Canada has recently passed a law to endanger sex workers by making it illegal for men to pay for sex. But that is just part of the nastiness. The government has also banned advertising for the vaguely defined 'sexual services'.
'Justice' Minister Peter Mackay, law C-26 will prohibit all forms of advertising (of sexual services), including online. Anything that enables or furthers what we think is an inherently dangerous practice of prostitution will be subject to
The new law ranks among the harshest in the world. Advertising sexual services is legal, or at least tolerated, in Europe and elsewhere in North America. In the UK, for example, the tart cards that once plastered the
ubiquitous red phone boxes have moved online. The internet and social networks are now prime hubs for sex-related ads.
In order not to appear to be cracking the whip on individuals, Bill C-36 (the Protection Of Communities And Exploited Persons
Act) permits sex workers to advertise. But this is a gigantic Catch-22, because whatever platform they choose to use - website, newspaper, online classifieds or social network - will be, in the justice minister's words, entirely subject to
prosecution. Servers, website hosts and companies supporting the advertising sites are in essence treated as pimps and can be charged. In effect, that's a total crackdown.
Adult services advertising is a huge business. Burlesque stars, lap
dancers, performance artists, porn actors, strippers, masseuses and even organizations set up to support sex workers risk being swept up in the net of the new legislation by advertising their services.
Take burlesque, which is enjoying a major
revival due to the saucy new approach developed by artists like Dita Von Teese and Madame Rosebud. If a burlesque dancer advertised her upcoming event - disrobing in an after-hours swingers' club - that could be construed as offering a sexual service.
How are the differences between Tantric and erotic massage determined? Could you advertise a workshop in either without being arrested? Is a bar with signs for lap dancing promoting a sexual service? Do Twitter messages offering webcam sex
MP Joy Smith draws no distinctions. She has said there's no need to define sexual services: Everybody pretty well knows what it's about.... I mean, everybody can go into the minutiae of 'is this sex, is this not sex.' Generally
speaking, the world knows what sex really is.... What we're looking at is whatever the women are doing.
Department of Justice spokesperson Carole Saindon provides a much clearer, if unsatisfactory, explanation: the definition of sexual
services will be determined in court:
A court will consider whether the 'service' is sexual in nature and whether the purpose of providing the service is to sexually gratify the person who receives it.
And of course defending their actions in court will be time-consuming and incredibly expensive and therefore punitive for sex workers, dancers and masseuses.
Ontario's premier has entered the debate over Canada's repressive new prostitution law a day after it took effect, adding her voice to a growing number of groups concerned for sex workers' safety.
Kathleen Wynne issued a statement Sunday saying she
has a grave concern that the new rules dealing with prostitution won't be any better than the old system when it comes to protecting prostitutes from harm.
I am not an expert, and I am not a lawyer, but as
premier of this province, I am concerned that this legislation (now the law of the land) will not make sex workers safer.
Wynne said she has asked the province's attorney general to advise her on the legislation's constitutional
validity in light of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling quashing the old law, and for options in case its Charter compatibility is questioned, but stopped short of saying the province wouldn't follow the new rules:
We must enforce duly enacted legislation, but I believe that we must also take steps to satisfy ourselves that, in doing so, we are upholding the constitution and the Charter.
Vancouver Police don't seem impressed by the new law
A law that would have allowed Auckland authorities to ban prostitution in specified places has been scrapped by a New Zealand parliamentary select committee. Instead, councils have been urged to look at other ways to control street prostitutes, such as
using bylaws controlling hawkers . In recommending the local bill not pass, the committee said:
We consider, however, that the matters covered by the bill are not appropriate for a local bill because the problem
the bill seeks to address is not unique to the area covered by the bill.
It would also affect the rights of the public in that it would impose constraints on the activities that can occur in specified areas within the Auckland
district. Those activities are not specifically prohibited in any other parts of the country.
Many complaints about street-based prostitution relate to noise, littering, slow-moving motor vehicles (kerb-crawling) and disorderly
behaviour. These kinds of behaviour can be dealt with by bylaws already in existence.
The committee said the bill would have challenged the legal meaning of the Prostitution Reform Act, which decriminalised prostitution and among
other things safeguarded the human rights of sex workers.
The Republic of Ireland's government has introduced a bill that will make it a criminal offence to pay for sex.
The bill comes a year after the Oireachtas 'Justice' Committee's Report on the Review of the Legislation on Prostitution in Ireland
made the recommendation that the purchase of sexual services should be made illegal.
'Justice' Minister Frances Fitzgerald introduced the new legislation on November 27th , claiming that her proposed bill reflects an all-island consensus to
targeting the predominantly exploitative nature of prostitution. The draft legislation makes purchasing sexual services a general offence, and the purchasing of sexual services from trafficked persons a more serious offence. The Irish
Department of 'Justice' said:
In both cases, the persons selling the sexual service will not be subject to an offence Unlike the existing offences relating to prostitution such as soliciting, loitering or brothel
keeping, this offence will specifically target the demand for prostitution.
However, as Ireland-based activist and writer Wendy Lyon pointed out on Twitter, the offence of paying for sexual services will be inserted into the
Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 as Section 5A and there is no repeal of any of the parts of the 1993 Act that currently criminalises sex workers. This bill will NOT decriminalise sex workers she wrote.
An Irish sex worker,
I think [the Swedish Model] is a very very scary model and that people don't truly understand how far-reaching it can be.
You're basically playing cat and mouse against the police
all the time if you introduce the Swedish model and you're just trying to work against the police and you're not getting any help. It's bad enough as it is already. It's going to be worse if they introduce the Swedish Model.
Basel could be ready to follow in the footsteps of Zurich by establishing sex boxes , a drive-in zone for customers of sex workers.
A politician from the northern Swiss city is proposing the move as a way of eliminating problems in the city's
Kleinbasel red light district, the Basler Zeitung newspaper reported.
Andre Auderset, a Liberal MP for the canton of Basel-City, said over the course of the past year the number of prostitutes in the district has grown to the point where they are
spilling over into adjacent neighbourhoods. With residents complaining, Auderset sees Zurich's example as a model to be followed.
More than one in 10 men have paid for sex, according to a major study of British sexual habits.
The majority of the 11% who had done so had visited sex tourism hotspots such as Bangkok and Amsterdam.
The report, in the journal Sexually
Transmitted Infections, said that young professionals rather than lonely older men were paying. The most likely age group to have recently paid for sex were those in their late 20s and early 30s. Other characteristics of those likely to pay for
sex included being single, having a managerial or professional job and drug use. Nearly two-thirds of them reported paying for sex abroad, with Europe and Asia being major destinations.
A team at University College London analysed data from the
Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Just 0.1% of the women aged 16-74 surveyed had paid for sex, but 11% of the men said they had at some point in their lives. Of the 6,108 men surveyed, 3.6% had paid for sex in the past five years
and 1.1% in the past year.
But that comes with a price. The men who had paid for sex in the past five years were twice as likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as HIV, syphilis or gonorrhoea. Holiday sex
Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, was signed into Canadian law last week.
The law nominally legalises the sale of sex. Interactions and communications between prostitutes and customers, however, remain illegal.
And so has become the purchase of sex.
Unfortunately for sex workers, because their customers are criminalised, the men will resist such basic safety measures such as providing ID just in case of trouble. Fearful customers will also sensibly insist
more anonymous locations so as to minimise the risks of being discovered.
Canada's Conservative government's callous anti-prostitution bill passed third reading in the Senate on Tuesday and requires only royal assent to become law.
The government had wanted to get the bill through the legislative process by the middle of
this month, so it could become law by December. That would meet the deadline imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada when it struck down existing laws as unconstitutional last year.
The court found the laws violated the charter rights of sex
workers because they were criminally prohibited from taking measures to keep themselves safe. Now they will be prevented from taking measures to keep themselves safe by their customers fearing prosecution and so requiring more secretive and remote
The Sex Professionals of Canada says the new set of laws won't improve things and will ensure violence against sex workers continues in Canada. In a statement on its website, the group says keeping criminalization in place will continue
the stigma and social exclusion of sex workers. The group also said it plans to continue to fight for rights for sex workers, saying this isn't over!
A municipal lawmaker in St Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, has drafted a bill introducing heavy fines for the customers of prostitutes, but they'll be forgotten if client agrees to marry the sex worker.
The initiative is from Olga
Galkina who represents the pro-business Civil Platform party in the city legislature. She stressed that her bill was in response to the recent suggestion to make prostitution a criminal offence drafted by Vitaly Milonov, known for his anti-gay drive, and
other campaigns bordering Christian fundamentalism.
Galkina said she wants to change the Russian Administrative Code and introduce fines of between 4000 and 10000 rubles ($95- $240) or up to 5 days of jail for buying sex services. If customers
know that prostitutes had been forced into this business the fines increase to 50-100 thousand rubles ($1200 - $2380) and the terms of administrative jail to 10 or 15 days. The bill would also see convicted foreign nationals deported immediately after
they pay the fines or at the end of their jail time.
The most interesting part of the bill is the possibility for clients to evade punishment altogether if they marry the person that provided the sex services.
If the St. Petersburg
city legislature approves the bill in two readings it would be sent to the Federal parliament with the possibility to become a national Russian law.
In an unusual coalition, the two main opposing parties of Northern Irish politics have joined forces to pass new legislation on human trafficking, with the result that clients of sex workers will now be criminalised in Northern Ireland. Until just before
the late-night vote on Tuesday 21st October, it was unclear how Sinn Fein (the republican party, active in both Northern and the Republic of Ireland) would vote, and the bill was complex, with over 60 amendments. Clause 6 of the proposed Human
Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) bill contains the provision to criminalise clients of sex workers. It is already an offence to purchase sex from a trafficked person in Northern Ireland.
Lord Morrow, a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) tabled this private members bill, which was opposed by the Justice Minister, David Ford on the basis that it did not adequately address consensual sex work. An in-depth piece of research, commissioned by the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, was released in the days preceeding the vote, but despite its clear and decisive conclusions, 81 MLAs voted for Clause 6 (10 voted against). The Committee for Justice advising on the bill also visited Sweden to gain information about the Swedish Model of criminalisation of clients, and heard evidence of a trafficking victim in an informal meeting.
The research from Queen's University
depicts a small but active sex work community in Northern Ireland, with an estimate of 350 sex workers active in the country per day, 20 of whom work outdoors. The report suggests that trafficking victims account for less than 3% of that number,
fewer than 10 people. More than a third of clients surveyed believed that paying for sex was already illegal. Of the 171 sex workers questioned, less than 2% supported criminalisation of clients, 61% saying that it would make them less safe.
Northern Ireland has a population of around 1.8 million people, but the research noted that both clients and sex workers were highly mobile, and frequently borders were crossed both to the Republic of Ireland and other countries in
Europe to engage in sex work.
Speaking to the BBC , one NI MLA explained that the law would be enforced using online surveillance,
since according to him, people pay for sexual services using credit cards. The Police Service of Northern Ireland have so far refused to comment on how the legislation would be enforced, but sex workers are widely known to rarely accept online or credit
card payment, partly because of the need for discretion, and partly since few third party payment providers will allow transactions of an adult nature.
Dr Jay Levy, author of "
Criminalising the Purchase of Sex: Lessons from Sweden ", an in-depth analysis of 4 years of fieldwork on the subject, commented on the use of the
Swedish model in Northern Ireland: "There is no evidence that levels of trafficking (or sex work) have declined since the criminalisation of the purchase of sex was introduced in Sweden in 1999, and the law has exacerbated danger and difficulties
for sex workers. Northern Ireland's stating that this law will be used to target and reduce trafficking is nonsensical, given that there is no empirical data whatsoever to suggest it will have this effect, and given that the law is of great harm to sex
workers'wellbeing and safety."
In France, politicians voted to criminalise clients, but the bill was struck down in July by the French Senate Select Committee. A bill to criminalise clients of sex workers was similarly
considered in Scotland in 2013, but did not pass. The Northern Irish bill will also have to pass 3 further stages before becoming active legislation.
In November, MPs in England are scheduled to vote on an amendment to the Modern
Slavery Act which would similarly criminalise clients of sex workers. An All Party Parliamentary Group was convened last year to consider the evidence regarding suitable legal provision for sex work.
Consenting sex is not a crime. Criminalising clients will not stop prostitution; it will push it further underground, making it more dangerous and stigmatising for sex workers.
Most sex workers are mothers, mostly single mothers driven into the sex
industry by lack of economic alternatives to prostitution: unemployment, poverty, low and unequal wages. Many are young women trying to pay extortionate rents, university fees, debts . . .
Where is End Demand's outrage at UK benefit cuts and
sanctions which are hitting mothers and children hardest, at mothers skipping meals to feed their children or having to resort to food banks?
What they say about the Swedish model is misleading and hides the truth: 25% of Swedish single mothers
now live in poverty compared to 10% seven years ago; sex workers who are mothers face losing their children; sex workers facing violence are now too afraid to go to the police for protection as the stigma of prostitution has increased.
Party Parliamentary Group on prostitution which last year recommended the criminalisation of clients, refused to look at any of that. They have also refused to disclose how many of those who submitted evidence to them actually agreed with the
criminalisation of clients. John McDonnell MP has asked to see the submissions but the APPG has been unforthcoming so far. They also refused to look at how decriminalisation was working in New Zealand, and its positive impact of sex workers' health and
End Demand quotes Alan Caton, Suffolk's former Chief Superintendent. But the murders of five women in Ipswich in 2006 were preceded by a police crackdown. So were the murders of three women in Bradford in 2009-2010. Sex workers were
hounded and forced out of their established red light areas into bleak industrialised areas, away from the concerned eye of the community.
We are not the only ones to have noticed that crackdowns endanger women's lives. Mariana Popa, a young
immigrant mother, was murdered on the streets of Ilford, London, last October, in the wake of a police crackdown against clients. Following her death, senior police officers raised concerns that operations to tackle prostitution are
"counterproductive" and likely to put the lives of women at risk .
Chris Armitt, the national police lead on prostitution in England and Wales, also called for a review of enforcement tactics aimed at prosecuting prostitutes:
We are not going to enforce our way out of this problem. It simply won't work. I feel it would be good to allow a small group of women to work together, otherwise it creates a situation where they are working away from
other human support. I think the disadvantages of working alone outweigh the advantages.
While more and more time and resources are being diverted into policing prostitution, rape and child abuse continue on a mass scale despite
thousands of victims coming forward. Where were the police when children were being abused in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford, and in children homes all over the country? Where were they when women and their children were killed by violent partners and
ex-partners? Where are they now when the same perpetrators continue to avoid prosecution? What is their connection to the perpetrators whose crimes they have aided and abetted?
Increasing the powers of police to deal with prostitution has already
resulted in more arrests, raids, stealing and seizing the earnings of sex workers, and other abuses of power and corruption. No one who is calling for the criminalisation of clients has shown any interest in this.
The North of Ireland Assembly has
just voted to criminalise clients. But Scotland has refused and so has France. It is time to look at decriminalisation and that's what we are campaigning for.
Around 17,000 men in Northern Ireland, 3% of the adult male population, pay for sex each year, according to new research.
The first report of its kind on prostitution found that criminalising prostitution here would put sex workers in greater danger,
was unlikely to deter customers and almost impossible to police.
Queen's University questioned 171 sex workers online, 31 of which said they lived in Northern Ireland while 62 said they had sold sex here. Also quizzed were 446 people who had paid
for sex, 51 of whom live here and 89 who had purchased it in Northern Ireland.
The research found:
61% of sex workers thought changing the law would make them less safe;
85% of sex workers believed outlawing the purchase of sex would not reduce sex trafficking;
2% of prostitutes supported criminalising the purchase of sex;
16% of clients said a change to the law would make them stop paying for sex.
Researches said there were around 350 sex workers available in Northern Ireland every day. The vast majority are online, with about 20 estimated to be involved in street prostitution, mostly in Belfast and Londonderry.
But of course the pleasures,
livelihoods and safety of so many people means little to many selfish politicians who seem to enjoy putting other people in prison so they can feel good about their own equality or whatever.
Now paying for sex is to be banned in Northern Ireland after
members at the Stormont assembly backed the proposal.
The human trafficking and exploitation bill was tabled before the assembly by Democratic Unionist peer Lord Morrow.
The fate of the bill's contentious clause six, proposing the ban on
purchasing sex, was uncertain at the outset of the debate, with Sinn Fein's decision to back the prohibition along with the DUP proving crucial. The clause was passed during the bill's consideration stage by 81 votes to 10 shortly after 11.30pm.
Stormont's justice minister, David Ford, leader of the cross-community Alliance party, opposed the clause.
While the legislation still has to pass further assembly stages, the significant majority support within the devolved administration means it is essentially now destined to become law.
The Liberal Democrats overwhelmingly reaffirmed their call to decriminalise prostitution at their Autumn Conference in Glasglow this week. While sex work is technically legal across the UK, strict prohibitions on soliciting and brothel ownership remain
on the books allowing for persecution such as a major raid conducted in SoHo last December by the London Metropolitan Police.
Although they're not exactly known for their business-friendly policies, the Lib Dems are leading the way on this
important issue of commerce. Other parties should take note: sex work is a legitimate line of business like any other, and sex workers should be treated with dignity under the law by way of complete legalisation of their practice.
This is not to
say that sex work is problem-free. Like any industry, there are bad actors. Some pimps may beat prostitutes for not obtaining enough business. Some brothels may purchase sex slaves from foreign traffickers. These practices should remain illegal and be
rectified by rigorous enforcement, and still would under the Lib Dem's proposal.
However, it's high time that the UK confronts the fact that this snapshot of the abused hooker is a stereotype that does not fit the vast majority of sex workers who
engage in the practice of their own consent. As Lib Dem member Sarah Noble explained at conference while introducing the proposal, They're moms and daughters, students and workers, rich and poor, and -- yes -- men and women. They are all human beings.
Sweden's nasty parties, forming the Social Democrat-Green party coalition government, are trying to make it an offence for Swedes to use prostitutes when they are on holiday or working in other countries.
In Sweden it is already illegal for customers
to pay for sex but now the government wants to extend the policy to Swedes who buy sex abroad, with a vote in parliament expected on Tuesday.
But their plans look set to be blocked by the more humane centre-right parties that made up the former
governing Alliance in Sweden and the nationalist Sweden Democrats. Johan Pehrson, Liberal Party Justice spokesperson told Swedish television network SVT:
For the Swedish police to scout abroad for this type of crime is
not using their resources in the best way,
It is more important to combat serious sex crimes that exist in Sweden, particularly the crime of targeting children.
Richard Jomshof, speaking for the Sweden
We say no. Even if we are against buying sex in Sweden, it is not the same as interfering in other countries' legislation.
The Canadian government's nasty prostitution bill passed in the House of Commons Monday night by a 156-124 vote.
Injustice Minister Peter MacKay was behind the new legislation, Bill C-36, and took the approach that it would criminalize the purchase of
sex, but not its sale.
MacKay called his legislation a made in Canada approach and claimed that it was the best way to eliminate prostitution altogether. By allowing prostitutes to sell sexual services without fear of criminalization, the
law won't prevent them from implementing safety measures such as bodyguards, MacKay has said.
Under the previous law, prostitutes were effectively prohibited from hiring bodyguards because nobody was allowed to live off the avails of