The UK Home Affairs Parliamentary Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into prostitution. Preparing a written submission to that inquiry led me to look at the existing legislation against punters, pimps, and trafficking. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed to me that the legislation is deeply flawed, ineffective, and does not meet our binding obligations under international treaties. In this article I reflect on the legislation and how it suggests that there never was an intention to make it an effective tool for tackling these appalling crimes. As women who see prostitution as both a cause and consequence of women’s subordination, we need to work much harder.
Note: The legislation varies between the different countries in the UK. This article focuses on the English legislation.
Continue reading “UK Puntering, Pimping & Trafficking Laws”
At a meeting in Dublin on 11 August 2015, Amnesty International’s International Council adopted a resolution to authorise their International Board to develop and adopt a policy on “sex work”. Here is a quote from their press release:
“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse.
The resolution recommends that Amnesty International develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.
“We recognize that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards. We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world,” said Salil Shetty.” [emphasis mine]
The resolution calls not only for the decriminalisation all those involved in prostitution (which all feminist groups call for) but also for the decriminalisation of pimps, punters and brothel owners who are the main perpetrators of the violence and abuse against those in prostitution. This proposal is essentially for the legalisation of prostitution and the entire sex trade. (You can quibble about semantics but when something is not criminal it becomes legal.)
How Amnesty International went about developing this proposal and consulting on it was problematical. In this article I summarise some of the issues. Many others have written eloquently on why the policy itself is misguided (for example, Chris Hedges, Michelle Kelly and Catriona Grant). In this article I focus on the duplicitous nature of Amnesty’s actions. Please use the comments to add additional relevant information.
Continue reading “What Amnesty Did Wrong”
In 1977 a Swedish project was launched to discover the everyday reality of prostituted women’s lives. Researchers interviewed hundreds of women, johns and pimps. What they found exploded the old Victorian myths that prostitution resulted from a biological urge in men and a mental defect in the women. Instead they found it was something that men do to women with tragic consequences. Around the same time feminists, such as Kathleen Barry and Andrea Dworkin, in the United States and elsewhere were making a powerful analysis of pornography and prostitution as key elements in the systematic subordination of women. As a result the sex industry had a serious image problem on its hands.
This article aims to provide an insight into the ways in which the sex industry fought back. One of these being the use of the idea of prostitutes unions to give itself legitimacy. I draw on research and arguments by Kajsa Ekman in her excellent book, Being and Being Bought. Ekman shows that in almost every case these so-called unions are facades put up by those with vested interests – some of them pimps and others who exploit the prostitution of others, some of them johns and some of them people who, for various reasons, have carved out a niche for themselves promoting the industry. Continue reading “Trade Unions and Prostitution”
“In my thirty years as a journalist I’ve come face to face with scandals, corruption, greed and crime of all kinds. I’ve seen tragedy of monumental proportions – the desperation of famine, the ravages of war. I’ve witnessed the loss of life and hope in the Middle East and Africa – in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Iran. Yet never before have I been as struck by the senseless disregard for human dignity as I have been these last two years while researching this book [on the new global sex trade].” (Malarek 2004)
This article looks at sex trafficking. For simplicity and clarity, it mostly refers to women, although children, men and transgendered people are also trafficked. The consequences for children are invariably even more devastating. Continue reading “Sex Trafficking”
“A pimp is someone who freeloads off the misfortune of women and children.” (Indoctrinated: The Grooming of our Children into Prostitution)
There have recently been a number of high profile cases of girls being groomed by gangs into what experts are calling child sexual exploitation but which is essentially another name for the sexual abuse and prostitution of children. The extreme Right have latched on to the fact that many of those convicted have been Muslim Asians. However, that is a red herring and doesn’t alter the fact that there is a huge problem of girls and young women being groomed into prostitution not only by groups and gangs but also by individuals. Continue reading “Grooming Children into Prostitution”
“At the core of the phenomenon of prostitution is ‘the treatment of the body as an asset, as a means to seek subsistence’. In prostitution, the body itself becomes a commodity, which reduces the human subject, socially and psychologically, to an object to be exchanged” (Melrose, 2000)
In order to understand the meaning of choice in respect to participation in prostitution, we need to understand the context in which the choice is made. It does not take a lot of imagination to understand that given a certain set of circumstances we might all choose to do things that in other circumstances we would not choose to do. For example, if you were trapped in a tall building that was on fire, you might choose to jump out the window. Is this a free choice? Perhaps, but from a very limited set of options – jumping or being burnt alive. Does that mean we don’t need stairs and lifts and outside fire escapes, even? Continue reading “Choice in an Unequal World”