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Carnival

Observer columnist calls for legislation to crinminalise sex worker clients

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In her weekly Observer column yesterday, Catherine Bennett asserts that the Nordic model "has proved hugely beneficial for women". Some extracts from her article:

If Britain followed Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada – and potentially, France – in adopting a sex-buyer law, the trade could also be reduced off-street, where prostitution remains dangerous and exploitative or, as an all-party parliamentary group on prostitution put it in 2014, a “form of violence against women and girls”.

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.

“I find it awful, this is not work, you don’t set out to be in prostitution”, says a Swedish psychologist Lisen Lindström, whom the commission met in Stockholm..... And if it’s the career prostitutes’ right to work, unhindered by a sex buyer law? “What kind of union would fight for the right to be raped? If being a psychologist meant that I should be beaten up or raped sometimes, what would my union say about that?”

To legalise prostitution, as Sweden’s chancellor of justice, Anna Skarhed, also pointed out, is to normalise sexual discrimination and violence against women.

A forceful lobby maintains that the sex buyer law represents a “whorephobic” attack on women’s self-determination, moreover one infinitely more threatening to their wellbeing, you gather, than the kindly traffickers – who make an annual £130m in the UK.

As with any big, ethically blighted industry, PRs for prostitution will respond with renewed attacks on its opponents, to add to despairing assurances, as in Leeds, of futility: the trade is “as old as time”. So, of course, was slavery.

In the 24 hours since her article appeared, there have been a huge 650 comments and the commenting facility on this article has now been closed. I didn't have the stamina to wade through them all, but its clear that a lot of passion has been expended on both sides of the argument. I looked at the first few comments and enjoyed these two: 

1) Not this again. Trafficking and coercion are already, quite rightly, illegal. The relevant laws should be enforced. And while we're at it, how about the much larger numbers of traffickers involved in agriculture, construction, garment making and catering? Should we help them by prosecuting restaurant customers, house dwellers etc etc. Or should we try and target the actual criminals - instead of inventing new categories of crime for no other reason than it's easy to catch people at it.

2) According to a member of the last government “The Sexual Offences Act 2003 criminalised the trafficking into, within, and out of, the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

“Secondly, the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 criminalised trafficking into, within, and out of, the UK for all other forms of exploitation. This legislation was also sufficiently wide for prosecutors to prosecute traffickers for a wide range of exploitative conduct.

“Finally, in April 2010 a standalone offence was introduced under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to criminalise those who hold another person in slavery or servitude or require them to perform forced or compulsory labour."

And yet we still have politicians and the well meaning but ill-informed Ms Bennett telling us that more and more innovative laws are required. That approach doesn't seem to be working.

It seems to me that Catherine Bennett's article (which appeared in the print edition of the Observer as well as online) was so one-sided that they ought to offer someone like Laura Lee the opportunity to put the opposite point of view. But somehow I doubt they will.

 

 

 

 

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The main purpose of a newspaper article is not to educate or inform but to sell papers. Ms Bennett has clearly suceeded in this, going by the number of people that commented.

I have said this before, but does anyone have any evidence that making the purchase of sex illegal actually reduces demand and reduces trafficking in the sex trade? A few years ago I read a report on a very small study in Stockholm (I don't have the report reference) which showed that the number of street girls in one area of Stockholm reduced following the introduction of their law, but the report failed to mention that this was the time when sex workers were starting to advertise on line or that these girls may have simply moved to a different (perhaps more isolated) area.

Do we have anyone on here who lives in Sweden, and speaks Swedish, as I think this is an area where some serious research is needed.

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The Observer, The Guardian and The Irish Times which are always thought of as papers read by Intellectuals, and the latter is the paper of record in Ireland, one day will have a sex worker hating article and the next day, just as easily have an anti criminalization article!

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On 22/02/2016 at 0:22 PM, Carnival said:
It seems to me that Catherine Bennett's article (which appeared in the print edition of the Observer as well as online) was so one-sided that they ought to offer someone like Laura Lee the opportunity to put the opposite point of view. But somehow I doubt they will.
 

Well the Observer didn't publish any other view on Sunday but an open letter has been published by National Ugly Mugs and signed by: 

Alex Feis-Bryce, National Ugly Mugs

Laura Watson, English Collective of Prostitutes

International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE)

Sex Worker Open University

Scot-PEP

Umbrella Lane Sex Work Support Services, Scotland

Dr Mary Laing, Northumbria University

Rosie Campbell OBE, University of Leeds

Luca Stevenson, Coordinator ICRSE

Professor Jane Scoular, University of Strathclyde

Professor Phil Hubbard, University of Kent

Professor Maggie O'Neill, University of Durham

Professor Teela Sanders, University of Leeds

Raven R. Bowen, University of Durham

Laura Graham, University of Durham

Michelle Stoops, Safe Place Merseyside

Prof Nick Mai, Kingston University

Dr Kate Brown, University of York

Scarlett Redman, University of Leeds

Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Birkbeck, University of London

Assoc. Prof. Paul J. Maginn, University of Western Australia

Emily Cooper, Northumbria University

Debbie Jones, Swansea University

Dr Sarah Kingston, Lancaster University

Dr Nicola Smith, University of Birmingham

Pippa Grenfell, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Gaynor Trueman, Specialist ISVA, Arch North East

Dr Anna Carline, University of Leicester

Dr Mark McCormack, Durham University

Dr Natalie Hammond, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Tracey Sagar, Swansea University

Professor Clarissa Smith, University of Sunderland

Dr Graham Ellison, Queen’s University, Belfast

Stewart Cunningham, University of Strathclyde

Rachel Stuart, University of Kent

Dr Billie Lister, Leeds Beckett University

 

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Excellent! And a resoundingly reputable list of signatories. With luck that will counteract the article, at least with readers who think.

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1 minute ago, pabulum said:

Excellent! And a resoundingly reputable list of signatories. With luck that will counteract the article, at least with readers who think.

Not sure how many Observer readers will see it. It hasn't been published in the Observer, at least not yet.  

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*sighs*

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