Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sex work

A few months ago I said I'd get onto posting about the very interesting discussion about sex workers at Green Party conference. So, for the second time in days I'm actually going to do what I said I would. Gasp.

Click pic to enlarge (from Cat and Girl)The Green Party is the only party who've actually officially met with and taken direct advice from unionised sex workers themselves to develop policy, and it's very clear what they are saying: anti-prostitution laws make life far harder and less safe and that decriminalisation is the only path that allows for the same level of protection for sex workers as afforded to those in other industries.

The so called Swedish model, where the clients are targeted by the police rather than the worker, is also opposed by sex workers' organisations, because although it shifts the onus onto the "consumer" what it does not do is remove sex work from the frowning opprobrium of the law.

In other words, by refusing to remove criminal prosecution from the industry it remains one where regulation is impossible and other crimes, which are related to the industry as it stands, go unreported.

I noticed Sofie at Bolshevichka (formerly Volsunga) has a very interesting post on what the English Collective of Prostitutes has to say about the horrific killings of prostitutes in Ipswich.

They rightly point out that the attempts to apprehend the Yorkshire Ripper (in the seventies and eighties) were held back by the illegality of prostitution - particularly as the police, then, took a hard line saying that any other crimes that came up in the investigation would be prosecuted.

This time round the Ipswich police have explicitly stated that they "are not interested in any other crime" in order to encourage sex workers, and their clients, to come forward with information. However, whilst the local police are to be congratulated for making this statement, this stops well short of what's needed - not just in this case - but in the host of unreported injustices that are meted out to sex workers in this country.

Whilst the police have told *all women* to stay off the streets this leaves prostitutes in the position of living without money (which I've heard can be difficult, especially with children or a drug habit) or risking their lives. Paula Clennell, whose body was the most recent to be found, was interviewed just days before she was killed and said exactly this. That it's all very well the police telling women to stay off the streets, but as a heroin addict what choices did she have?

She said that she was "a bit wary about getting into cars" but "I need the money". Paula's life was worth as much as anyone else's and yet we let her go to her death hoping for a few quid to stretch for a fix and to keep a roof over her head.

Every obstacle to catching this serial killer needs to be removed, and it may be worth raising the idea that the very status of sex workers as an "other" outside of the law and respectable society may contribute to the attitudes that allow some to treat these workers as social scum rather than human beings.

As the Green Party states "Prohibitive laws have always failed to stop prostitution, yet have left prostitutes vulnerable to abuse and often violence. The Illegal, unregulated sex trade has led to child prostitution, trafficking of sex workers and contributed to the deterioration of our inner cities. What is needed is a radical new strategy that regulates and licenses the sex trade in order to protect the women and men who work in it and to reduce the harm it does to communities where it takes place." (read the full set of policies, scroll down to R550-9)

None of this is to say that sex work is a good thing per se. For instance, I'm for decriminalising heroin and for its total eradication from society at one and the same time.

Bodies as objectsThere's an interesting interview with an anarchist dominatrix where she discusses some of the contradictions involved in the course of her work. The industry is fed by the commodification of every aspect of our lives under capitalism, the difficulties our alienation can produce in developing real, healthy relationships with one another and, of course, the whole host of issues surrounding gender and sexual orientation.

Ana Lopez, who organises sex workers for the GMB responded earlier this year to the government's attitude to sex work;

“The GMB Sex Workers Branch... is saddened that the Government has not taken the opportunity to respond positively the opportunity to go down a more enlightened path towards regulation. The Government has decided to continue to promote the stereo-typed and clich├ęd view of sex workers. GMB members who work in the sex industry know, as does the Government, that the majority of sex workers, including those who work in prostitution are not typical of the drug addict victims that everyone loves to hate.

"GMB wants the invisible majority of sex workers who contribute to the economy to a massive extent to be allowed to work in safety and without the sigma that the work they do is against the law. The GMB Sex Workers Branch believes that sex between consenting adults should not be regulated by the state.”

I think that's all that needs to be said on the matter, don't you?


Duncan Money said...

I see you've upgraded to Blogger Beta, good stuff.

You're right I don't think there is much to add to the GMB's view on sex workers beyond anarchist inspired grumblings about how moving towards 'respectable' train unionism is a step backwards. Not really in my opinion.

Anyway, thanks for all the info on sex workers it's an area that's misunderstood and misrepresented. I just wish my own party would get together some sort of coherent statement on the subject.

I've also linked to you now by the way.

Jim Jay said...

Yes, the upgrade was a bit more problematic than I hoped (I was going to post this yesterday but it wouldn't let me in) but it's definately the right thing to do from the looks of it so far.

There will be a more general upgrade coming along soon(ish)...

You're party is... the Socialist Party? Is that right?

Duncan Money said...

Well your site seems to have survived more or less intact so the move's worked well.

Yeah I'm with the Socialist Party although the Greens are an attractive prospect admittedly. The problem is niether party organises in West Cumbria, where I live.

The only party that does these days is the BNP...

Jim Jay said...

But you go to uni in Oxford - now I know there's a strong Green group there. What's the student activism side like?

Anyway - I'm derailing my own thread about a very serious subject...

Jim Jay said...

Also, I notice Natalie has posted well on this at her blog and also stroppyblog has this post from Louise.

Duncan Money said...

Well, at the risk of further derailing your thread...

The terms are so short at Oxford I actually spend more time back home in Cumbria.

I don't actually think there is a student group at Oxford for the Green Party which is strange. There's loads of liberal/left single issue protest groups making the Green Party an odd omission. Even the rump of the Workers' Revolutionary Party attempted one.

Do the Greens organise at Cambridge Uni? If they had a group I'd probably join in.

Anonymous said...

>>I don't actually think there is a student group at Oxford for the Green Party which is strange.>>

Umm, yes there is. We meet every other Friday for lunch and discussion meetings, get involved in a bunch of different environment and social justice campaigns, and have existed continuously since 1993....

Obviously not managing to advertise ourselves very well at the moment, but we exist!



P.S. Email me on matt [at] greenoxford.com if you're interested to hear more.

Jim Jay said...

There are lots of people at Cambridge Uni who do green activities - lots of very good, active groups.

The Green Party, however, has a list of names, which it does nothing with. I don't think the local party "gets" student politics.

Jim Jay said...

Oh and Socialist Worker has something on the topic, SSP main page leads with this, and Disillusioned Kid has a good post on it.

Just to try to get back to the thread :)

wrinkled weasel said...

Most street prostitutes are drug injectors. Most of them carry STD's and hepatitis C and willl quite happily expose their children to disease abuse and neglect. They will feed their habit before they feed their children. (Lets not get carried away just yet with their current beatification.)

None of this would change if you legalise prostitution.

The answer is to deal with the root cause of this degrading business - drugs. There should be zero tolerance. Somebody made easy for these girls to take heroin. I think they are the people you need to talk to.

Jim Jay said...

WW: I don't agree.

Whilst STD's are an occupational hazard for street workers it hardly means that they "quite happily expose their children to disease, abuise and neglect" that's a completely unjustified generalisation.

You may also like to reflect on the fact that there was prostitution long before anyone was addicted to heroin. But whilst drugs are a problem zero tolerance doesn't work.

There are two laws I'd like to see changed - one is on immigration allowing anyone who wants to live here, to live here, removing the fear of trafficked women that they'll be deported if they go to the law. And the second is drugs decriminalising them and introducing as much help as is humanly possible to get people off them.

If we'd have been supplying drugs to those afflicted with addiction to them at least one of these women wuld still be alive today.

wrinkled weasel said...
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