University investigating sex worker support stand at freshers’ fair

University of Brighton Checkland Building, Falmer Campus (Photograph: Editor5807/Wikicommons)
University of Brighton Checkland Building, Falmer Campus (Photograph: Editor5807/Wikicommons)

Two universities have come in for criticism after an organisation supporting sex workers had a stand at freshers’ fairs last week.

The Sex Workers’ Outreach Project (SWOP) had stands at both the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex welcome fairs for new students.

But SWOP said on Twitter: “SWOP have never idealised sex work. However, we understand why students may turn to sex work, and navigating the legal precariousness as well as potential danger mean that students are extra vulnerable and we will help.”

In another tweet it said: “1 in 6 students does sex work or thinks about turning to sex work. We can help. #sexwork #brightonfreshersfair #BSUFreshers #sexualhealth.”

A spokesperson for the University of Brighton said: “The Freshers’ Fair is an event organised by students for students and as such is managed by the Students’ Union. The university is nevertheless exploring this matter further with the Students’ Union to allow us to gain a full understanding of the aims in inviting SWOP to the event and to ensure due care is taken when presenting students with third-party information on highly sensitive and emotive issues.

“We would like to make it clear that the university does not promote sex work as an option to students. We provide a wide range of welfare support as well as financial assistance to any students who suffer hardship. This is offered on a confidential and non-judgemental basis, balancing respect for our students’ right to make their own decisions and our wider duty of care.”

SWOP is part of charity the Brighton Oasis Project, and is a service which aims to ‘promote and improve the health, safety and wellbeing of sex workers in Sussex’.

The University of Sussex has also been contacted for comment.