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Women at risk as police crack down on prostitution ahead of Olympic Games

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Alice Rodgers
WVoN co-editor 

Prostitutes are being cleared from London’s streets in an attempt to make the city more presentable for the 2012 Olympic Games.

About 80 brothels have been shut down in London’s Olympic boroughs, compared to just 29 in the rest of the city.

In Tower Hamlets the number of arrests made since January has already equalled those made in the whole of 2011.

Toynbee Hall, a London-based anti-poverty charity has expressed concern over the operation, saying that the change are making sex workers “more vulnerable to crime”.

The charity said it was worried about bail conditions, which often involve barring women from certain areas and imposing curfews, which they claim might expose them to more risk.

Indeed researchers found this is what happened during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, with prostitutes being pushed into more isolated areas, away from the support of other workers and with “less protection to be able to safely negotiate condom use”.

“We have a situation where a man who violently attacks a number of clients would not be given the same orders to leave the borough or a particular area” said Miriam Merkova, of Toynbee Hall.

“I absolutely think that it’s the image rather than the safety of residents that is the problem.”

The Metropolitan Police have said that they are acting “in response to community concerns”, rather than in accordance with Olympic plans.

However according to Andrew Boff, a London Assembly member and spokesman for the Conservative group on the Olympics, this increased activity has happened disproportionately in the Olympic boroughs.

“I worry that the current way in which brothels in London are policed is actually preventing women from coming forward” he said.

Elsewhere London’s predominantly working-class and multi-ethnic Olympic boroughs have seen the forced displacement of its homeless, rising rent prices, forced evictions and the demolition of public housing; gentrification policies that are often employed in Olympic Games host cities.

  1. Eleanora says:

    I work as an Irish prostitute out of my own choice. I wasn’t ‘forced’ into the business as suggested by certain Irish organizations – Ruhama is misleading because they classify ‘forced prostitution’ with agreed prostitution (a woman’s free will). The Immigrant Council of Ireland similarly use misleading jargon to confuse ‘forced prostitution’ with choice.

    I believe the only credible solution is to legalize prostitution so that it can be regulated and easily controlled. Make trafficking a criminal offense.

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