Personal Safety and Sex Work Laws & Rights

Laws & Rights

Sex Work is not illegal in the England and Wales but many 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.

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

One of our top concern is your safety. Please follow the below to make sure that you stay as safe as possible when working:
  • Always agree business and take money first
  • Have a plan ready in case something goes wrong
  • Be as familiar with the area as possible
  • Always carry a personal safety alarm (you can get a safety alarm for free from Basis)
  • If possible work with a friend using a buddy system. If you can, also let someone know when you are working 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
  • 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
  • Think about what you wear when working – Make sure that you tie long hair up, wear clothing that is easy to remove and makes you clearly visible at night, wear shoes that you can take off or run in and avoid wearing sharp jewellery (could get trapped in condoms)
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 you safety alarm
  • If someone attempts to attack you, make a lot of noise by screaming and shouting. If you have to fight back to escape, attack soft areas such as the throat, Adam’s apple, eyes and testicles. If they have their hands around your throat, smack both ears with the flat of both hands
  • If you need to shout for help, shout “fire” or “police”. If you are in a car, hit the horn or flash the lights to attract attention
  • Walk away from danger, defend yourself only if necessary
  • If there are people around, address the person directly e.g. “you in the red coat”

Reporting 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 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 her include stalking, harassment, unwanted communications, threats to out sex workers, domestic abuse, physical assaults, sexual offences, robbery, frauds and theft.

Basis Support: 

We also have a specialist Sex Work ISVA who can help to talk you through the criminal justice process and support you throughout. We can also help you with safety alarms

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.

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.