A shorter version of this will be appearing in The Occupied Times.
It is common for the British to look at the American system of lobbying government and smile disdainfully. Money influencing policy is something others do, not the Mother of Parliaments. It is of course as inaccurate as believing paying MPs more will lead to better applicants for the job or that Nick Clegg really wears a onesie.
There are a number of lobbying parliamentary groups in Westminster, All party groups, made up of MPs and members of the House of Lords are found on topics as diverse as rugby league to lighting, at times it seems more like a freshers fair than a serious way for people to declare an interest in a particular issue.
I am a sex worker and a sex workers’ rights activist. So when I discovered there was an All-party group on Prostitution I was of course interested, when I read what they had to say my heart sank. This is from their about:
“The purpose of the group is to raise awareness of the impact of the sale of sexual services on those involved and todevelop proposals for government action to tackle individuals who create demand for sexual services as well as those who control prostitutes; to protect prostituted women by helping them to exit prostitution and to prevent girls from enteringprostitution.(sic)
This then is a group who rather than wishing to look at the issue of sex work want to lobby for the End Demand Model. The end demand model is sometimes called the Nordic model, to I believe suggest that if those nice liberal Nordic countries do it then it must be right. It is based on the idea sex work is morally wrong, and violence against women. (In the ED model there are no male sex workers, as you can see the APG agrees, they want to stop girls entering prostitution, boys they either don’t care about or are happy with being sex workers).
The ED model works under the strange assumption that the most vulnerable sex workers, those with substance misuse issues, street workers, the underage, who have the most dangerous clients will be protected from people whose respect for the law is often seen to be minimal. People who abuse sex workers are already breaking a whole host of laws, but apparently this new one will work, Logic does not seem to exist in ED land, and as research from Norway has shown, criminalization of clients leads to increased violence towards sex workers. Which of course everyone said before the law was passed, but dirty whores apparently are not to be listened to when it comes to their own rights.
Now, a group of MPs spouting on about an issue they know little of from a biased ill-informed position might be nothing new. You may even support ED. Many do, seeing the lives of individual sex workers as being a price worth paying. However there is another aspect to this group that deserves wider attention. All party parliamentary groups can receive funding. This group is funded by Care. Who are they you ask? Care is a right wing Christian group currently spearheading the campaign against equal marriage. They are also opposed to abortion rights, pick an issue and you will find them firmly on the side of bigotry and oppression.
Here for example is what they have to say on same sex parenting:
“one study found that many children living with homosexual couples avoid involvement in group activities or out-of-school activities and are considered by teachers to be “loners” or “introverts”. The study reported that experiences in their personal and family life were thought to have motivated them to avoid working with and relying on others, and to mistrust other children – in the case of children of lesbians, males in particular.”
Look over their website, if you are not heterosexual, married and Christian you are doing it wrong, and Care are funding MPs, MPs are happy to take their money.
When it comes to sex work Care is not the only religious organisation trying to dictate policy according to their version of Christianity. Currently in Scotland Rhoda Grant is trying to get the ED model introduced, against the wishes of sex workers groups, National Ugly Mugs and the police. One of the major supporters of her campaign is Abolition Scotland. I could write for hours on the racist nature of their Nefarious film, or the false conflation of sex work and human trafficking, Instead however I will direct you to the page of Grant supporters. Groups like Care for Scotland, the Evangelical Alliance, groups that believe equal marriage is wrong, that women should not have autonomy over their bodies; abortion is a sin and should be criminalised. It is no surprise that they morally oppose sex work, but is this who you think should be setting policy in the UK?
As an aside it’s interesting to note that the commandment about not bearing false witness does not seem to extend to their own declarations about sex work. They quote invalid stats, plain lies about the Swedish experience and it seems, deny my very existence.
I have attempted to contact the chair of the committee, I wanted to know how he would be voting on equal marriage, as well as discuss his attitudes towards consensual sex work, as usual when actual sex workers speak out I have been ignored, as we do not fit their narrative of helpless victims who need rescuing. The full list of committee members is here, if your MP is among them it may be worth contacting them, points to highlight might include:
- That the use of the term prostituted women is insulting and denies autonomy to sex workers
- That the End Demand model has been shown to increase the danger to sex workers
- That men are also sex workers
- That starting from the premise sex work is wrong means they cannot collect data or look at the facts from an unbiased perspective
- That being supported by an extremist religious organisation makes their ability to judge these issues extremely suspect.
The group is holding a consultation, which closes on the fourth of February. It claims to be a call for evidence, but is in almost every question loaded and guilty of pre judging the issue. clearly the writers believe the moves in Northern Ireland and Scotland to introduce Sweden’s failed experiment should be emulated in England. There is a good question by question breakdown on The Libertines Salon. Despite its many flaws I would still ask people to complete the survey. The idea that all decent people think the same way has to be challenged until the coalition of some feminists and religious groups is shown up for the extremists they are.
You can find me blogging on http://itsjustahobby.wordpress.com/ along with @the101club, on twitter i tweet under @itsjustahobby