The number of sex workers in Ireland has increased by 80% since the Northern Ireland ban was introduced last year, a former UK sex worker has said.
Paying for sex was outlawed in Northern Ireland in June. Mia de Faoite gave evidence to a Home Affairs Committee at Westminster recently. She said:
When Northern Ireland changed its law, of course they moved south and the women for sale, they increased on our side of the border. It was up by 80%. So they moved to where it is legal to buy.
Sex worker campaigners have argued that the criminalisation of their customers has endangered sex workers by pushing the industry underground. Sex worker Laura Lee, who is leading a court challenge bidding to overturn the ban, told the committee the
prohibition had created problems:
The difficulty that we have now, for example in Northern Ireland, after the criminalisation went through on 1 June, is that clients are refusing to use the online screening process that we have and so it is putting us into greater danger. It is a very,
very useful tool to have but in a further criminalised state it can be sadly abandoned, I am afraid.
We welcome Jeremy Corbyn's public statement
in support of the decriminalisation of sex work. He, more than many, will have in mind the austerity cuts, 75% of which have targeted women. These cuts are responsible for massive increase in prostitution that we have seen in the UK as of late.
With 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK and 176,000 people surviving on food banks, no wonder that women are turning to prostitution. The northern English town of Doncaster
reported a 60% increase in prostitution
in 2013, with charities saying, "women are being forced to sell sex for £5 because of benefit sanctions". Sheffield
reported a 166% increase in 2014 while charity workers in Hull
have gone on record saying "we have started to see women who are literally starving and they are out there to feed themselves".
As poverty and prostitution increase so does criminalisation. We are currently fighting legal cases with women imprisoned for brothel-keeping because they worked in a flat with friends -- obviously much safer than working alone. We are also working with
women street workers, who are having their IDs confiscated by police before being told that they can only get them back if they show plane tickets back to Romania. This is happening despite these women having the right to reside in the UK. We are even
helping a woman fired from her public service job because she worked part-time in pornography to supplement her wages.
We see daily the injustice of the prostitution laws which force sex workers to work in isolation and danger. As a woman working in Leeds said recently, "the laws are pointing at us and saying, 'nobody cares about you'". That is the view of
every killer who has targeted sex workers.
But perhaps the most compelling reason to abolish the laws is because illegality and stigma hides who sex workers are -- mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties and wives --all women (and men and trans people) trying to survive in increasingly harsh
economic times. Those feminist politicians who claim to speak for us but who misinterpret, lie, distort and disparage our experience take advantage of our illegal status knowing that it is harder for us to speak publicly to set the record straight.
Approximately 85% of sex workers are women and the majority are mothers, mostly single mums. If prostitution policy and law was framed by these facts we'd get support for mothers and anti-austerity policies not more criminalisation. So thank goodness for
Corbyn and his close political ally John McDonnell MP, whose principled support for decriminalisation has meant that groups such as the Safety First Coalition (which includes the Royal College of Nursing), Hampshire Women's Institute, and Women Against
Rape have had a voice in parliament.
The evidence of the success of decriminalisation is compelling. At our evidence gathering symposium on prostitution last November, Catherine Healy, founding member and coordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, reported on research from the
Prostitution Law Review Committee
that found, five years after the decriminalisation in New Zealand, that there had been no increase in prostitution or trafficking. In contrast, sex workers are now more able to leave prostitution and secure other work because they aren't registered and
convictions have been cleared from their record. The law decriminalised sex workers on the street and in premises, which has made it easier to report violence and has allowed sex workers to work together, increasing safety.
An independent review
by the Christchurch School of Medicine in New Zealand found 64% of sex workers found it easier to refuse clients -- a litmus test of whether women are being forced or coerced.
Yet the Home Affairs Committee is studiously ignoring this compelling evidence. Instead it appears to have a pre-determined outcome to recommend the criminalisation of clients -- a proposal backed by an "
unlikely union of evangelical Christians with feminist campaigners
". As one of the women who gave evidence to the inquiry said, "politicians who claim to want to save us by banning our work should first of all say how else we are to survive".
Corbyn and John McDonnell's support for decriminalisation puts sex workers of a par with others who have been unjustly criminalised -- young people, people of colour, immigrant people. And that is right. Women picked up for soliciting have long said that
the prostitution laws are to women what the sus laws are to young Black men -- a tool for the police to persecute and harass, with Black and other women of colour as their first targets.
Corbyn and McDonnell take their lead from sex workers who, like other workers, are striving to improve our working conditions. If the Labour party wants an anti-prostitution strategy they should get behind their leader's determined campaign against
benefit cuts, sanctions and an end to zero hour contracts ."
A parliamentary group comprised of MPs seeking to criminalise men for buying sex have commissioned a report from a strident campaign
group supporting the same cause.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution commissioned a report from the campaign group End Demand. And shock horror, the report is a one sided diatribe of nastiness grasping at the vengeful opportunity to jail men just for wanting
to get laid.
The extreme proposal from End Demand calls for British men who buy sex from sex workers while abroad on stag parties should be prosecuted in the UK under new laws that make paying for sex illegal. See
proposal from enddemand.uk
Sex tourists and businessmen who pay for prostitutes on expense accounts would also be criminalised under the campaign groups proposals in the Sex Buyer Law report.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution chairman, Gavin Shuker, Labour MP for Luton South spewed:
Speaking personally, I think the idea has merit for one simple reason: many people's first experience of buying sex takes place abroad.
In its report, Shifting the Burden , the all-party group recommended the introduction, instead, of a sex-buyer offence, of following the Nordic
model. It then asked End Demand , a campaign to end commercial sexual exploitation, to find out how this could be implemented. The resulting report, produced by a commission on the sex buyer law, is to be launched in parliament this week. This
concludes -- on the basis of evidence from Nottingham and Suffolk, as well as countries such as Sweden, which criminalise buyers -- that a similar law is overdue here, to reduce both the human and economic cost of prostitution.
Having participated in that commission, along with, among others, Alan Caton and Diane Martin, a survivor of the sex trade who has helped others to exit, I find it harder than ever to understand how any politician, local or otherwise, would want
to perpetuate, by legalising it, a trade so staggeringly unequal and so dependent on the trafficked and marginalised. In Germany, which did precisely that in 2002, the resulting brothels are warehouses of migrant women, pimped for bargain
basement prices. Legalisation has failed, it turns out, both to inspire more gallantry in clients and to convince many German women that supplying oral and anal sex on demand could make a nice change from waitressing.
Comment: Disgraceful article by Catherine Bennett in today's Observer
22nd February 2016. Thanks to Alan
There is an appalling article by Catherine Bennett in today's Observer, pimping the Nordic model . I'm baffled that a purportedly liberal
newspaper should print this grotesquely illiberal crap, taking any bullshit spouted by an authoritarian Swedish pseudo-feminist as gospel. So, for Bennett, the nasty Swedish minister of injustice points out blah, blah, blah.... Err, no,
point out is a factive verb, claiming veracity for what follows. The minister actually tendentiously claims blah, blah, blah....
The Guardian and Observer really seem all over the place where sex is concerned. They seem to have a check list of approved sexual behaviours/persons. Hence they're all for buggery by male homosexuals, whom only a bigot would prevent from
marrying one another, but Bennett has a fit of the vapours at the very idea of a lady of the night letting a bloke up her bum. At least the traditional taboos imposed by religion had a logical secular motive - to encourage legitimate offspring by
condemning sexual practices that couldn't produce kids (buggery, masturbation) or cast doubt on their legitimacy (adultery). The Guardian/Observer system seems to pick its does and don't at random.
Needless to say, totally absent from Bennett's drivel is any input from women who actually work in the industry. When one considers that Max Mosley' lady friends were routinely described as prostitutes (and Lord Justice Eady seemed to
acquiesce in that description), I wonder whether Bennett and the Observer might not more usefully consider why a woman with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry finds it more satisfying and/or remunerative to have her bum spanked than to use her academic
qualifications in lecture theatre or lab.
A red-light district in Leeds has now been made a permanent fixture.
The street prostitution zone has been allowed to continue indefinitely despite the recent death of sex worker Daria Pionko who was found with fatal injuries inside the managed area in Leeds.
Councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds City Council's executive member for Safer Leeds, called the death of Miss Pionko a tragedy but insisted a managed area was needed to protect sex workers.
Under the scheme sex workers are allowed to ply their zone in the designated part of the Holbeck area of the city between 7pm and 7am, but council chiefs are looking at extending the hours women can work . Cllr Dobson said:
I accept that there are people who will always have a moral objection to the issue of prostitution.
I'm of the opinion that it is an industry that's as old as time and it isn't going to stop and, as a city that is responsible and cares about the people who live here - including the women who work in this industry - we have had to take a pragmatic
approach to keep them safe.
The managed area isn't a universal cure-all. Sex work remains - as last month proved - an extremely dangerous and fraught occupation. But it's incumbent on us to make it as safe as possible.
A female police officer has been assigned to specifically interact with sex workers in the managed area. Superintendent Sam Millar said:
Our job is to keep people safe and that applies when people put themselves in risky situations. Sex work is high risk and that is not something that we should ignore. Having gone through years and years of enforcement, which hasn't achieved the outcomes
of breaking the cycle of sex work, we wanted to do something different which might help us better achieve those outcomes, to be brave and take some risks.
According to the council, since the area was set up, complaints from residents have fallen. Area community safety co-ordinater Zahid Butt said: For 10 to 15 years this issue dominated residents' meetings. It doesn't do that in the same way now.
West Yorkshire Police said that sex workers are much more likely to talk to officers and report crimes committed against them.
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