13th April, 2018
To the Women’s Equality Party,
This is an official complaint from the Sex Work Research Hub to the Women’s Equality Party, regarding the recent conduct of the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker.
The Sex Work Research Hub connects researchers and academics across a range of Universities and disciplines, working on sex work, sex working and sexual exploitation, around the world. We also connect with sex workers, sex work support projects and other stakeholders, such as healthcare providers, lawyers, police, policy makers, educationalists, youth and community workers, to support and develop research that produces new knowledge, critiques dominant discourses on sex work, as well as delivering tangible public benefit and impact.
We are deeply concerned with the recent online comments made by Sophie Walker around the issue of sex work, and how she has been engaging with sex workers on her personal Twitter account. As the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Walker not only holds a position of significant power, but she acts as a mouthpiece for feminism today. Walker’s recent comments and articles have shown that she is very poorly informed about modern sex work and that her agenda is ideologically driven, rather than being informed by the sex worker voice or peer reviewed data.
The language that Walker uses ignores the preferred terminology of those in the sex industry, and shows that she has little respect for the autonomy and wishes of the sex work community. Using terms such as 'prostituted woman', conflating sex work with sex trafficking, and repeatedly referring to sex work as 'rape', reinforces the shame and stigma around sex work that sex worker rights groups work hard to challenge.