Living and working in areas of street sex work – from conflict to co-existence

Greater dialogue framed within a discourse ofcitizenship and safer space for both sexworkers and residents is required in localcities/towns where street sex work takes place.Consultation should extend to all interestedgroups, including residents, businesses, sexworkers, projects and agencies, to explore arange of options. To be incorporated within aframework of citizenship, such an exercisecannot start from a position of ‘no tolerance’that excludes one of the main groups involved.The starting point ideally should be anexploration of the potential for coexistence,with a discussion of what this might entail tomake neighbourhoods safer both for residentsand sex workers.

Returning to the typology of community viewspresented in Chapter Three, there may be acontinuum of activity required according to thetolerance of local communities to the issues,commencing with short-term practicalresponses within a multi-agency context inareas where intolerance is greatest and movingtowards a multi-stakeholder forum thatexplores the potential for coexistence in areaswith higher levels of tolerance. A ‘package’ ofoptions is suggested below, which may bedrawn on according to the needs of eachparticular neighbourhood. While some optionsmight be prioritised to take into account thelocal context, individual responses should beplaced within the framework of a multi-layeredapproach, which would include communitymediation, preventive work, support,education and rehabilitation services for sexworkers, practical responses and enforcementin those instances where no other mechanismsappear to be effective.

While some of the suggestions raised in thisreport are recognised practice within a widerevidence base, particularly communitymediation and an holistic approach to streetsex work, based within a model of needs andsupport for women workers, some initiativesthat were widely supported in this researchrequire further exploration. In particular, theissue of managed areas or designated safetyspaces has given rise to considerable debate,yet the arguments on both sides of the debateappear to be based largely on anecdote ratherthan grounded in research evidence. It is thussuggested that further research and evaluationneeds to take place into responses such asspatial management strategies, in order tomeasure the effectiveness of differentinterventions over time.