National Ugly Mugs (NUM) is a pioneering, national organisation that provides greater access to justice and protection for sex workers. It has just released a report showing that the move to cashless payments is allowing financial institutions to ban
sex workers from being able to make a living.
This report, lead by Tess Herrmann and supported by Dr. Scarlett Redman, explores the experiences of sex workers accessing financial services.
stigma of sex work has a significant impact on the ability of sex workers to access basic financial services, which in turn impacts their ability to fully participate in society. It is vital that financial institutions end their practices of
discriminating against sex workers for the sake of safety, inclusion and support. Key findings:
- There is evidence of financial discrimination against sex workers from various UK-based banks and financial institutions. This includes
the refusal of services, such as business accounts, overdrafts and loans, and other
financial products. In some cases, even the personal bank accounts of sex workers were shut down or frozen.
- With increasing digitalisation of payment streams and the gradual move towards a cashless society, more sex
workers rely on financial products that they are unable to access due to financial discrimination. As a result, many are forced to lie to financial institutions and state authorities about their business and prevented from filing their taxes correctly
and even complying with UK regulations of the sex industry.
- Sex workers have developed different strategies to deal with financial discrimination which in most cases involve either hiding or lying about their
engagement in the sex industry or avoiding certain banks and institutions altogether, resulting in an exclusion from large parts of the financial market, including many investment products, the housing market, and retiring funds.
Experiencing financial discrimination has a significant negative impact on the mental health of sex workers with extreme anxiety, depression, and feeling excluded being reported most frequently.
The anti-sex worker bias of many financial organisations has wider implications for the working conditions of sex workers as a small number of international financial institutions hold significant power in online markets, including various platforms that
sex workers are using to distribute their content.