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March 08, 2000 06:34pm
Prostitutes Stage Women's Day Strike
Source: Reuters

(LONDON) -- Prostitutes in London's Soho red light district went on strike Wednesday to mark international women's day and fight attempts to evict them from the area, a prostitutes collective said.

The English Collective of Prostitutes said the local council was threatening their landlords with compulsory purchase of properties and police were intimidating them and entering their homes without legal consent.

``We refuse to be divided into ``good'' and ``bad'' girls,'' the group said in a statement.

``We are all the same women, integral to our communities as mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, partners, neighbors, friends -- caring and providing for our families.''

Westminster council declined immediate comment.

The prostitutes say they are vital to the economy of Soho -- a maze of narrow streets packed with bars and restaurants in London's West End -- and have every right to stay.

They also say that if the council succeeds in evicting them, more than 100 women would be made homeless and forced to work on the streets -- a lifestyle they say is 10 times more dangerous than working in their apartments and homes.

``While women in flats face eviction, women on the streets face violence and discrimination,'' Niki Adams, a spokeswoman for the Collective, told Reuters.

``This is a blatant attempt to control the kind of people who live in Soho, but working women are real people too.''

Being a prostitute is not illegal in Britain, although soliciting on the street is.

London police said last month that women from the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe are being smuggled into Britain to work as prostitutes and policing the sex industry is a priority.

Joan Martyr, a member of the Soho Society which supports those who work in the area, said Soho would be changed beyond recognition if the sex workers were forced out.

``Without them the area would be all office blocks and non-stop clubs -- we have already lost a baker and a butcher,'' she said. ``These and other residents contribute to the social and economic life of Soho.''

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