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Date for your diary – Locating sex work: red light districts, hot zones and safe places for women 18 January 2009

January 13th, 2009

Dr Petra

Locating sex work: red light districts, hot zones and safe places for women
London Women and Planning Forum Seminar
1:30-5:30pm, Wednesday 18th February 2009
Registration Room 126, Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, E1 4NS

Event Background
Sex work is both highly visible and yet hard to locate in the city. Where sex work takes place is also central to debates about the safety of sex workers and the legalisation of prostitution. Following research and recent events that demonstrate the continued risks associated with prostitution and other sex work, this seminar focuses on the role of the built environment in the lives of sex workers and debates about the legalisation of prostitution.

Places for sex work do not feature in plans for business improvement districts, yet lap dancing clubs and brothels are now routinely found in business areas. The growth of lap dancing and other clubs on main roads and close to business premises makes the commodification of women’s bodies an everyday and highly visible part of urban life. Zoning is an urban design tool used in planning business, leisure and residential districts, but economic imperatives associated with zoning may have unforeseen consequences, such as massage parlours regulated as businesses, not as brothels.

At the same time, less visible sex work proliferates in residential locations, both in the inner city and the outer suburbs. If working the street feels safer than a residence with only one entrance and exit, we need to find safer places for sex work. Health and safety for sex workers is vital but debates continue between academics, journalists, non-governmental organisations and sex workers themselves on what measures and policies can make sex work safer for women. Sex work in London is both urban and suburban, highly visible and yet hidden behind closed doors. This seminar asks:
• Do the places for sex in the city make a difference for sex workers?
• Can we prevent violent crime towards women by providing safe places for sex work?
• Would legislation of prostitution protect sex workers or further normalise the trade in women’s bodies?
• What do sex workers themselves think and where is their voice on issues surrounding their safety and well-being?


1:30 Registration – Tea/coffee

1:45 Welcome – Amanda Claremont – LWPF Steering Group

2:00 Catherine Stevens International Union of Sex Workers

2:30 Denise Marshall Chief Executive of the Poppy Project

3:00 Break

3:15 Sandrine Levêque Object

3:45 Dr Teela Sanders School of Sociology & Social Policy, University of Leeds and Professor Phil Hubbard Department of Geography, Loughborough University.

4:15 Discussant: Kate Hardy Department of Geography, QMUL

4:30 Discussion

5:30 Drinks reception

How to book

The seminar is £25 and £10 for concessions. To reserve a place please contact the London Women and Planning Forum administrator, Felicity Paynter at or Department of Geography, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS. See for more information about LWPF and this seminar.

I’d strongly recommend attending this event, in particular to hear Teela speak as her work in this area is truly excellent. It may also be a further opportunity to discuss not only issues of sex work, but also the problem of poor research in this area – which has recently been highlighted by the poor research practice of the Poppy Project (who are also represented at this event). You can expect some lively discussion and differing viewpoints aired. Not many places left, so please book now to avoid disappointment.

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