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20 Aug, 2022 21:33

Cost of living pushing UK women into prostitution – activists

Women already in the industry are finding themselves unable to turn away dangerous clients, activists warned
Cost of living pushing UK women into prostitution – activists

Outreach workers warned Sky News on Saturday that the rising cost of living in the UK is forcing women into sex work, with some forced to meet clients on the streets. 

The English Collective of Prostitutes, a London-based group that advises women in the sex industry how to say safe and out of trouble with the law, told Sky that it saw calls to its helpline increase by a third this summer.

Spokeswoman Niki Adams said that rising food and energy bills have driven women to prostitution.

"Across the board what we're seeing is people coming to that work from a place of desperation,” Adams said. "That means they are much less able to protect themselves from violence and exploitation.”

One woman Adams works with found herself losing hundreds of pounds when the UK’s benefits program moved to the Universal Credit system – an ongoing process that the government admits will make 900,000 welfare recipients worse off by the time the switchover is completed 

"She started doing a couple of evenings a week on the streets – just enough to pay each bill," Adams said, adding that with four young children at home, the woman had to work outdoors. 

With inflation in the UK crossing the 10% threshold last month and millions of Britons potentially facing a winter of heat and food shortages, Beyond The Streets, a charity that helps women leave prostitution, is seeing an increase in women selling “survival sex.”

"We call it that because it's the only choice these women can make to survive. It's done to meet basic needs – to have enough money for food and rent," support worker Nikki McNeill told Sky. 

Adams added that some of those selling sex are doing so for agencies, which often force the women to work in unsafe conditions. 

"Some of the women are expected to provide sex without protection,” she said. "Clients know they are in a position where they can't say no, so some premises are pushing women into those circumstances."

McNeill said that her organization is lobbying the government to increase benefits beyond the £1,200 ($1,491) in direct payments to low income households and £400 ($473) in energy payments to vulnerable people that the government has already promised. A government spokesperson told Sky that it “recognizes people are struggling with rising prices.”