If you miss the radio broadcast, I’ll be posting audio in a few days.
Archive for January, 2010
What’s normal in New York yet controversial in Nevada?
George Flint, a lobbyist for Nevada’s licensed brothel owners, has been vocal about one madam’s decision to hire male sex workers. While I don’t agree with his tactics or his arguments, I sympathize with his intent – which is to keep legal brothels legal.
I have eventually got around to responding to this comment by Finn MacKay in regard to abuse of sex workers and allies at a reclaim the night march in 2009.
I think her comments, her behaviour and the behaviour of other so called feminists on the reclaim the night march tell us so much about those who have appropriated the title of feminists or rather radical feminists.
“Calling someone a ‘whore’ is completely unacceptable. Which is why it is such a shame that IUSW insist on carrying placards that refer to women in prostitution as ‘whores’ as if that insult can be reclaimed, see for example the article by the pimp Douglas Fox on ‘Feminism and whores’ currently on the IUSW website. The IUSW are concerned with protecting pimps and punters rather than women, I can’t understand why anyone would want to march with them.”
The above is a statement from Finn MacKay referencing the abuse given to women sex workers and allies who dared to walk in what is claimed to be a woman only and woman friendly environment called reclaim the night. Sex workers being abused by would be rescuers is something we have come to expect. If we do not submit to the victim status the “good” women who claim to care often feel obliged to dismiss us with at the very least verbal abuse. I am a male whore and I am proud to be called a whore and if I am to be abused by being called a pimp that also is fine. Name calling is a sign of weakness; it is a sign of the school yard bully.
Finn MacKay like many of her colleagues is a bully not only by her adoption of name calling to silence and dismiss her opponents but through the ideology that she promulgates that deliberately abuses the negative experiences of some with in the sex industry to justify calls for dangerous legislation. Claiming to care for the victims of trafficking is easy politicking but using their suffering to justify calls for legislation that will endanger innocent women and men through the criminalisation of their labour is callous and manipulative. Is she any different from the traffickers who abuse the vulnerable for profit when she abuses the vulnerable for political and ideological ambition?
Finn MacKay heads the London feminist coalition and along with others who share her ideology has appropriated feminism. The heritage that the feminist movement once shared with others who struggled for human rights is being corrupted. The battle against the stifling injustices of patriarchy was once a shared experience among men and women, straight and gay, prostitute and housewife. We are all now betrayal. Finn MacKay and those others who campaign so relentlessly against sex workers and against women and men who makes choices they disapprove of are restructuring the patriarchal autocracy in their own image and are betraying us all. It is no surprise that so many young women shun the term feminist when Finn MacKay and Julie Bindel and others have turned that once proud idealism into a negative expression of judicial and social oppression.
Anyone who has read the works of the feminist writer Angela Carter will remember her wonderful, dark exploration of female sexuality. Women were depicted as sexual manipulative predators, as whores, and also as compassionate and sensual human beings. Her work caught a moment in time when women were exploring new freedoms that allowed them to be sexually complex. It was a time of experimentation certainly but also a time when women were after centuries of denial at last proud to be sexual creatures with all the multilayered complexity that comes with being human. She wrote for a generation that remembered that the last cliterodectomies was performed on women in the fifties who were thought to be promiscuous or perhaps too sexually responsive. The Magdalene homes were still in existence where girls and women were incarcerated often for life for being bad girls, for showing signs of sexual interest or independence. Other women were incarcerated in asylums for being sexual in a society that dismissed any idea of a women being other than sexually passive. Now the same ideas that allowed this abuse toward women is re appearing in the context of a new ideology that confuses women who use sex for financial reward as victims or as collaborators to male exploitation. Once more the sexual woman is to be controlled as dangerous to the safe controlled model of femininity remodelled for a radical feminist agenda.
Radicalism as expressed by its exponents such as Finn MacKay has corrupted the idealism and hopes expressed in feminism into a simplistic and absolutist dogma to provide easy digestible answers to complex moral and social issues. Idealism has been murdered by ambition and what is left is being corrupted by power. An emerging rescue industry to deal with a very real issue of trafficking in human beings for exploitation has been infiltrated. Radical feminists have high jacked and corrupted this very real issue of abuse by confusing sex work with objectification, and misogyny. It is part of our job as sex worker activists to reclaim feminism and to reunite with the struggle for sexual liberation not only in the bedroom and the board room but of the mind.
And so Finn MacKay calling me a pimp and failing to understand the reason why I and other sex workers are proud to be called whores reflects so much about your confusion. Whore is a word with a rich heritage. Ishtar the great mother was the whore and the compassionate Goddess and she was also the great destroyer. If whore was a title good enough for the great mother then it is good enough for me.
(X-posted at A Femanist View)
We need to focus on education, education, education and decriminalisation, when it comes to sex work.
This is the conclusion I draw from the report published yesterday by Eaves called Men Who Buy Sex” (link is .pdf of report).
It isn’t the conclusion presented in the report, or by Julie Bindel when she writes about it in the Guardian. Although Bindel is blowing her own trumpet, since she’s on the credits for the report itself. Let’s look at those credits a bit closer, shall we?
Melissa Farley, Julie Bindel and Jacqueline M. Golding
Eaves contributed funding, resources and staff time, and PRE contributed funding and staff time.
Eaves is a feminist organisation committed to working to curb demand for commercial sex acts, which increase sex trafficking and organised crime in general.
Prostitution Research & Education (PRE) is a US non-governmental non-profit organisation which has since 1995 researched and documented the harms resulting from prostitution and trafficking and explored alternatives to prostitution.
Eaves is a feminist organisation committed to working to curb demand for commercial sex acts, which increase sex trafficking and organised crime in general.
Melissa Farley of PRE and Julie Bindel of Eaves together initiated this research study. The authors acknowledge the interviewers for their valuable and extremely generous contribution of time. The 103 men were interviewed by Lynn Anderson, Helen Atkins, Julie Bindel, Daniel Briggs, Frances Brodrick, Melissa Farley, Wendy Freed, Roger Matthews and Pinaki Roy.
Catharine A. MacKinnon, who has provided wise and incisive consultation, critical feedback and generous writing assistance to Melissa Farley and Prostitution Research & Education over the years, contributed significantly to developing the questionnaires and shaping the analysis in this study, for which the authors are grateful.
I’m going to stick my neck out and say these are not unbiased researchers. Checking the list of interviewers again, Bindel and Farley themselves are among them. A quick trip through Google reveals that all the people on the list are people who have strong anti-prostitution opinions already. I’m further going to say that this may be reflected in the conclusions they draw!
before I get to the conclusions, however, I want to say a few words about the methodology and findings as reported.
The report published today was the London segment of an international project. It was based on the responses of 103 men living in London who answered newspaper adverts and were willing to talk about having paid for and received physical-contact services from a sex worker (in the report’s terms, “bought sex from women in prostitution”). The report reveals that, “the advertisements listed a phone number, guaranteed anonymity, and stated that payment of £20 would be offered to cover the cost of transportation and as a token of appreciation for their time.”
The report explains that questionnaires were used, which included “a 100-item questionnaire that asked about buyers’ attitudes toward prostitution, acceptance of rape myths (Burt, 1980), sexual behaviours and condom use, pornography use, commission of sexually coercive behaviour toward prostitute and non-prostitute partners (Koss and Oros, 1982), likelihood to rape, and demographic characteristics.” Also included was a measure of “hostile male identity based on adversarial sexual beliefs, negative masculinity and dominance as central to love relationships (Malamuth et al., 1991, Malamuth and Thornhill, 1994).”
My first concern with this research is that there is no control sample taken. No group of similar demographic to the study group, but who had NOT “bought sex from women in prostitution”, was interviewed or asked to fill out questionnaires. Therefore there is no baseline against which to compare some of the conclusions. For example, we know that across the UK, at least 30% of people believed various forms of rape myth. We don’t know what the figure is for men who live in London and match the demographic of the interviewed customers. So when Bindel, Farley et al report that “Twenty-five per cent told us that the very concept of raping a prostitute or call girl was ‘ridiculous.’” the figure means nothing about the attitudes of men who pay for sexual services. For all we know, that might be the average response for London men in general. A survey taken last year revealed that 17% of British people believed that a prostitute was totally to blame if someone raped her; a further 30% thought she was partially to blame. So Bindel’s troupe has proved nothing about sex customers being worse than the rest of society in these matters.
Secondly, there is no discussion of the selection bias in the self-selection process by which subjects were interviewed.
Thirdly, the interview process does not seem unbiased. The report talks about using “a structured interview to obtain quantitative and qualitative data”, but it seems to me that the interviewer must necessarily have an effect upon the qualitative data. Observing that six out of the nine interviewers were female, and that all nine are known to have preconceived attitudes about prostitution, it is reasonable to argue that some, if not all, the men interviewed will have picked up on cues and sought to present themselves in certain ways; it is also reasonable to assume that if faced with a female interviewer, a man might conceivably feel some socialised pressure to present a different face. The report makes no mention of whether there was or wasn’t any observable effect from this in the raw data.
All that said, there are some very disturbing results to come from the report: for instance, it appears that many men seemed to be aware that the women whose services they were buying were coerced and/or trafficked. The report says:
Despite their awareness of coercion and trafficking, only five of these 103 men reported their suspicions to the police. They feared a loss of anonymity, especially fearing their families’ discovery of their use of prostitutes. One interviewee said that he did not report his suspicions because he assumed that “the authorities are involved in it as well”
Attitudes towards sex work were also appalling, again the report says:
Twenty-seven per cent of our interviewees explained that once he pays, the customer is entitled to engage in any act he chooses with the woman he buys. Forty-seven per cent of these London men expressed the view to a greater or lesser degree that women did not always have certain rights during prostitution.
Given that we hear words like these from men who have not (or at least, have not admitted to having) bought sexual services, the point about there being no control population is very important. My feeling is that attitudes like these are widespread across the general population (although right now I don’t have any research on the matter to hand, and it’s getting late).
This above all else is why I talk about “education, education, education” in the heading! Which leads on to the final section of my piece.
Finally, as promised, I want to talk about conclusions.
Farley, Bindel and Golding present 12 points and recommendations.
Here, I shall look at them and make my own remarks and counter-recommendations.
1. Fifty-five per cent of 103 London men who bought sex believed that a majority of people in prostitution were lured, tricked or trafficked.
Information and explanation of the newly introduced legislation on demand, which makes it an offence to purchase sex from someone who has been subjected to exploitation (Policing and Crime Act, 2009), should be part of public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing or eliminating men’s demand for prostitution. The law and the potential consequences of paying for sex need to be explained to current and potential buyers. In addition, general public awareness of men’s knowledge about trafficking and coercion in the sex industry is important.
As far as it goes, this is good.
But what bothers me is that these men are aware of sex trafficking, in some cases believed they had encountered it, and yet they aren’t giving information about it to the police. Shouldn’t we look for ways to close down the illegal traffickers directly? Shouldn’t we look for ways to make it easier for men to offer information without fear of a) public shaming and b) prosecution themselves? (After all, if it’s suspected a guy’s going to go to the police, for instance because he leaves without doing the deed, that will surely mean trouble for him and for the woman whose services he paid for, and will likely mean that by the time the cops arrive everything looks hunky-dory).
With decriminalisation, this can happen easily. With better education about the rights of women and about the social responsibility to report such crimes, then the willingness to engage in paid-for rape should decrease and the tendency to report situations where one believes it’s going on should increase.
The ideal situation is to get to a society where buying services from a sex worker is completely acceptable, but paying to rape a trafficked sex slave is completely despised.
2. Today, prostitution has moved indoors; 96% of these men used women in indoor prostitution (brothels, flats, saunas, massage parlours).
Based on these 103 London men’s reports of coercive control, pimping and trafficking, it can no longer be assumed that indoor prostitution is safer than street prostitution. On the contrary, it appears that many of the most vulnerable women are kept under control indoors, not in the street where they would be seen by the public or by police.
Local and national newspapers cannot justify selling advertising space to brothel owners and organisers of indoor prostitution. A blanket ban on advertising of this nature should be introduced.
Because, of course, women who set up a brothel together for mutual protection also need to have their advertising avenues cut off as well.
They also have a curious definition of “safer” here. To me, safer means “less likely to be assaulted”. To Farley, Bindel and Golding it appears it refers to “safe to assume she’s doing it voluntarily”. Put it this way – a trafficked or pimped woman gets no choice about the violence that comes from being treated as a possession of the business owner; but if she’s out on the street, she’s also at risk from random muggers, rapists and serial killers – which isn’t the case if she’s indoors.
Now, I still want the traffickers and pimps shut down, but again, here there is no indication of how they expect to do that except by hurting everyone.
A better recommendation would be decriminalisation of sex work, recruit the customers as informants on suspected traffickers and pimps, and provide amnesty and right to remain for any woman found to be trafficked. That way if she does escape, she can report the traffickers without fear of a) arrest or b) deportation.
Allowing sex workers to own their own brothel businesses collectively would also mean that safe indoor environments for those who choose the work can be provided.
3. More than one-half of the interviewees confirmed they were in a relationship at the time they used women in prostitution. This contradicts the common misperception that men buy sex because they are lonely or have no partners.
The disappointment expressed by men seeking the ‘girlfriend experience’ in prostitution should be highlighted in any awareness campaign. There are men who are sold the idea that ‘buying’ a partner is possible and that prostituted women can fulfil that role.
And of course, the anti-sex work support for the Government decision to close down access to websites offering customer reviews of sex workers’ services helps this how?
Not to mention, “education, education, education”. If customers know what they can and can’t expect from a service, they are less likely to be dissatisfied with it!
4. Many of the men felt that at various times during prostitution, women had no rights at all. Attitudes normalising rape were common among this group of men who buy sex in London. Over half of the interviewees believed that men would ‘need’ to rape if they did not have access to prostituted women.
There is no evidence supporting the theory that prostitution prevents rape. Experts in rape and other forms of sexual violence must ensure that myths that prostitution prevents rape are debunked.
As mentioned already, I believe that education and decriminalisation are the keys to tackling the attitude that “at various times during prostitution, women had no rights at all.” Because if a sex worker can go to the police; if she (or he) can negotiate clearly boundaries of consent, and expect legal support if those boundaries are broken; if she is a legitimate businesswoman conducting a legal transaction, instead of someone providing a criminalised service (regardless of whether it’s the buyer or seller who’s criminalised); if she is in a position where she can choose her clients – then she can stand up for her rights. Or, if she can’t, then someone else can. Especially if she is able to work indoors, with fellow sex workers to have her back if needs be!
And if we talk openly about sex work, educate men from teenager-hood (as suggested in the next point), and talk about them as people with the same rights as everyone else, then I think we can overcome these attitudes.
We can’t overcome them by criminalising buying sex: the attitudes will still exist.
One final thing to mention about this issue: Bindel, in her Guardian piece about the research, made the following statement:
One of the most interesting findings was that many believed men would “need” to rape if they could not pay for sex on demand. One told me, “Sometimes you might rape someone: you can go to a prostitute instead.” Another put it like this: “A desperate man who wants sex so bad, he needs sex to be relieved. He might rape.” I concluded from this that it’s not feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and myself who are responsible for the idea that all men are potential rapists – it’s sometimes men themselves.
She’s not wrong. Sex-positive feminists and pro-sex-worker feminists have been saying that for ages. It’s the anti-feminist Patriarchy that creates this perception of men as barely-controlled beasts!
5. For 29% of the men, prostitution was their first sexual experience
The youngest interviewee was 18 years of age, confirming the need for public education programmes aimed at boys. Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) sessions should contain content to deter young men from becoming buyers.
More than 40% of the men interviewed in this study were accompanied by friends or family the first time they bought sex. Peer pressure was a significant ‘pull factor’ for many of the men interviewed for this study. Public awareness campaigns could play an important role in primary prevention of prostitution. The ambivalence about buying sex expressed by many interviewees could be highlighted in such a campaign.
This is the first direct mention of deterring men from buying sex workers’ services (in point 1 the mention was “reducing or eliminating men’s demand”). It is taken as read by Farley, Bindel & Golding that it is a good thing to deter men from seeking sex workers’ services, and to reduce or eliminate demand. This is not justified elsewhere in the piece, but it seems to be assumed that because men (who buy sex services) are pigs, we should get rid of sex work.
I agree that PSHE lessons should deal with sex work, but the objective should be to teach about what it is and what it is not. It should aim to tackle rape myths, and myths about sex and sex work.
6. Legalisation and prostitution tolerance zones encouraged men to buy sex. Several men explained that once having visited areas where prostitution is legal or promoted, they returned to UK with a renewed dedication to buying sex even if that practice is illegal.
The new UK legislation needs to be enforced extra-territorially. Almost half of the men had paid for sex in other countries, mostly in legalised regimes such as the Netherlands.
This is a bizarre recommendation to follow from the summary point! How, exactly, is a UK court to establish whether a woman working in Holland, Thailand, India, Germany or the USA (the top 5 destinations according to the report, for sex tourism) is or is not trafficked or coerced? It’s impossible to apply the law extra-territorially. What’s more, it’s ludicrous to do so. If the objective is to protect the rights of women, then it is for the laws in those countries to determine how best they will do so. If British men are tried under British law for these actions, it does nothing to protect the women either here or overseas.
A wiser recommendation would be to seek to create an environment in this country where trafficking and coerced prostitution are easier to detect and to prevent; as discussed already, to my mind this required education, education, education and decriminalisation.
7. Many men stated that pornography informed their decisions to request specific acts with women in prostitution and also with non-prostituting sex partners. Other interviewees stated that pornography use led to their paying for sex.
Further research into the connections between pornography and prostitution, particularly in relation to attitudes towards women and sexual violence, needs to be conducted in the UK.
Or perhaps we might say it makes sense that a person who will pay to experience sex directly will also pay to experience it vicariously through pornography and masturbation?
8. One-fifth of the men had paid for sex while serving in the Armed Forces.
UK policy and deterrents like those adopted by the United Nations during the Balkan crisis are advisable.
I think a part of this comes down to the concept that “what happens on manoeuvres stays on manoeuvres”.
Farley’s study on Nevada prostitution was cited during the report to refute suggestions that prostitution reduces rates of rape. I might suggest that the similar saying, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” could be responsible for the higher rates in that state than elsewhere in the USA.
The basis of “what happens in x stays in x” is that there are places or circumstances or activities where the normal social boundaries or rules do not apply. These cultural “free-for-all” zones are very hard to counter, but they do need to be countered.
However, in this particular instance (buying sex services while in the armed forces) the key factor to note is that it happens because elsewhere in society there is a stigma against it, but certain circumstances (and peer pressure) in the armed forces make it seem okay.
9. In England, Scotland and the U.S., men agreed that being placed on a sex offender register would most effectively deter them from buying sex. They also agreed that other deterrents such as prison time or public exposure would be effective.
The least effective deterrent, according to interviewees in Scotland, the U.S. and London would be an educational programme without the threat of prison. An educational programme for sex buyers would be well advised to operate in conjunction with the Criminal Justice System and never as a substitute for criminal sanctions.
More than three-quarters of interviewees acknowledged that greater criminal penalties would deter them from paying for sex, and yet only 6% had ever been arrested for soliciting prostitution. New and existing legislation needs to be vigorously implemented. A public awareness campaign to accompany enforcement of laws against buying sex might be modelled on the 2006 anti-smoking campaign.
Again the assumption that deterring men from buying the services of sex workers is a worthwhile goal in and of itself.
It is worth noting that up to 15% of those interviewed were undeterred by the thought of these things. It is also worth noting that, because of the self-selecting nature of the interviews, those most likely to be undeterred may not have been present. The experience of sex workers in Sweden where the deterrence policy is in place already has been that the men who are undeterred are the most violent, most dangerous men. It puts sex workers at greater risk.
10. Of 103 London men who had bought sex, two-thirds said that being issued an ASBO would be a deterrent.
Currently in London, ASBOs are routinely issued to women in street prostitution but rarely to men apprehended as kerb crawlers. Such measures need to be used against buyers.
See above, re: decriminalisation and also see my response to point 9.
11. Sixty-five per cent of interviewees believed that ‘most men pay for sex.’
General public education and awareness campaigns are essential in challenging men’s demand for prostitution. An approach to public education about prostitution would be to emphasise the marginalised status of men who buy sex rather than viewing their activity as part of the mainstream.
Because, of course, the stigma is working so great to protect women right now, isn’t it? In fact, the stigma was the biggest reason why men didn’t alert the police when they were aware of trafficked women forced into sex:
Despite their awareness of coercion and trafficking, only five of these 103 men reported their suspicions to the police. They feared a loss of anonymity, especially fearing their families’ discovery of their use of prostitutes.
Again, deterrence is seen as the worthy aim, and is actually placed above determining what might help the women currently involved in sex work (whether voluntarily or by coercion/trafficking).
Final point: with the current Patriarchal perceptions of dating and marriage, it is arguable that most men do indeed pay for sex, just not by going to a sex worker.
12. Most men (71%) said they felt ambivalence about paying for sex. They often felt guilt or shame about buying sex while at the same time continuing to use prostituted women, hiding those behaviours.
The men avoided emotional involvement with women in prostitution while at the same time seeking the appearance of a relationship. Lacking accurate empathy with the objects of their sexual purchase, the men were usually unable to determine what the women actually thought or felt, including the women’s lack of genuine sexual interest. Men’s ambivalence about prostitution might serve as a point of entry to educational programmes that promote sustained deterrence from buying sex.
Ending stigma could do a lot to solve the issues mentioned here; that comes down to education again. End the guilt, and quite likely you also end some of the violent relationships that the main report highlighted.
The evidence for “lack of empathy” is rather misleading. Here’s what the report actually showed:
Taking a report of descriptions given by escort agency and street sex workers in Arizona of how they actually feel while with a client, they compared that with how the London customers described their service providers’ feelings. Not surprisingly, street sex workers in Arizona were generally not happy while performing services for clients. But I would bet that those Arizona sex workers were busy trying to convince their clients that they were happy, because that’s good saleswomanship. If sex work is how you pay for your meals and roof over your head, you want to be sure the guy comes back for more!
Richard Feynman in “Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman” describes being commissioned to draw a picture for display in a massage parlour. He drew a picture that showed the massage girl’s face with an expression of resignation on her face. Guess what? The massage parlour girls told him that, although they felt like the drawing looked, it wasn’t good business to show it in the drawing!
So, the men don’t “lack empathy” with the women. They are being sold a product, and part of that product is an image of a happy partner. It is not surprising that this is what they take away.
Finally, on “avoided emotional involvement”, my point is this: do you seek emotional involvement with your plumber, or with the waiting staff at a restaurant? A sex worker is a service provider, and while some may offer an illusion of emotional involvement (i.e. the “girlfriend experience”) for most customers and most providers, it’s not a part of the deal and isn’t supposed to be. in fact, one or two sex worker blogs I’ve read have described that it is creepy and even stalker-like if a client starts to develop emotional attachment.
My conclusion is that Farley, Bindel and Golding are invested in Patriachal norms and with their recommendations seek to cement in place certain Patriarchal notions about women and sexuality, although they claim the opposite. Instead of engaging with the real issues, their recommendations would keep prostitution as a marginalised, dangerous occupation where the workers have no legal protections (because if they seek it, they cannot do business).
My recommendations of education, education, education and decriminalisation would seek to destroy the stigmas that surround sex work and provide full legal protection in a preventative as well as reactive capacity so that sex workers can enjoy the same protections as every other woman.
The exercise of human rights should not be contingent on whether or not you think a person’s choices or circumstances are a good way to live or be.
Audacia Ray wrote these words after spending time in Sangli, in India, with the International Women’s Health Coalition. While there, she made this short documentary about the sex workers in Sangli and their fight to organize for their own human rights. We ran it on GRITtv, but her whole commentary at RH Reality Check is worth reading as well.
There is something especially disturbing when a government creates legislation that legitimises corruption at the expense of justice. When a law deliberately alienates sectors of the community it should serve and encourages the police to persecute that sector for financial gain then something is deeply flawed with not only that government but with the society that allows that government to remain in office.
Since 2002 the act allowing for the seizure of assets of criminals has been in force. Ostensibly it was created to specifically deal with major criminal’s gangs and in particular those dealing in drugs. The objective was to send a message loud and clear that crime does not pay. It is however a piece of legislation that has also become the primary offence used to target sex workers.
This article in the independent illustrates the concerns raised by sex workers and those groups who had the well fare of sex workers at heart when they warned the government what would happen if the proposals in the 2009 policing and crime bill became law which it did on the 12th of October 2009.
Before the 2009 policing and crime bill became law there had already been a dramatic increase over the last few years in prosecutions against sex workers working together from a variety of premises for safety. Worryingly if has often been brothels or agencies who having legitimately called upon the police either to report crimes or to ask for protection from crimes being committed against them that have instead found them selves arrested and prosecuted. The case against Diana Jones in Cardiff in 2008 is an example. http://tinyurl.com/yknrax9 Diana Jones a parlour owner called the police to report a suspected victim of trafficking and was then asked by the police to give the victim shelter and accommodation which she did. Having done as she was asked by the police she was later prosecuted for brothel keeping. She avoided a prison sentence but her home and assets were seized under the 2002 proceeds of crime act. The 2002 proceeds of crime act allowed the police to keep twenty five percent of assets seized. This act was altered in the recent 2009 crime and policing bill to allow the police to seize and keep fifty percent of the cash assets seized in raids on sex workers premises as well as twenty five percent of all seized assets allowed in the original act. The remaining assets are shared between other government agencies.
Both the IUSW and the ECP have drawn attention to the inherent injustice of such raids in the past and pointed out that the legislation gives an incentive for the police to target sex workers as easy targets and self financing prosecutions. Despite concerns raised the government proceeded to introduce a number of new laws in the 2009 policing and crime bill that alienated sex workers. The new bill not only altered the proceeds of crime act in favour of the police but also introduced new specific laws aimed at street workers including powers of detention for failure of street sex workers to attend rehabilitation courses. There was also granted more powers for the police to arrest and convict kerb crawlers caught on a first offence. The legislation also introduced for the first time the criminalisation of clients for using the services of s sex workers forced or coerced either in this country or overseas on a strict liability offence regardless of the client knowing that the sex worker was working unwillingly or not. This change in the law was made despite grave concerns expressed by the legal profession at the potential erosion of fundamental rights enshrined for centuries in British law. The police were also given powers to close premises suspected of being used as a brothel with out the customary proof being gained. This particular authority to target brothels together with the financial incentives in the proceeds of crime act is especially disturbing for sex workers. Various groups warned that the 2009 policing and crime bill would leave sex workers more vulnerable. Fear of prosecution by the police would dissuade sex workers from reporting crimes that they were aware of or that were being committed against them,
The claim made by the government that they wanted to protect sex workers or as Allan Campbell claimed of the legislation “That it was not intended to be an attack on the sex industry” has as so many warned been proved a total sham. Time will tell how the legislation will be used in the various regions of the UK but as the Independent article illustrates it is obvious now that the government once again has betrayed sex workers and left us at the mercy of criminals and of the police who should be there to protect every citizen regardless of their choices. I wonder how women ministers such as Harriet Harman and Fiona MacTaggart who were especially vocal in their support of the changes introduced in the policing and crime bill can sleep at night knowing the danger they have placed other women and men in simply for having made decisions about their labour that obviously makes prudish and elitist Labour MPs feel a little queasy.
I suspect that they sleep just fine.