New charity for prostitutes in Glasgow

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Umbrella Lane has opened in direct response to statutory services that it believes increase the health and safety risks of prostitution

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17th November 2015 by Susan Smith 4 Comments

A new charity for sex workers has been set up in Glasgow in a bid to provide health advice and support to woman in the industry and to fight stigma.

Umbrella Lane was created by sex-workers earlier this year because they believe existing services in Glasgow leave prostituites at greater risk of violence and health problems such as HIV, rather than protecting them..

The woman claim Glasgow's appraoch is harsher than the harm reduction approaches of other Scottish cities, such as Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

Unlike in Edinburgh, where the charity ScotPep has been operating for over a decade, in Glasgow the main sex worker service works in partnership with the police. Many sex workers believe this is a flawed approach because criminalisation means sex workers are fearful of police attention.

I can't see how prosecuting anyone is a form of helping them - Kat, a Scottish sex worker

Kat, a sex worker, said: "Accessing the health service for female sex workers in Glasgow was horrible.

"I went once but was too scared to ever go back. A sex worker-run health and support service that is genuinely non-judgemental and safe is so much better!"

Umbrella Lane began when a group of sex workers in Glasgow came together and discussed their growing frustration with the current services on offer in the Glasgow area. The sex workers began a process of documenting their experiences of accessing services in Glasgow and reaching out to other sex workers to do the same.

They claim their experiences highlight a service based on a view that sex workers are victims and should be encouraged to leave the sex industry. The attitudes of some service providers were described by sex workers as stigmatising, judgmental and misinformed as to the realities of sex work.

Sex workers were clear that this feeling of judgement deterred them from accessing services in Glasgow if they continued to do sex work, or led them to hide their work when attending clinic services.

This is a pattern means those working in the sex industry are can be left without tailored vital safety information to protect their health and wellbeing, and contributes to the invisibilisation of sex workers in sexual health statistics, namely around HIV and other sexually transmitted infections prevalent in Scotland.

Umbrella Lane has now opened a safe space for sex workers in Glasgow’s Hidden Lane in Finnieston. It argues that service provision should not be founded upon ideology, but on rights and needs of those who need the service, as defined by them.

Anastacia Ryan, co-founder of Umbrella Lane, stated: “At Umbrella Lane, we first and foremost provide a safe space for all sex workers to use to seek advice and support. It is a conducive environment to discuss what sex workers disclose are more immediate concerns, like safety, welfare, issues around child raising and single parenthood, sexual and reproductive health and HIV, exploitation in the workplace, mental health, violence and fear of violence.

"These conversations can only take place in a space that is founded upon respect for sex workers choices, and recognition of sex workers as active agents that deserve to be treated with dignity through a rights-based approach. These are the principles we founded Umbrella Lane upon”

Umbrella Lane hopes to use international models of sex worker-led programming to develop a holistic service for sex workers in Scotland that works to improve health and wellbeing overall. The service is modelled on the recent World Health Organisation’s Sex Worker Implementation Tool that details best practice in delivering a holistic sex worker service.

As a guiding principle of the charity is to foster positive relationships amongst and with other services and allies.

Umbrella Lane's Open Day event is on Thursday,19 November

18th November 2015 by Roy Kilpatrick

This is a welcome development from the women themselves, comprehensively and sensitively reported. Thanks to TFN. The new service adds to existing provision with the benefit of its being peer led and based on internationally recognised models. It reinforces the need to work on a harm reduction basis, which was the 'Edinburgh approach' until Police Scotland pressure, retrograde in my opinion, changed direction and policy in the city last year to bring it closer to the Strathclyde approach. If I may make one small suggestion, it would be to use the term 'sex worker' rather than 'prostitute' in the headline. Thanks for covering this so well.

23rd November 2015 by Mo Smith

Could I ask if this article was written by Susan Smith or by those involved in Umbrella Lane? If it was Susan - then I think you need to check your 'facts' based on subjective statements. Did you approach other services and clinics to speak to them?

24th November 2015 by Gaye Dalton

I can understand anyone wanting more fact checking to ensure against bias...but I cannot for the life of me see why anyone would suggest checking other services and clinics rather than service users...the sex workers themselves. Surely they are the only people who are in a position to evaluate the value and relevance of a service? I am horrified that even one person (with the nous to be involved in a service start up, so hardly a timid mouse) should be too scared by a service provided from public funds to ever go back. How can that happen? Is there never an impartial, independent value for money evaluation of any of these services?

3rd May 2016 by philip carbone

This is a very good development. If there is anyway i can help i dont mind being contacted. You can also contact me for some drugs that help HIV patients in any stage. My mail address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)