Thursday, August 27, 2009

Debating policy: prostitution

One of the interesting discussions that we'll be having next week at Green Party conference is on our prostitution policy. Whilst there's no motion this time there are two workshops aimed at rethinking our current policy - a policy I've expressed some pride in on a number of occasions.

In short our current policy, which was developed in liaison with organisations representing sex workers themselves, is aimed at taking the criminality out of the industry, pro-unionisation and enabling women (and men) to be safe, working in environments of their own choosing.

There will be two fringes at conference, the first (Friday at noon) is hosted by Eaves Housing for Women which describes itself as a "Debate on the demand for prostitution and human rights". Eaves oversees the high profile and heavily government funded Poppy Project which works with trafficked women.

The second is at four on the Saturday "Prostitution Рis it time to update our policy?" which has Jenny Jones, Caroline Lucas, Sandrine Levêque (of Object) who will be arguing for us to change our policy and Natalie Bennett who will be the case for the defence.

Now, leaving aside the fact that there are two fringes booked both aimed at changing our policy on the same issue with one outnumbered speaker allowed to argue for the Party's policy, I'd like to say that this looks like a bit of push to at the least tone down our liberalisation message and at worst will be for greater emphasis on law enforcement, sidelining the views of those sex workers and advocates we consulted when formulating our original policy.

For my money policy should be directed towards helping the vulnerable protect themselves - by joining unions, by forming co-operatives, protected at work by legislation rather than criminalised. Our focus should be on the rights of the sex worker not the criminalisation of sex work.

Whilst the trade remains illegal those who work in the industry will be disadvantaged, and even where it is just the clientele that are criminalised, sex workers themselves say it makes them more vulnerable to attack and leaves them on the wrong side of the law.

I certainly hope that these fringes do not mark the beginning of the end of what I regard as one of the best social policies in the Party's manifesto. I guess I'll just have to attend the fringes and see what happens.

13 comments:

Pippa said...

Noooo! We definitely mustn't change this policy! It's one of our best 'uns.

Maybe I will restand for SOC, but only so I can rule any motions changing it out of order on spurious grounds. (That's a joke obvs, I'd never do either of those things! hah!)

It Will Come to Me said...

I'd suggest that biodegradable condoms ought to be part of your policy.

greengal141 said...

I don't know, I'm not so sure about this policy. I think it'd be good to hear a different point of view on this one.

Aaron said...

This was one of those "this is the party for me" policies... I want to hear what they have to say but at the moment I feel strongly in favour of existing policy. Someone better be blogging so I can hear the debates! :p

hangingaroundonthewrongsideoftheworld said...

hm, worrying.

This reminds me of a pair of recentDan Savage columns I read, which give a rather interesting take on guys who use sex workers. I found it quiet thought provoking (although I should point out I'm not a 100% Savage fan, and have a few issues with some of his comments here). I've usually been somewhat on the 'prosecuting men/not criminalising sex workers' side of the argument, but his arguments have made me reassess that somewhat. While I don't think legalisation and unionisation is going to stop the exploitation and objectification of women over night, or lead immediately to a more humane and compassionate understanding of male and female sexuality, I'm beginning to come round to thinking its a necessary start.

hangingaroundonthewrongsideoftheworld said...

hm, worrying.

This reminds me of a pair of recentDan Savage columns I read, which give a rather interesting take on guys who use sex workers. I found it quiet thought provoking (although I should point out I'm not a 100% Savage fan, and have a few issues with some of his comments here). I've usually been somewhat on the 'prosecuting men/not criminalising sex workers' side of the argument, but his arguments have made me reassess that somewhat. While I don't think legalisation and unionisation is going to stop the exploitation and objectification of women over night, or lead immediately to a more humane and compassionate understanding of male and female sexuality, I'm beginning to come round to thinking its a necessary start.

Cathryn said...

The Labour government is making a serious mistake, I feel, in adopting a punitive attitude towards sex worker's clients, and it would be sad to see us following in their footsteps.
I don't see how driving the demand side underground is going to help keep sex workers safe, or necessarily even reduce the trade. So what is the aim here?

The people who really know about this, the sex workers themselves, don't want their clients criminalised. Why aren't they represented in any of our debates?

Jim Jay said...

Well they should be - you're right. And the irony is they were in formulating current policy.

Never say die though! This is the start of an attempt to change current policy and we aren't beaten yet!

Noel Lynch said...

As someone said, this is one of our better policies. Any watering down should be strongly resisted.

Red Green Nick said...

I really would struggle to be convinced that this is something we should change policy on. I'd agree with Cathryn that we should listen to Sex workers themselves, rather than take a step backward from a progressive policy.

Claudia Bellocq said...

I sincerely hope that the Greens don't follow on with the guilt laden rhetoric and debate as currently persued by the Labour party on this subject. Sex worker's voices across the board need to be heard and proven policies that reduce violence in real terms, not idealistic ones need to be held at the forefront of any debate on this issue. Please please please let's not get morals in the way of protective, supportive, and inclusive strategy.

Jim Jay said...

Hear, hear! If you want to help us keep out of the New Labour zone of cops and moralism that would be really appreciated!

Natalie Bennett said...

I'm really heartened by the support offered here, and I've also had a wide range of party members, including senior elected people, express to me their support for the current policy. I can assure those outside the party what those inside the party probably already know - there is very strong support for the current policy, and it will be fought for very hard.