Personal Safety and Sex Work Laws & Rights

Laws & Rights

Prostitution is not illegal in the UK but many of the activities associated with it are. Below is a summary of the current legal position in England and Wales

  • A prostitute is defined by law as someone who has offered or provided sexual services to another person in return for any financial arrangement on at least one occasion.
  • Working as a prostitute in private is legal.
  • Working as an escort is legal as long as escort agencies are not controlling.
    It is illegal for a prostitute to solicit or loiter in a public place.
  • A prostitute can be subject to a section 17 order requiring her to engage with support services.
  • A prostitute may be subject to anti-social behaviour orders which may prohibit her from entering specific areas.
  • Local authorities may also use their powers to issue civil injunctions against prostitutes to exclude them from specific areas. A brothel is defined as premises where two or more prostitutes or escorts work.
  • It is an offence for a person to keep, or to manage, or act or assist in the management of, a brothel, which includes living/working in the same premises as another sex worker.

Basis Sex Work Project can provide you with safety, information and support surrounding your rights and welfare. We can also provide information on sex work, the law and sex worker rights, and support around family issues and sex workers rights.

Safety Information and Advice for Indoor Workers

Please find below guidance to make sure that you stay as safe as possible when working:
  • Be clear about the services that you are willing to provide and the cost from the beginning by speaking to the client yourself. Always agree business and take money first
  • Have a plan ready in case something goes wrong
  • Know the escape routes to a safe place within the building. Think about the shoes you are wearing and whether they will allow you to escape an attack quickly
  • Always carry a personal safety alarm (can get for free from Basis)
  • Consider asking the establishment to fit an alarm in the room and never leave a key in the lock as you could be locked in
  • If you can, let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back
  • Try to avoid using drugs or alcohol when working, if you do then try to use an amount that keeps you aware and stable
  • Only accept unopened drinks if you are offered refreshments by a client
  • Carry a fully charged phone with emergency numbers on speed dial
  • Always trust your instincts and be willing to say no
  • Always try to take in as much information about a client as possible
  • Do not carry a weapon as this can be used against you

If you are attacked, there are a number of steps that you can take to help and protect yourself.

  • Use your mobile to call for help or use your safety alarm, use it as a distraction to give you time to escape
  • If someone attempts to attack you, make a lot of noise by screaming and shouting
  • If you need to shout for help, shout “fire” or “police”

ISVA Plus support

We also have a independent sexual violence adviser (ISVA) who can offer specialist non-judgmental advice, whether you’d like to report to the police or not.

You can email our independent sexual violence advisor Megan here:

Reporting an attack to the police

If you are considering reporting an attack to the police, there are things you can do to help preserve the evidence. Try not to bathe, shower, brush your teeth or change your clothes. If you do want to change your clothes, do not wash the ones that you were wearing at the time of the attack. If the attack happened in your home, try not to move or change anything, as there might be vital evidence there. We can liaise with the police on your behalf if you wish us to help you with your report and we also provide lots of emotional support to help you through it.

We can support you through any crimes that are committed against you including support with reporting to the police or support through the court process. We can liaise with the police on your behalf if you wish us to help you report to the police and we also provide lots of emotional support to help you through it.

Basis work closely with Hannah Bodsworth the Specialist Police Sex Work Liaison Officer for Leeds. She is there purely for your welfare and so you can confidentially discuss any problems that you might have. She can deal with any reports of crime or harassment that you have experienced. Some issues you may want to discuss with Jo include stalking, harassment, unwanted communications, threats to out sex workers, domestic abuse, physical assaults, sexual offences, robbery, frauds and theft.

Ugly Mugs

Basis Sex Work Project supports women in reporting violence, attacks, and incidents through our local Ugly Mugs scheme which is part of the national Ugly Mugs scheme. This scheme allows women to report anonymously if preferred. An ‘ugly mug’ is anyone whose behaviour you feel is unacceptable. It may be a client, a member of the public or another sex worker. You should report anything that causes you concern, for example violence, threatening behaviour, abuse, disclosure of other incidents or intentions. We can help you with reporting to Ugly Mugs if you’d like us to.

You can sign up to Ugly mugs online and we publish them monthly in our newsletter which we can give to you during drop-in, outreach or at home visits.


Safety Information and Advice for Online Workers

We have made a downloadable/ printable leaflet on key safety tips for online workers which can be viewed in this guide: Online Sex Work Safety. 

For more information/advice you can:

  • Call or email the office (10am-5pm Monday to Friday):
  • Contact us through our Facebook page or DM us on Twitter
  • You can leave us a message on our chat feature on this website. Just click on the ‘chat with us‘ icon on the bottom right hand corner of the webpage and will we get back you as soon as we can (we are live online from Mon – Fri 1-4)
  • Or come to our drop in, open to all current or former sex workers. Our drop-in runs on Mon – Wed 1-4 at our offices. A map of which can be found here.