Researchers condemn British report on prostitution

by on October 6, 2008  •  In Criminal law, Sex work

Top academics involved in sex research …claim that research into prostitution in the UK published last month by the Poppy Project, which is partly funded by the Ministry of Justice, is inaccurate and unethical. The research in the Big Brothel report "exhibits serious flaws in its mode of data collection and analysis," they warn.

The group of 27 key figures in sex work research from prestigious universities across the UK and overseas claim the report was conducted with neither ethical approval nor acknowledgment of evidence and co-authored by a journalist known for producing anti-prostitution findings…. The report's findings lend weight to Home Office moves to make it against the law to pay for sex.

The row comes just days before the October 8 deadline of a Home Office consultation into proposals to amend existing legislation on prostitution and brothels.

The proposals, which will go before parliament in December, would create a new criminal offence of paying for sex with a person "controlled for gain", and enable police to close brothels and change the definition of kerb-crawling.

The academics, led by Dr Teela Sanders at Leeds University and Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon at Birkbeck, University of London, … stated: "The report builds a damning picture of indoor sex work on the basis of data whose reliability and representativeness is extremely doubtful and a methodological approach that would be considered unethical by most professional social researchers.

"It makes claims about trafficking, exploitation and the current working conditions of women and men employed in the indoor sex industry on the basis of that data," the response says.

"These claims cannot be substantiated in terms of the methodology, the data presented or in terms of wider, ethically approved, peer reviewed academic evidence.

"In short, the report does not provide any evidence concerning the current working conditions of women and men employed in indoor sex work venues in the UK."

The Big Brothel report, co-authored by journalist and campaigner Julie Bindel and Helen Atkins, received huge media coverage last month. But critics accused it of conflating fears over trafficking with general prostitution.

Brooks-Gordon said: "You can't just churn out political propaganda and say it's research. You end up with very dangerous policy….

The report's research evidence is based on telephone calls with brothel receptionists rather visiting or speaking to sex workers themselves and is therefore unreliable, the academics warn….


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