|Founded at||London, England|
The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) is a campaigning group which supports the decriminalisation of prostitution, sex workers' right to recognition and safety, and the provision of financial alternatives to prostitution so that no one is forced into prostitution by poverty. The group works against the social stigma that is associated with prostitution, and the poverty that is sometimes its cause. It provides information, help, and support to individual prostitute women and others who are concerned with sex workers' rights, civil, legal, and economic rights. The organisation was founded in 1975, and its first spokeswoman was Selma James.
The ECP was formed as part of the highly politicised prostitutes' rights movement that emerged in Europe in the mid-1970s. The 1975 prostitutes' strike in France and the subsequent formation of the French Prostitute Collective inspired the formation of a similar organisation in England.
The ECP and the US PROStitutes Collective (US PROS) are part of the International Prostitutes Collective, which has a network of sex workers in many countries of the world. The ECP is said to work closely with the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective who spearheaded legislation in New Zealand to decriminalise prostitution. A recent government review found that after five years, there had been no increase in the numbers of women working.
In the aftermath of the Ipswich serial murders of five young women in December 2007, the ECP initiated the Safety First Coalition to decriminalise sex work, and prioritise safety. Members include the Royal College of Nursing, the National Association of Probation Officers, bereaved families, some anti-poverty campaigners, church people, residents of red-light areas, medical and legal professionals, prison reformers, sex workers, anti-rape organisations, drug rehabilitation projects.
The English Collective of Prostitutes campaigned against the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which originally included proposals to criminalise anyone involved in the sex industry, whether or not there was force or coercion; target safer premises; seize and retain money and assets, even without a conviction; increase arrests against street workers; arrest men on "suspicion"; imprison sex workers who breach a compulsory rehabilitation order. The ECP argued that these measures would force prostitution underground, exposing sex workers to greater danger and preventing them coming forward to report violence and access health and other services.
The ECP argues that discredited academic work has falsely labelled most sex workers as victims of "trafficking". Its website provides critiques of such work.
In 2019 Laura Watson from the ECP gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee which was examining the link between sex work and poverty caused by the introduction of Universal Credit. She said that payment delays had led to "increased destitution and homelessness" and pushed some women into "survival sex".
The ECP has been involved in local campaigns aimed at making life safer for prostitutes following incidents in certain areas, for example, the Ipswich murders of 2006 in which all the victims were prostitutes. It also objects to the actions of Reading Borough Council and the Thames Valley Police, which have been targeting prostitutes working in the Oxford Road area of Reading, Berkshire, for several years.