMugs.ie is widely used by sex workers in Ireland.

Sexual violence against persons selling sex in Ireland is a serious problem.

We would have prepared some detailed statistics about sexual violence against sex workers for our submission, but we only found out the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice Defence and Equality looking at domestic and sexual violence is seeking submissions on this issue yesterday. This information was not made public and UglyMugs.ie was not written to by the Committee about this, as other organisations were.

A fundamental problem in Ireland is the almost total lack of support services for sex workers in Ireland. Support services for sex workers who are the victims of sexual assaults do not appear to exist in reality. We do our best in the sex working community to make up for the lack of support services, Irish sex workers are fantastic at helping each other, but it is a far from ideal situation.

Another serious problem is that the sex work community is excluded from public debate on sex work in Ireland. Public debate on sex work is instead dominated by anti-sex work rhetoric that actively encourages a culture of violence against sex workers. The message repeatedly sent out is that sex workers are there to be abused, not that it is not ok to abuse sex workers.

UglyMugs.ie was excluded from the recent Justice Committee Review of Prostitution Legislation. Indeed the safety and well-being of sex workers was not considered by the Committee at all. We specifically note that the UK Network of Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP) National Ugly Mugs and the Merseyside Model (where crimes against sex workers are defined as hate crimes) were not looked at either.

In regard to sexual violence against sex workers, we would like to see support services for sex workers who experience sexual assault, a Garda Sex Worker Liaison Office, and anonymity for sex worker victims and witnesses in all criminal cases, like the anonymity already offered to all victims of sexual assault, so that sex workers can engage with the justice system without being “exposed” by the media as sex workers in the process.

The recent Justice Committee review of prostitution legislation recommended a raft of measures that will increase abuse in the sex industry, including the criminalisation of the purchase of sex, despite the international body of evidence that this model harms sex workers.

In addition to recommending the purchase or attempted purchase of sex be criminalised, the Justice Committee has made other recommendations that will clearly impact on the safety of sex workers.

To date sex workers have been able to work indoors legally provided they work alone, and landlords have been able to rent to single sex workers, but the Justice Committee has now recommended a new criminal offence of allowing a premises to be used for prostitution, which will prevent sex workers being able to rent accommodation. Further the Justice Committee has recommended that Gardai and charities have the power to shut down phone numbers being used for prostitution and that accessing prostitution websites be treated the same in law as accessing child porn websites.

These recommendations are clearly designed to try to take away sex workers’ access to accommodation and phones and the Internet and force them out of the safety of working indoors and onto the streets. These proposed measures happen to be exactly what the Magdalene laundry order groups that so dominate public debate on sex work in Ireland want.

It is a matter of great shame the Justice Committee review of prostitution legislation chose not to consider the already poor safety situation for sex workers, the lack of any useful support services for sex workers, or any of the measures that could improve sex worker safety, and has instead proposed a raft of new laws which would clearly make the safety situation of sex workers vastly worse.

As the operator of UglyMugs.ie, the main sex worker safety scheme in Ireland, we are acutely aware of the devastating consequences for sex worker safety these proposed laws, designed to strip them of accommodation and the ability to communicate with each other, could have. Of course, sex workers being unable to access phones or the Internet, is also designed to prevent their use of Ugly Mugs schemes like UglyMugs.ie and moreover stop them being able to network with each other and help and support each other, which is the only positive safety tool sex workers in Ireland have currently.

We fully expect to not be invited to give evidence to the Justice Committee on Justice Defence and Equality looking at domestic and sexual violence, and specifically at sexual violence against sex workers. It is clear we were not intended to even have the opportunity to make a submission. However we remain available to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice Defence and Equality looking at domestic and sexual violence, specifically at violence against sex workers.

(Our full contact details)

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off

First ever survey of Irish indoor sex workers

For the first time men and women selling sex indoors in Ireland have been asked about their lives, and the findings harshly contradict the popular media image of sex workers in Ireland.

UglyMugs.ie invited Irish indoor sex workers to take part in the research, which aimed to learn more about escorts in Ireland and particularly about their experiences of crime and abuse. This is the first ever survey of indoor sex workers in Ireland and 195 female, male and trans* escorts took part. Although the survey cannot be considered representative of all persons selling sex in Ireland, 195 participants is a very significant proportion of the Irish sex worker population.

The escorts who took part in the survey were from 29 different countries. Most were aged in their 20s or 30s and highly educated. Just over half had worked in sex work in another country prior to becoming an escort in Ireland. 97.3% were self-employed independent escorts, though 33.3% had experience of working for a third party, e.g. an escort agency, in Ireland or elsewhere in the past.

Despite it being popularly reported in the media that children are involved in prostitution, there was no evidence of the involvement of any under 16s and only one participant was aged under 18.

Participants reported low alcohol and drug use, high condom use, and taking a number of security measures whilst working as an escort, the top ones being not getting in cars with clients (65.3%), taking more precautions when it is a new client (58.1%) and not working alone (41.1%) despite the laws in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that force escorts to work alone if they want to work legally.

Ireland’s sex worker population overwhelmingly works indoors with access to phones and the Internet, which is safe conditions, in comparison to outdoor sex working. However, many of the participants reported experiences of a wide range of crime and abuses. It is also clear that a wide range of persons commit crime against sex workers in Ireland, not only clients.

66.7% of participants who had been a victim of crime whilst working as an escort in Ireland did not report to the police. The high level of stigma associated with being an escort being the primary barrier to engaging with police.

Participants said that other escorts were the biggest source of help to them after experiencing crime. The research confirmed that currently there are no useful support services for escorts in Ireland, but escorts would welcome the establishment of a variety of sex worker support services.

Fear of media exposure amongst escorts in Ireland is very high, even higher than fear of crime, with 74.6% of participants worried or very worried about being exposed as an escort in the newspapers or other media.

Recommendations include further research, a review of laws and policies that put sex workers at risk, tackling media abuse of sex workers and the provision of police sex worker liaison services and general advice, legal advice, health services and exiting services for sex workers.

The full report outlines that a number of factors put escort at risk of violence and abuse. The lack of support services and good relations with police, mean offenders specifically target escorts, in the belief that they are people in society without any help, who offenders can abuse with a very low risk of facing any consequences as a result. The media portrayal of escorts as people with no rights, no choices, helpless victims who can’t say no to anything or anybody, is also sending a very dangerous message to offenders.

UglyMugs.ie is a scheme that aims to improve the safety of sex workers in Ireland and reduce crimes committed against them, by bringing sex workers together to share information about potential dangers.

Commenting on the research, UglyMugs.ie said:

There has never been any independent research into indoor sex work in Ireland. Instead of asking sex workers about their lives, we ask anti-prostitution campaigners. As our initial research here has shown, the Irish public are being grossly misled. Proper independent research must now be carried out now to establish the reality of indoor sex work in Ireland, so sensible legislation can be put in place.

The full report, Crime and Abuse Experienced by Sex Workers in Ireland, 2013 Victimisation Survey, can be downloaded at:
http://uglymugs.ie/wp-content/uploads/ugly-mugs-september-2013.pdf

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off

Safe IQ launches Ugly Mugs for Android in Ireland

Get it on Google Play

User Guide

Video Demo

Safety app warns Irish sex workers of dangerous individuals

Ugly Mugs for Android is a new mobile phone app that automatically screens incoming and outgoing calls and text messages and alerts the phone user if they have contact with a number that is listed in the UglyMugs.ie database of individuals who pose a risk to sex workers.

Sex workers are far more likely to be victims of violence and other crimes and abuses than non sex workers, and sex workers are also far less likely to report crime than non sex workers. Whilst prostitution is legal in Ireland, laws criminalising activities around prostitution mean sex workers must work alone and in private in order to work legally. Isolated, partially criminalised, stigmatised, marginalised, and without access to support services, the vulnerability of sex workers in Ireland is obvious. Some offenders deliberately target sex workers because of this vulnerability.

Ugly mug schemes allow sex workers to share information about dangers with each other. When a sex worker encounters a dangerous person, they can report the incident to the ugly mug scheme, and a warning will be made available to all sex workers.

Most sex work in Ireland is arranged via the Internet and mobile phones, and UglyMugs.ie integrates with the main escort website, Escort-Ireland.com, making it easy to access for sex workers. The advantage of Ugly Mugs for Android is that sex workers can install it once on their Android phone and from then on it will automatically check each number they have contact with against UglyMugs.ie and warn them if there is a match. It means sex workers don’t have to manually check numbers against the UglyMugs.ie database, which many do, but equally many do not always do.

Ugly mug schemes have long been established in many parts of the world as being really useful in warning sex workers about dangerous people and situations. The digital age brings many opportunities to further develop ugly mug schemes. Ugly Mugs for Android will complement the existing UglyMugs.ie service and make the lives of sex workers safer.

Ugly Mugs for Android is free and available to sex workers at www.UglyMugs.ie

###

Note to editors: Established in August 2013, Safe IQ develops safety products and services for sex workers, carries out research into sex worker safety and raises awareness of the need for sex workers to have the same protections as other workers. For more information or comment please email info@safeiq.com or call +44 7934 706203.

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off

List of sex workers unlawfully killed in Ireland in the last 40 years

A list of sex workers unlawfully killed in Ireland in the last 40 years. Included are all cases found following a search of newspaper archives and other sources where the victim was engaged in sex work at the time of his/her death or the killing related directly to the victim’s status as a current or former sex worker. Also included are some cases where the victim was alleged to be a sex worker, but this may not be the case.

Teresa Maguire, a former prostitute, was killed in the grounds of a Dublin hospital in April 1979. Christopher O’Brien admitted killing her and was charged and later convicted of manslaughter. This killing is the event that spurred prostitute Dolores Lynch into going public as a prostitutes’ rights activist. The case was not widely reported, but it was said that Teresa had refused sex with her attacker and was found dead with an iron bar stuck up her rectum and out her back and the sentence handed down to Christopher O’Brien was two years.

Ann Scanlon, 31, reported to be a prostitute and a mother of five from Cork. On 28 February 1982 Ann was working on Cork Quays. She was last seen alive there at about 9pm after a man left her back. On 12 March, Michael Higgingston admitted the killing to his mother, and then took Gardai to her body in Blarney, Cork. She had been strangled. Michael Higgingston pleaded not guilty to murder but was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1982.

Dolores Lynch, 34, a former prostitute, and Ireland’s first prostitute activist, died following a fire at her home in Dublin on 16 January 1983. Her mother and aunt also died in the fire. The fire was deliberately set by John Cullen, a pimp she had given evidence against previously. John Cullen was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 1983. Full story.

Irene Clifford, 37, was bludgeoned to death in Belfast on 7 June 1991. Her body was so badly mutilated that police initially thought she was a man. It was established that she had been working as an outdoor sex worker in the Adelaide Street area of Belfast on the night she was killed. In March 1992 James Gerard O’Malley was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. More info on the case is available at NI Courts website.

Belinda Pereira, aged 26, from London, was found on 29 December 1996, having been bludgeoned to death with a blunt instrument, in the flat where she was working in Mellors Court, Liffey Street, Dublin. She was an indoor sex worker working via advertising in the In Dublin magazine. She had only travelled to Dublin on Christmas Eve and was due to leave on New Year’s Day. Murder unsolved.

Sinéad Kelly, aged 21, from Santry, Dublin was stabbed to death on 21 June 1998 as she worked on the banks of the Grand Canal near Baggot Street, Dublin. She was reported to be a drug-using outdoor sex worker. Murder unsolved.

Layla Brennan, aged 24, from Clondalkin, Dublin, reported to be a drug addict and outdoor sex worker, was strangled and then dumped in the Wicklow mountains on or around 2 March 1999. Philip Colgan was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in October 2000. (Layla’s family have since questioned whether she was a sex worker, or whether that was a false assumption made, because she was a drug addict and picked up on the street by Colgan who asserted she was a sex worker.)

Qu Mei Na “Tina”, aged 22, from China, was uncovered in the boot of a car at a garage on the Antrim Road, Belfast, in June 2004. Chang Hai Zhang was convicted of her false imprisonment and murder in May 2007 and given a life sentence. Another man, Pan Yang, was convicted as an accomplice. Tina was widely reported in the media to be a sex worker, and possibly a victim of sex trafficking and a Chinese organised crime gang. However whether she was a sex worker is questionable, as it seems that Chang Hai Zhang’s account may be the only information to say she was. More info on the case is available at NI Courts website.

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off

Appeal to Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice and Equality

Following the publication on 27 June 2013 of the Justice Committee Report on hearings and submissions on the Review of Legislation of Prostitution, we wrote to Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice and Equality, about sex worker safety.

The Justice Committee recommended the criminalisation of the purchase of sex, despite the international body of evidence that this model harms sex workers.

The Turn Off the Red Light (TORL) coalition calling for the criminalisation of the purchase of sex has enjoyed strong political support since its inception. Several members of the Justice Committee were formal supporters of TORL before the Justice Committee review even began.

It is a matter of great shame that sex workers, the very people whose lives will be impacted upon by any changes in prostitution legislation, were not given a fair hearing by this Justice Committee.

We are aware of about 50 sex workers who made submissions to the Justice Committee and/or asked to give evidence to the Justice Committee. However the Justice Committee was only prepared to hear from two sex workers, selected by the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland, and only in private, so their evidence would not be a matter of public record. Following this, a member of the Justice Committee publicly speculated in the media that they suspected these two sex workers may have been lying, and, since the publication of the report, one of these two sex workers has made a complaint to the Justice Committee stating her evidence was misrepresented in the report.

In addition to recommending the purchase or attempted purchase of sex be criminalised, the Justice Committee has made other recommendations that will clearly impact on the safety of sex workers.

To date sex workers have been able to work indoors legally provided they work alone, and landlords have been able to rent to single sex workers, but the Justice Committee is now recommending a new criminal offence of allowing a premises to be used for prostitution, which will prevent sex workers being able to rent accommodation. Further the Justice Committee is recommending that Gardai and charities have the power to shut down phone numbers being used for prostitution and that accessing prostitution websites be treated the same in law as accessing child porn websites.

These recommendations are clearly designed to try to take away sex workers’ access to accommodation and phones and the Internet and force them out of the safety of working indoors and onto the streets. These proposed measures, which happen to be exactly what the Magdalene laundry order group Ruhama requested, are nothing short of barbaric.

As the operator of UglyMugs.ie, the main sex worker safety scheme in Ireland, which has recorded over 4000 incidents of abuse (as reported to us by sex workers) since 2009, we are acutely aware of the devastating consequences for sex worker safety these proposed laws, designed to strip them of accommodation and the ability to communicate with each other, could have. Of course, if sex workers cannot access phones or the Internet, this also prevents their use of Ugly Mugs schemes.

UglyMugs.ie made a submission to the Justice Committee and requested the opportunity to give evidence. However, with the exception of obtaining confirmation that UglyMugs.ie submission was received and recorded as reference 2012/1065a, we have been completely ignored by the Justice Committee. Indeed the entire issue of Ugly Mugs schemes and sex worker safety has been completely ignored throughout the entire Justice Committee hearings process and in their report.

We wrote to Alan Shatter on 3 July 2013 to put it to him that the safety of sex workers is not a trivial matter not worthy of any consideration. It is outrageous that the Justice Committee chose not to consider the already appalling safety situation for sex workers, the lack of any useful support services for sex workers, or any of the measures that could improve sex worker safety, and has instead proposed a raft of new laws which would clearly make the safety situation of sex workers vastly worse.

Wild unfounded claims have been a strong feature of this prostitution debate. But it is with no such sensationalism that we warned Alan Shatter that the very lives of sex workers are at risk here, rather it is with the experience and evidence of years of recording crimes against sex workers and abuse of sex workers.

We are asking that Alan Shatter takes crimes against sex workers and the abuse of sex workers seriously. It is unacceptable that this issue has been ignored by the Justice Committee review of prostitution legislation. We are calling on Alan Shatter, as Minister for Justice and Equality, to intervene in this matter and ensure that it is now looked at by his Department.

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off

UglyMugs.ie Submission to Justice Committee Review of Prostitution Legislation

UglyMugs.ie response to Irish Government public consultation process on the future direction of legislation on prostitution

Introduction to UglyMugs.ie

The UglyMugs.ie scheme is a free service for Irish sex workers operated by E Designers (E Designers Ltd. is registered in England & Wales No. 4923492 & VAT No. GB 834015458).  The main activity of E Designers is operating commercial escort advertising websites, including Ireland’s most popular escort website, Escort-Ireland.com (E-I), which has made a separate submission to this consultation.

The History of Ugly Mug Schemes

Ugly Mug schemes aim to improve the safety of sex workers, and reduce crimes committed against them, by alerting them to dangerous individuals.  The first Ugly Mug schemes came about in the late 1980s, and typically involved sex workers reporting incidents to sex work projects and those projects then placing warnings about dangerous individuals on notice boards in sex worker drop-in centres.  However the basis of Ugly Mugs schemes, the practice of sex workers sharing information with each other to help keep each other safe, is probably as old as sex work itself.

Ugly Mugs schemes are all about sex workers supporting each other.   Organisations operating successful Ugly Mugs schemes can claim to have a role in facilitating the sharing of information between sex workers, but the success of the Ugly Mug schemes must be credited to there being a community of sex workers who want to share information with each other to protect each other.  Any Ugly Mugs scheme would be worthless without sex worker participation.

There are Irish Ugly Mugs schemes beyond the one operated by E Designers.  Some organisations that work with sex workers operate their own local Ugly Mug schemes, for example the Chrysalis Drug Project in Dublin.  Groups of sex workers will also operate Ugly Mugs schemes amongst themselves.  But E Designers recognised that there was a very strong need for more Ugly Mugs scheme work in Ireland some years ago, and it wasn’t being met by any other organisation nor did it seem likely that it would be in the near future, and therefore looked at the idea of E Designers operating an Ugly Mugs scheme and ultimately decided to do so.  The Ugly Mugs scheme operated by E Designers and identified as UglyMugs.ie (to differentiate it from other schemes) was launched in its current format on 23 September 2009, though earlier schemes had been operated since 2007.

About UglyMugs.ie

UglyMugs.ie is a free service for Irish sex workers.  It is a closed service, access is restricted to sex workers working in Ireland only.  Public discussion of UglyMugs.ie is limited and rare.

The usual route to gaining access is becoming an advertising customer of Escort-Ireland.com (E-I) but it is not a requirement to be a customer of E-I, and a significant number of the scheme users are sex workers who may have been an E-I customer at some stage but no longer are, or have never been an E-I customer but applied to join, usually after hearing about it from another sex worker.  As a guide as to how many Irish sex workers use the service, there are 734 active users on 31/08/12.

Some features of UglyMugs.ie are:

  • Full web-based service available 24/7 on your computer or smartphone
  • Basic by-SMS service for times when you don’t have Internet access
  • Confidentially report bad persons encountered or other dangers
  • Reports are reviewed by staff and a warning to all sex workers is published
  • Option to subscribe to receive new reports by email and/or SMS alerts
  • Private discussion forums and chat room where you can talk with other sex workers about safety, health, legal, accommodation and other issues
  • Safety advice, legal information and industry news
  • Staff support available 7 days a week online or by phone/SMS
  • Referrals to specialist support services for sex workers
  • Service available in 15 languages, English, Bulgarian, Czech, Chinese, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian.

E Designers employs a dedicated UglyMugs.ie Manager, backed up by a team of six other ‘Community’ managers or staff who also help out with UglyMugs.ie.  Many other E Designers staff, usually who work in ‘Sales’, will also work on UglyMugs.ie issues at times too.  This is because it suits some sex workers better to speak to a member of the Sales staff about UglyMugs.ie issues, either because there is a person on that team they have gotten to know and trust and feel comfortable talking to, or because of language issues (Amongst our Sales team, we have staff who speak many languages, currently Czech, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Portuguese, whereas the Community team which UglyMugs.ie falls into has not got so many languages.)

Categories of Incidents

The categories and subcategories system for formally reported incidents give a good indication as to the types of problems that sex workers encounter.  These are listed below.

Abusive Phone Call(s) or Email(s)
- Abusive phone call(s) or text message(s)
- Abusive email(s) or other online message(s)

In-Person Abusive Behaviour
- Verbal abuse
- Threatening behaviour

Assault / Held Against Will
- Attempted assault
- Assault (slapping, punching, kicking)
- Assault with a weapon (knife / gun / other)
- Strangulation / Suffocation
- Held against will

Rape / Sexual Assault
- Attempted rape / sexual assault
- Vaginal rape
- Forced oral sex
- Anal rape
- Other sexual assault

Robbery / Non Payment / Vandalism
- Attempted Robbery
- Robbery
- Didn’t pay or paid with fake money etc.
- Caused damage to property

Deception / Fraud
- Impersonating a police officer
- Undercover journalist
- Unauthorised photography
- Other deception or fraud

Unsafe Sex / Drug Use
- Sought vaginal / anal sex without condom
- Infected with STD / infectious disease
- Drug user or in possession of drugs

Exploitation / Extortion / Illegal Acts
- Pimping, trafficking or other exploitation
- Blackmail or other extortion
- Requested illegal acts, e.g. underage sex

Timewasters
- Malicious Timewasters
- Repeat Timewasters

Bad Service Providers
- Bad Landlords
- Other Bad Service Providers

Suspicious Persons / Other
- Suspicious Behaviour
- Other

Whilst with most of these categories and sub-categories it is probably self-explanatory why they exist, there are some categories and sub-categories that may not be.

Undercover journalist.  Most sex workers find journalists pretending to be clients, making appointments with them, secretly photographing/filming/recording them and then exposing them in newspapers, on websites and TV and radio programmes, often in a state of undress and often with no attempt to blur out their face or in any way make them less identifiable, extremely disgusting behaviour and so do we.  Every time you see such an exposé, remember that’s probably a sex worker and her family’s life decimated.  It is also normally a clear breach of press and media codes of conduct and the sex worker’s human rights.  However complaining only brings more publicity, so most sex workers don’t.

Sought vaginal / anal sex without condom or Infected with STD / infectious disease.  Contrary to the old myth that sex workers are wanton disease spreaders, most sex workers are the most educated people you could meet regards safe sex and very careful and concerned with their own health.

Malicious Timewasters or Repeat Timewasters.  ‘Timewasters’ are people who make appointments with sex workers and then don’t turn up or turn up for a look and then leave without paying.  This is very common and often it is simply bad manners.  But sometimes the timewasting behaviour is carried out repeatedly or in a clearly malicious manner and incidents of this nature can be recorded, because it is clearly deliberate abuse of the sex worker’s time and interruption to his/her business.  Whilst you could imagine these types of persons are not the greatest threat to the safety of sex workers, it has been our experience that in many cases they go on to engage in more serious abuse and/or are pimps trying to prevent sex workers working because they have a sex worker or sex workers working for them in the area and don’t want any ‘competition’.

Bad Landlords or Other Bad Service Providers.  Exploitation and mistreatment of sex workers by landlords and other service providers is a common problem.

Suspicious Persons or Other.  There are incidents where sex workers encounter someone or a group of persons they believe to be a threat, but an incident of assault or robbery or whatever threat it was they perceived, did not actually occur, or incidents that don’t fall into any set category.

Statistics

At the end of UglyMugs.ie Year One (23 September 2009 to 22 September 2010) 571 reports were available. 259 of these related to old incidents and 312 related to incidents that occurred during Year One.  The high number of ‘old’ incidents recorded is because this was the first year, but many older incidents had been informally recorded before this date.  Full Year One statistics are available at the following URL and also attached to this submission:http://uglymugs.ie/year-one-statistics/.  Year Two & Year Three Statistics will be published in September 2012.  As an indication as to the number of incidents, on 31/08/12 the total number of incidents from Year One to date is 2734.

Other

We regard UglyMugs.ie as a success and a very useful service for Irish sex workers and that is backed up by repeated feedback to E Designers from sex workers that they find the scheme useful.

UglyMugs.ie is a great credit, not to E Designers, but to the decency, humanity, care, support and friendship sex workers in Ireland routinely show each other every day.

Many sex workers do not chose to report incidents to UglyMugs.ie but use it to network with other sex workers, which is very important as working as a sex worker can be very isolating, especially due to the law which forces indoor sex workers to work alone in order to work legally.

UglyMugs.ie provides compelling evidence that Ireland’s current brothel keeping laws that force sex workers to work alone are putting sex workers at risk and must be changed to allow sex workers to work with a friend for safety.  It also shows the level of discrimination, hate, violence, abuse and crime directed towards sex workers, many of whom are additionally migrants or also belonging to a group already frequently discriminated against in society, like transgender or gay or Roma.

Contrary to popular belief, the persons who abuse sex workers are not all sex worker clients, far from it, though often they are pseudo-clients in that they pretend to be clients in order to offend.  In 2011 we started recording whether or not the offender was a client and the statistics due to be published in September 2012 will show some data regards this.

Problems

There is a huge lack of support for persons in sex work.

The main NGO in prostitution, Ruhama, is an “exiting” model organisation, they assist women only and exit only.  Management of the Women’s Health Project in Dublin is also anti-prostitution to our knowledge, though we would also like to acknowledge that some sex workers tell us they use this service and the staff there can be very good.  With many NGOs that could help sex workers, their position is firmly anti-prostitution.  For further example, Rape Crisis, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Doras Luimní and the list could go on and on.  The situation is such that often the only organisations providing certain types of help are also campaigning for sex worker clients to be criminalised to take away sex workers’ incomes, for landlords not to rent to sex workers, for hotels not to allow sex workers to stay in them, that all paid for sex is rape, that a person cannot choose sex work and the list could go on and on.  For obvious reasons sex workers frequently don’t engage with such services.

We would like to mention at this point the Chrysalis Drug Project in Dublin and the Red Ribbon Project in Limerick as two services many sex workers have told us are very useful and not judgemental of sex workers.  This is not an exhaustive list by any means, we acknowledge many other services offer help to sex workers.

Our UglyMugs.ie staff frequently seek help for individual sex workers, who need some help finding help, because they may be lacking English language skills or are very nervous about seeking help, and often the phone is slammed straight down or the emails ignored.  This is the divide in sex work in Ireland.  E Designers staff are unable to engage with almost all NGOs who supposedly provide help to sex workers as they refuse to even speak to us.  It’s not E Designers that is being hurt by this, but the sex workers who need help and who call UglyMugs.ie trying to get help, and we have to tell we cannot find any help.  This is a situation replayed weekly if not daily at UglyMugs.ie.  We wish people in these NGOs would get past their distain of E Designers enough to not behave like this, or if that is not possible, if you are an NGO that can provide any help to sex workers, please put up a webpage listing what help you can offer, that we can at least link to and refer sex workers to.

We note that there are calls for sex worker websites and phone numbers to be blocked and wish that it be noted that the Internet and phones play an important role in sex workers helping themselves stay safe, UglyMugs.ie being an example of that.

Help Needed

The following help for sex workers is desperately needed.

Garda Sex Worker Liaison Office

There are many individual gardai who are a great help to sex workers.  UglyMugs.ie informally circulates details of “friendly police” and this is very useful, but frequently we have no contacts for “friendly police” in particular areas and at particular times.  It would be hugely beneficial in keeping sex workers safe and detecting and preventing exploitation of sex workers and trafficking for there to be a Garda Sex Worker Liaison Office and we would implore the Government to make this happen.

Legal Advice

Many of the problems sex workers face are legal.  Problems with landlords, with immigration issues, with the law (remember many activities associated with sex work, like advertising or working with a friend are currently illegal) and with media intrusion and violations of their privacy.  For a dedicated sex worker officer to be appointed within existing legal advice services would be a very beneficial.

Health Services

There needs to be sex worker friendly health services in all major areas.  Existing sexual health services should be organised so they are sex worker friendly and information about their services for sex workers is available.

Exiting Services

Although exiting services exist, notably Ruhama, it is questionable whether organisations so at odds with sex workers are suitable to provide such services.  There are always people in sex work who would like to exit and there should be help for those people to exit, but how can sex workers be expected to engage with organisations so anti-sex work?  In 2009 Ruhama gave an award for journalism to Eamon Dillon of the Sunday World, in our opinion the worst offender in the country in terms of media outlets that ruin sex workers’ lives by exposing them in the media to sell newspapers, using subterfuge and hidden cameras.  This is the only award for journalism Ruhama has ever given out.  Instances like this show the size of the gap between Ruhama and sex workers.  It is logical to think that exiting services not operated by organisations who are so anti-sex work they literally celebrate the destruction of sex workers’ lives by the media would be more appealing to sex workers and thus better able to provide useful exiting services.

Violence Against Sex Workers

The radical feminist position that all sex work is itself violence against women, is core to current attempts to criminalise the purchase of sex.  Anti-prostitution campaigners frequently assert in the media that all or most sex workers are controlled by pimps, beaten, raped and forced to perform degrading or un-safe sex acts, and have no choice but to do as clients want.  This is very damaging and actively encourages a culture of violence against sex workers.  We would say that sex workers are the best people to define what it and what is not violence towards them and instead of sending out a message that sex workers are there to be abused, we need to send out the message that it is not ok to abuse sex workers.

Ugly Mugs in the UK

The UK Network of Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP) provides excellent information on its website – http://www.uknswp.org/- about Ugly Mugs schemes including hugely detailed and informative guides to operating them.  The “Liverpool Model”, where Merseyside Police have defined crimes against sex workers as hate crimes, has proved very successful.  In July this year the National Ugly Mugs (NUM) Pilot Scheme – funded by the Home Office but managed independently by the UKNSWP – went live.  This is the first nationwide Ugly Mugs scheme and is bringing together many local schemes.  It helps sex workers stay safe and the intelligence gathered can also be used to help the police take murderers, rapists and other violent criminals who are a risk to all of society off the streets.  We note the UKNSWP has visited Ireland on occasions in recent years, in association with Chrysalis, to talk about their work with Ugly Mugs.  We feel the UK is a world leader in Ugly Mugs schemes thanks to the work of the UKNSWP and others and would strongly encourage the Government to look to the UK and learn from the UK here.  We would also at this point like to thank all the UK people and organisation that have helped us with UglyMugs.ie by providing advice.

Privacy

This is a public consultation and we do not feel it is appropriate to discuss much of the detail of UglyMugs.ie in public.  To divulge too much information about UglyMugs.ie in public is something many sex workers, and UglyMugs.ie would be nothing without sex workers, have previously told us they feel is wrong.  However we also feel it is important we make a submission to this consultation to try to convey the need for help services for sex workers to the Government, and that many sex workers understand that too.  We would be pleased to discuss UglyMugs.ie further privately.

Final Word

To those who find it distasteful that any commercial business operates an Ugly Mugs scheme, we would say we are filling a gap, and we would warmly welcome a better Ugly Mugs scheme than ours for Irish sex workers, not operated by us, but until that happens we will continue to do what we can.  We regard the ideal situation regards Ugly Mugs schemes as choice for sex workers.  We think commercial escort Internet advertising businesses are well placed to include Ugly Mugs schemes, but the situation should not be that they are the only such services.  The UK’s National Ugly Mugs (NUM) Pilot Scheme is in its infancy, but many sex workers have told us they’d like to see that scheme extended into Ireland or a similar Irish scheme established.

We would like to again note that UglyMugs.ie is only a useful scheme because so many sex workers in Ireland are so fantastically supportive of each other, and we believe these sex workers deserve some support from the Government now, including the Garda, legal, health and exiting services.

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off

Ugly Mugs Year One Statistics in the press

Just six percent of crimes against sex workers reported to Gardaí, Jason Walsh, Newswhip.ie

Sex attacks, Irish Examiner

Nearly 600 crimes committed against sex workers in Ireland last year, Joe.ie

Report says Longford/Westmeath is hotspot for crimes against sex workers, Shannonside

Reports shows high incidents of attacks on sex workers in Sligo, Therese Madden, Ocean FM

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off

New statistics highlight problem of crimes against sex workers in Ireland

Ugly Mugs today released its Year One statistics covering 2009-10.

Ugly Mugs is a scheme that aims to improve the safety of sex workers in Ireland and reduce crimes committed against them, by bringing sex workers together to share information about potential dangers.

The statistics reveal that sex workers in Ireland are frequently targeted by criminals. 571 incidents were reported to Ugly Mugs in Year One. The most commonly reported problems were threatening phone calls or messages, robbery, non-payment or vandalism and in-person abusive behaviour. Many crimes committed against sex workers were not reported to the police, including serious assaults and rapes. Hot spots for incidents were Longford, Sligo and Westmeath.

A spokesperson for Ugly Mugs said “We support the right of sex workers to engage in their work as safely as possible. We oppose the calls currently being made to criminalise prostitution. These calls are being made by religious and radical feminist groups, who want their own moral beliefs to be law, but sex work is a reality, and criminalising it would drive the industry further underground and make it much more dangerous for sex workers.”

For full statistics please see http://uglymugs.ie/year-one-statistics/

Posted in Latest News | Comments Off