This year has seen the battle against sex workers continue. Four Western countries seriously set their eyes on the Nordic model.
Scotland took a look at the Nordic model, with Rhoda Grant MSP for the Highlands and Islands leading the battle against sex workers. She ran a “consultation” which showed that the prohibitionists are well organised and can get a lot of people to respond with pre written responses. Luckily the SNP were not having anything to do with this and her private members bill was consigned to the bin. Rhoda immediately took down the consultation documents. She still is active, and was recently in parliament demanding what parliament was doing to save prostituted women. (For the record her example of coercion was from a newspaper article, and the Madam of that agency who was imprisoned. Shows the law is working already. ) Her cohorts though were not to be defeated, they now had the police on their side. The Scottish police became one unified authority under the leadership of Stephen House of Strathclyde police. We could easily predict Edinburgh’s tolerant attitude which allowed women and men to work in saunas was soon to come to an end. Yes the Weegies took up Rhoda’s vendetta and raided the Saunas subjecting those working there to humiliating searches. Now the council is reviewing its licensing of saunas with the expectation that saunas will no longer be licensed, and will have no protection from the police. They did run a consultation on the proposed change, the results yet to be seen. Yes it seems the Weegies and Rhoda have won, to the detriment of our safety, forcing us to work on the streets, alone in flats or visiting clients alone in hotels. Anything we do to protect our safety is illegal for us, or the people we hire. There was one small success; the Scottish police have back tracked on their statement that condoms found on the premises would ensure it lost its license..
Police chiefs [sent]…a letter…[asking] the city council to add new conditions to licences, including that “no items of a sexual nature will be permitted on the premises”…[HIV group the Terrence Higgins Trust and sex worker organisation Scot-Pep savaged the proposal, which they said would ruin decades of sexual health education]…A recent report by the World Health Organisation…read: “Condoms should never be considered to be evidence of sex work, either in official laws or through unofficial law-enforcement practices, and condoms should never be confiscated from sex workers”…[and] MSP Margo MacDonald said…“this…makes the police look…rather amateurish”…
They later issued the statement.
Superintendent Matt Richards said: “Police Scotland does not advocate the banning of condoms. As part of the Council’s review of the licences for some of the Edinburgh saunas, Police Scotland submitted a number of written recommendations for their consideration.
This is fabulously documented by Maggie McNeil in her blog
The Republic of Ireland decided to take a look at prostitution, after much pressure from Ruhama and the Turn Off The Red Light Campaign. A consultation was proposed, and we did actually at one time think we were going to be consulted. As usual we were silenced from any form of consultation, with agencies talking for us against our wishes. The media took great exception to sex workers, and called as all pimped and exploited. They have taken sides with the Ruhama, and the TORL campaign. Thirteen members of the TORL campaign funded to $40 Million dollars by Atlantic Philanthropies. The justice committee came down on criminalising the client, and further legislation which would make sex workers
- potentially homeless,
an offence of recklessly permitting a premises to be used for the purposes of prostitution
- unable to operate a mobile phone,
power for An Garda Síochána to have disabled or vested in them any telephone number in use in the State that is suspected on reasonable grounds of being used for the purposes of prostitution;
- and treated to the same sanctions as a paedophile if they accessed a website promoting prostitution.
that the accessing of web sites – whether located in the State or abroad – that advertise prostitution in the State should be treated in the same way as accessing sites that advertise or distribute child pornography
This proposal was is included in this sad and pertinent poem by Jemima on December 17th – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
I am writing this on my phone.
The phone men use to contact me for sex.
The phone I use to check for assaults in my area.
The phone I can use to call for help.
The phone the Irish want to remove from me so I must go on the streets.
I am writing this on my phone, the phone I use to post my ads.
The ads which will get me imprisoned in America for making clear what I will and won’t do.
I am writing this on my phone, looking at the condoms that protect me.
The condoms the Scottish want to take away and use as evidence against me.
I am writing this on my phone, in a safe, dry room. A room the Norwegians will evict me from if they discover what I use the phone for.
I am writing this on my phone, the phone that helps Indian sex workers organise and work independently, even though white women say I am not capable of that.
I am writing this on my phone. The phone I use to photograph number plates before I get into a car. The phone that apparently makes me privileged and not representative.
I am writing this on my phone. The phone I use to make a safe call to my partner. Who can be arrested as my pimp for trying to keep me safe.
I am writing this on my phone. The phone I talk to others on who understand my life. But the UK will arrest us if we work together.
I am writing this on my phone, for the living and the dead.
The change in the law is not a foregone conclusion, the Justice Minister Alan Shatter is not convinced and recently took time to highlight that the 23 child victims of trafficking in 2012, 21 were not associated with prostitution.
With regard to the abhorrent human trafficking of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation, it is important that we recognise that the offences that are reported for 2012 arise predominantly outside of the context of prostitution. Human Trafficking is very broadly defined in Irish legislation and offences relating to child pornography, for example, may often contain the elements of human trafficking – such as recruitment and sexual exploitation – that will bring such actions within the legal definition of human trafficking. The reports concerning 21 of the 23 children in 2012 related to offences such as child pornography, sexual assault and sexual indecency, rather than exploitation through prostitution.
Northern Ireland is in the process of introducing an anti-trafficking bill. This is a private members bill sponsored by Lord Morrow,. There is a controversial clause which promises to criminalise our clients. This is supported by the DUP, is not supported by the police or the Justice Minister David Ford. There is a consultation process running at present, and its anyone’s guess whether current sex workers will be asked to give evidence. Ruhama and the TORL were able to set up a stand and lobby MPs during the debate. Jollies to Sweden to see how the law is implemented are due to take place, will any sex workers there be consulted? Again David Ford is not convinced and recently said there is little evidence of crime gangs in the Ulster sex trade.
France is a step nearer criminalising the clients of sex workers. A bill was passed through the lower house of the French parliament, with no consultation with sex workers, which will decriminalise us, but criminalise our clients. This has to now go through the upper house, and could be law in 2014.
Let us hope the upper house had more guts, and throws back the legislation. Francois Hollande has more pressing issues at home to deal with.
The long running court case in Canada has come to an end. The Supreme Court threw out the laws around sex work. Sex work is and was legal in Canada. Sex workers complained that laws governing Sex work put them at risk, and was therefore unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed, and has removed the laws controlling sex work. So in the future sexworkers will be able to employ drivers, agencies. They will be able to work in brothels and together. They will be able to solicit on the street. The Law Courts have given the Government a year to come up with lawful legislation. This could mean that prostitution will be deemed to be totally illegal, or hopefully the legislators will go for the New Zealand model. So there will be another year of waiting, and the battle for sex worker rights is still to be fought in Canada. Terri-Jean Bedford who was instrumental in bringing this case to this excellent result believes the Nordic law would be unenforceable in Canadian law. The Nordic law still puts sex workers at risk.
Third, if the so-called Nordic model was brought in (where only clients are charged), the harms the judges found with the current laws would reappear, and those laws would not be enforceable in court.
This year as every year is a year in which to shut down the voice of sex workers. We have already seen how Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and France have silenced us, not allowing us to represent ourselves in consultations. This continues with feminist conferences.
There was the Nottingham Woman’s Conference this year in which there was a platform for the abolitionist rhetoric to be presented as fact with no form of debate. The presenters, two ‘ex sex workers’ Justin Reilly and Rachel Moran spoke. Debate and questions from the floor were severely shut down, when someone on the floor questioned the validity of the debate, stating there were actual sex workers outside who were not allowed to speak.
Finn raised her voice a bit and simply talked over her – easily, because Finn had a microphone and the other woman didn’t. The content of her words was along the lines of praising Rachel & Justine (though I don’t think she named them here, instead using some phrase similar to “these courageous women”) for coming to speak, and affirming how lucky the conference was to have them.
There were current sex workers (Pastachips, fornicatrix and cup of crow) who could have presented alternative views on legislative frameworks. They made themselves available to the conference, and even negotiated exchange tickets with other groups. They were silenced. A very good write up of the conference from the perspective of sex work has been written in this blog by Jennifer. There is an excellent follow up comment by Ellis.
Silencing continued to such an extent that a worldwide protest about the deaths of sex workers Jasmine and Dora was totally ignored by mainstream media . Jasmine a Swedish sex worker and activist was killed by her estranged violent husband. She had to battle to see her children, because she was a sexworker in Sweden. The authorities took no heed of the violence of her partner, and she eventually paid the ultimate price.
There have been some positive changes, the author of Soul Destruction , Ruth Jacobs who was taking an abolitionist stance listened to current sex workers, and now is in for total decriminalisation camp.
For the future, the next worry is the European Women’s Lobby who are pressing for a Europe wide end to sex work through the discredited Nordic Model. This group has Mary Honeyball from the UK who’s name appeared in the UK press at the end of the year.
The All Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and Global Sex Trade ran a consultation in 2012, and are due to report in 2014. Their stance is a forgone conclusion, implement the Nordic model. They are sponsored by CARE Christian Action Research and Education. The present members of this group are. They need to be watched.
The abolitionists are really gearing up for a fight in 2014, they glimpse chinks in the attitudes of Holland and Germany to the liberal attitude to sex work. I predict 2014 will be a hard year.
There have been some positive media opportunities this year, with our editor appearing on
Channel 4 Sex and the disabled
STV discussing Rhoda Grants’s consultation
Brooke Magnanti on Hard talk
Douglas Fox, And Laura Lee did a video debate with Richard Lucas and Rhoda Grant
Laura Lee also appeared in numerous Newspaper articles fighting for sex workers rights in Ireland and Scotland