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OurConsentCounts

The General Election, Dare You Write To The Candidates

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The general election is around the corner.  Who should you vote for, and how to you canvass the  candidates.  A new website has been created for sex workers and allies to help them in this process.  You can write to the candidates safely.  Where we get feed back the site will be updated.  Take a look at http://ourconsentcounts.uk 

 

This press release was sent out to the media yesterday and contains more information about the site.

 

 

 

New campaign enables sex workers to contact Prospective Parliamentary Candidates safely.

 

On 3 March, International Sex Workers’ Rights Day, the International Union of Sex Workers launches the OurConsentCounts.uk campaign with a website that enables people in the sex industry to tell politicians about the reality of their lives and the laws and services that will protect them.

 

In the run up to the election, the IUSW has produced a Manifesto for Safety in the Sex Industry, circulated to all incumbent MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates, that describes nine steps to tackle violence and exploitation within the sex industry. Download a copy here [LINK]

 

The Manifesto calls for MPs to

1. respect our consent - supporting the fundamental principle that a woman’s consent to sex is her own to give and believing women in the sex industry when we talk about our experience of sexual violence.

 

2. address causes, not symptoms – tackling “push factors” with a living wage, effective welfare system, affordable housing and childcare and adequate support systems – particularly for vulnerable groups like children in care and asylum seekers; address the gender pay gap, so that women - particularly those working part time or with caring responsibilities - have more options for flexible, well-paid work

 

3. tackle discrimination and stigma – particularly discrimination by the police. The World Bank describes how “Stigma and discrimination [against sex workers] are perpetuated by the criminalisation …Criminalisation enables police to perpetrate abuse and humiliation, demand free sexual services, and extort fines from sex workers with impunity.”  (The Global HIV Epidemics among Sex Workers Deanna Kerrigan et al 2013 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank). 

 

Non-discriminatory services are essential for people who need support: organisations that view our consent as legally less valid than that of other women and promote an ideological view of our experience rather than believing us when we talk about sexual violence cannot offer safe spaces or effective support to vulnerable women.

 

4. adopt the “Merseyside model” to successfully target predators

In Liverpool the police recognise that people in the sex industry are generally targeted because we sell sex. The police work with specialist support services to use a “hate crime” model that has resulted in 90% conviction rate for violent perpetrators and shows that, with the political will, we can successfully tackle violence against people in the sex industry.

 

5. support “National Ugly Mugs”

The National Ugly Mugs project (https://uknswp.org/um/) offers people in the sex industry and organisations that work with sex workers a way to report crimes of violence without exposing sex workers to risk of arrest through direct contact with the police. NUM is widely trusted: over 2,300 individual sex workers have signed up to receive reports enabling them to identify potential predators operating in their area. Through the 350 local projects that are organisational members, NUM estimates its reach is approximately 10,000 individual sex workers. 

 

6. include sex workers and sex worker organisations

Many organisations that lobby for increased criminalisation of prostitution believe that prostitution is a form of violence and choose to ignore the voices of sex worker lead organisations. Campaigners for criminalisation do not speak for people in the sex industry. It is only when those most affected, we who experience the day to day reality of the sex industry, are included that it will be possible to create policies that reflect that reality and effectively tackle the problems associated with the sex industry.

 

7. base policy and practice on evidence and in reality

Policies that solve problems are based in reality and on evidence. However, the diversity of the sex industry is often obscured by organisations that promote a sensationalised and simplistic view of our lived experience – for example, data from a small sub-group (e.g., of street sex workers who began to sell sex as juveniles) may be generalised across the entire population to promote for repressive legislation.  So we ask policy makers to ensure that the information they use to make decisions is accurate and comprehensive.

 

8. be aware of public opinion

The clamorous voices that promote their personal belief that "prostitution is violence against women," do not reflect public opinion. Academically stringent surveys are rare, but responses to newspaper and television polls consistently show 70-85% in favour of recognising that sex workers have a right to exist and to work together without being criminalised (see below for references).

 

9. promote decriminalisation

While legalised regimes - for example, Nevada, Germany or the Netherlands - consistently fail, full decriminalisation, the “New Zealand model”, offers the most effective solutions to the problems associated with sex industry. Decriminalisation in New Zealand has not resulted in an expansion of the sex industry in general or of trafficking (The Impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety Practices of Sex Workers, Abel et al, 2007). Nor does decriminalisation of consensual adult sexual behaviour create some kind of “Wild West” free for all: it does not remove legislation against public order offences, noise, nuisance, crimes of violence, rape, extortion or coercion. Regulated by extensive Occupational Health & Safety guidance (A Guide to Occupational Health and Safety in the New Zealand Sex Industry, Department of Labour, 2004), the protection given by decriminalisation is demonstrated by two legal cases: In one, a brothel-based sex worker won a sexual harassment case against the brothel owner, being awarded damages against the man, who no longer owns the premises in which she worked. In another case, a client was successfully prosecuted for removing a condom during sex.  (http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/sex-worker-wins-harassment-case-5854800

 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4685513.stm )

 

Notes

UK law on prostitution, as in many countries, is complicated, ineffective in targeting exploitation or abuse and in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (articles 7, 20, 21 and 23).

 

Although it is legal for an individual to sell sex, indoors, almost every way of doing so in contact with a third party creates a risk of prosecution; on street, women fear the police due to criminalisation of both sex workers and our clients. UK law further ensures that victims of trafficking in the sex industry are entirely surrounded by people who risk arrest if they contact the authorities to report concerns that someone they know is being exploited.

 

The law prevents us from working together, deters us from calling the police (so we do not have full protection of the law and predators go unpunished) and decreases our access to needed services for fear of stigma, discrimination or arrest. Criminalisation is widely acknowledged as a driver for HIVand of violence : a review of 800 studies found widespread violence towards sex workers including “homicide; physical and sexual violence, from law enforcement… unlawful arrest and detention [and] discrimination in accessing health services.” (Human rights violations against sex workers: burden and effect on HIV, Decker et al, 2014)

 

An IPSOS Mori survey found mixed attitudes to prostitution in general but 59% agreeing that "prostitution is a perfectly reasonable choice that women should be free to make" (www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2308/Publics-views-on-prostitution.aspx). A survey of readers of The Independent revealed that 73% believed prostitution should not be illegal and 64% thought brothels should not be criminalised; 80% thought decriminalisation of brothels would increase safety (www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/after-woman-sells-virginity-for-780000-here-are-the-results-of-our-prostitution-survey-8226025.html). 72% of ITV’s This Morning audience voted for complete decriminalisation of prostitution and 71% told The Big Questions (BBC1) that prostitution should be accepted (screengrab available from IUSW). Most recently, a Daily Mirror article on criminalisation of clients asked “Should buying sex be a crime?and 85% responded “no”. (www.mirror.co.uk/news/ampp3d/sex-work-swedish-example-looked-4565433 5 November 2014)

 

About the IUSW

The International Union of Sex Workers, founded by a migrant sex worker in 1999, is a grassroots organisation that brings together people from all sectors of the sex industry in order to give voice to current, active sex workers. We have no funding and all work is by volunteers.

 

We are an inclusive organisation, open to everyone in the sex industry and adult entertainment – a very diverse group. The way someone makes a living is less important than whether they respect diversity of experience and support human, civil and labour rights for all within the sex industry.

 

Our network also includes allies who recognise that everyone in the sex industry is entitled to equal human rights and freedom from discrimination and supporters of evidence-based policy.

 

More important than our differences are the things we share: everyone in the sex industry lives with stigma. We all experience social exclusion. We all face vulnerability. Many of us are criminalised. So, working in solidarity, we resist attempts to divide us.

 

We campaign for sex workers’ inclusion in decisions which affect our lives and livelihoods and for policy and practice that protects the rights and safety of everyone in the sex industry, that, in order to effectively tackle abuse and exploitation, is based on evidence and in reality, rather than ideology, assumptions, stereotypes or individual cases.

 

Our principles and practice are born from our experience,
the experience of real people within the sex industry.

 

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I like this post. I'd quibble with the gender pay gap thing - if male sex workers could charge as much as female sex workers it would be an interesting world. That's a joke, just in case.

I especially like all the references.

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I also like the post, but am unsure about point 2. The implication is that no woman or man would choose to work in the industry if the "push" factors were removed.

If this is true then I endorse the point. I would also reconsider my behaviour

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I also like the post, but am unsure about point 2. The implication is that no woman or man would choose to work in the industry if the "push" factors were removed.

If this is true then I endorse the point. I would also reconsider my behaviour

Point 2 says, 'more options'

 

If pay and conditions, minumun wage were higher then, there would be those who don't like sexwork the opportunity to work else where.

 

Its also a good idea to push the 'push factor' idea.   Its a contrast to the end demand which helps no one.  End demand criminilises us, likley reduces the prices for sex workers because of lessening demand.  Makes sex workers have to work dangerously because we are going to be more anonymous.

 

Higher wages, more child care, more flexible working could take out those selling sex who don't want to, leaving those who find the job still desirable.  Removing push factors   would also likely reduce demand, as less sex workers, the prices would rise, those sex workers still working would not have to work so hard, and with more  cash taken per punt, number of punts would go down.

 

You know I am talking myself into supporting end demand and the criminilising of us clients, it would make it cheaper to punt!!!

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I also like the post, but am unsure about point 2. The implication is that no woman or man would choose to work in the industry if the "push" factors were removed.

If this is true then I endorse the point. I would also reconsider my behaviour

 

I don't think that is the implication. By referring to "push factors" the post is acknowledging that some women choose to become sex workers because of these factors and that some of these might not otherwise choose to work in this industry. It is not denying that many sex workers enjoy their chosen vocation as well as the income they receive from it.

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I've just had a look at the web site at http://ourconsentcounts.uk and I am very impressed.

 

You can enter your post code and get a list of the prospective parliamentary candidates for your local constituency. Against each candidate there is a field indicating their view on the sex industry. For example, in my constituency the current MP (standing for re-election) is flagged up thus:

 

"This candidate does NOT support sex worker rights. He served on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution. The APPG group has one aim, and that is to abolish prostitution.  Their proposal was to implement the sex buyer law (Swedish model) and criminilise the purchase of sex."

 

All the other candidates in my constituency are currently flagged up as "Position on sex work unknown".

 

So the more of us who use the services of this site to write (anonymously if we wish) to all the candidates in our constituency asking them to declare their views on sex work and sex workers rights to carry out their profession legally and safely, the more the web site will be able to flag up those candidates who are supportive or hostile to our cause.

 

This is important because, although in my view a future Labour government is more likely to introduce punitive anti-sex work legislation than any other party, views on this issue do not fall neatly along party lines. There are Tories and LibDems who would support anti-sex work legislation, despite coalition government policy to retain the status quo, and the Green's one MP, Caroline Lucas, would support the criminalisation of the punter despite her own party's official policy of decriminalisation of the industry along New Zealand lines.

 

So if fair treatment for punters and sex workers is important to you, do visit http://ourconsentcounts.uk and use the service there to contact all the candidates in your constituency for their views, so we can all make a more informed judgement on who to vote for in May rather than adopting an overly simple broad brush party line approach.

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The candidate for the party I wish to be elected hasn't got much of a realistic chance, if however he does get in I will go speak to him myself.

Edited by Strawberry
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The candidate for the party I wish to be elected hasn't got much of a realistic chance, if however he does get in I will go speak to him myself.

But whoever gets in, should represent you, not just the people that voted for him or her. That's the point of parliamentary democracy, as opposed to other forms.

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It would be good that all likely prospective candidates were informed of our opinions, especially if they are likely to support unsafe laws, and are likely to be elected.  Likewise those who are supportive need to know they are right in their choice.

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Done! Sent a shortened and slightly personalised version of the template letter designed for "general allies".

 

It is good that the letters can be automatically copied to top Labour people, if they are the party most likely to legislate against sex work. Ironically the one MP who from what I can tell has done the most to publically support sex workers campaigns is a Labour MP, John McDonnell. Also, this letter writing campaign originates with the sex workers branch of the GMB union, so there is some scope for raising the issue via trade union branches. One of my local candidates proudly mentions she is a GMB member, so will be interesting to see her response (if any).

 

I'd urge everyone here to support this, it only takes a minute and if we don't, who will?

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