Gildas

There isn

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I don't know about the rest of you, but I have felt pretty disempowered in the face of the Home Secretary's proposed changes to the prostitution laws. I don't like aspects of them, but what can I do? The usual way I might oppose a parliamentary bill would be to join a pressure group, or even lobby parliament in an organised march. But, given the nature of punting, I can hardly do that, can I? Similarly, the women who are voluntary service providers, who make their living out of selling sex, and who will also be victims of this law, are subject to the same constraints: do they really want to be seen on television, by friends and family, as prostitutes and escorts opposing this proposed law? And who among us is going to stick his or her head above the parapet and promote him/herself as the leader of such a movement of opposition? Yet, I think all is not lost. We are all pretty disempowered, easy targets in fact (as Smith must know very well), but I think there are things we can do. Politicians are interested in votes. If the labour party could be convinced this is a vote loser, they may think again. If the Tories or the Liberal Democrats thought this was a vote winner, they would oppose more firmly. Also, I heard the interview that Smith gave on the Radio 4 Today programme on the morning of her initial announcement of her proposals. She was, very much to my surprise and delight, grilled alive by the interviewer, and was eventually forced, as her only defence of her proposals, into a mindless repetition of the mantra:

"Trafficked women don't have a choice, men do".

By this, she showed herself to be hopelessly vulnerable. She cannot, herself, justify her own proposals without resorting to this emotive rubbish. From this, it was very clear to anyone listening that she viewed her proposals as the first step along the road to banning paid-for sex completely, because her current proposals are not in themselves justifiable or helpful: they can only be understood as the first step of a wider moral crusade. This means that we, punters and service providers alike, must do everything we can to fight her. She is an old-fashioned feminist, who is letting her moralising feminist nonsense cloud her judgement: her mind is so befuddled by her out-moded feminist views, that she is proposing to interfere in the nation's civil liberties, and, more to the point, to stick her nose into other women's right to elect to sell sex. I therefore believe she is open to attack. Given all this, we must fight back, and here are some ideas about how we can do it.

1. Write to our MP, pointing out that the new law will have the following effects:

*It will create a legal position whereby paying for sex is sometimes lawful, sometimes unlawful, and under which no man can be certain of the legal status of his act. It isn't compatible with a free society to have a law where one can commit a crime without knowing one is committing it, and where one has taken every reasonable precaution to avoid the commission thereof. This is the strict liability issue.

*By criminalising prostitutes' customers, enslaved women will be harder to find, because customers won't give information to the police for fear of prosecution

*While the new law may put off men who sleep with trafficked women, it will also curtail demand for perfectly legal sexual services, because men won't know where they stand. Women making a living out of offering such services will hence be affected. This is an interference in the rights of such women to pursue their chosen way of making their living, and is anti-feminist. Another way must be found of dealing with the trafficking issue: such as spending money on it. Why did the government close the Met's anti-trafficking unit last year, leading to a 40% reduction in convictions for trafficking?

2. Donate money either to the international Union of Sex Workers or to the English Collective of Prostitutes, or both. These are, as far as I can see, the only bodies opposing this law and who are prepared to stick their necks out to do so. We can't do what they are doing, but we can help them with money.

3. If you voted labour at the last election, and if this issue is sufficiently important to you to make you change your vote at the next election, write to the agent of your local labour party to tell him/her of your decision, and why you are taking it. This will make the labour party realise that they are losing votes because of Smith's law.

4. If you intend to change your voting habits because of this issue, write to your Tory or Liberal Democrat party's local agent to tell him/her that, because of Smith's law, you will (depending on whom you will vote for) be voting for them rather than Labour at the next election. This will show them that there are votes in opposing Smith's law.

5. If you are a service provider, write to Smith herself. Tell her, bluntly and clearly, that she is ruining your perfectly legal trade, and that she has, as one woman to another, no business interfering in, and moralising on, how women choose to earn their living. Tell her to get out of your hair, and to stop harassing independent-minded women who want to make their own choices about how they live their lives. Express your anger to her about what she is doing to you. It probably won't do any good, but it may make you feel better, and may even make her 'think twice'. It's worth a go.

6. If you see an MP who appears to be on our side, such as Joe McDonnell (as pointed out by Elrond on other threads), write to him thanking him for his support.

Perhaps we could have some template letters for people to use. Perhaps the moderators would allow such templates to be sticky threads, so that they can be seen by anyone wanting to use them. I am happy to draft such letters and post them.

I'll finish by an interesting parallel. On Friday's Today programme, on Radio 4, there was an item about certain stores selling clothes that are made by people in Bangladesh who get paid 7p per hour. The stores denied it, but that's beside the point. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this is true. Why not bring in a law that states that, if you buy a shirt or a blouse that was made by someone being paid 7p per hour or less, you will be prosecuted for exploitation. The offence will be one of strict liability: not knowing that the shirt or blouse was made so cheaply, and saying that you tried to avoid being a party to such exploitation by buying in a decent store, will be no defence; if you bought the shirt or the blouse, and if it can be proved that the person who made it was paid 7p per hour or less to do so, then you will get a criminal record. This is, of course, clearly inimical to the values of a free society: just as Smith's law is. Please make this point to your MP, and to anyone else who will listen.

Feel empowered to fight back. Come on, boys and girls: what are you waiting for? Get tapping away on that keyboard, and dip your hands into your pockets!

Gildas

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his is an interference in the rights of such women to pursue their chosen way of making their living, and is anti-feminist. Another way must be found of dealing with the trafficking issue: such as spending money on it. Why did the government close the Met's anti-trafficking unit last year, leading to a 40% reduction in convictions for trafficking?

2. Donate money either to the international Union of Sex Workers or to the English Collective of Prostitutes, or both. These are, as far as I can see, the only bodies opposing this law and who are prepared to stick their necks out to do so. We can't do what they are doing, but we can help them with money.

Gildas

I believe Labour have backtracked on the closure of the Mets anti-trafficking unit.

If you are a sex worker, I would urge you to join the IUSW/GMB. It can be done discreetly using your working name and. I believe you can also do it through your agency if they are supportive.

Donations are also required, and these should go directly to the IUSW.

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Thank you for a most useful thread. I e.mailed my M.P. a couple of weeks ago, (S.D.P.), to express my own displeasure at this proposed new legislation, he did reply, and said that while he was opposed to the sex trade, because of his christian beliefs, he will oppose the legislation as he can see that it would be counterproductive, i.e. drive the criminals further underground.

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This will become law. This will be Labours 'Poll Tax' and some guys like me will break the law if need be. I am single so it won't realy affect me. The point that everybody seems to miss is this government is not trying to ban paid sex. This government is trying to moralise and control our behaviour because they have won a third term and have a hopeless opposition party.

After all why are they so keen on promoting religious values?

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i doubt it will become law as it stands,i'm sure the house of lords will want the law clarified

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This will become law. This will be Labours 'Poll Tax' and some guys like me will break the law if need be. I am single so it won't realy affect me. The point that everybody seems to miss is this government is not trying to ban paid sex. This government is trying to moralise and control our behaviour because they have won a third term and have a hopeless opposition party.

After all why are they so keen on promoting religious values?

As much as I don't want to see the law passed as it stands, to say this is Labour's Poll Tax is pushing it. If anything, the Iraq war was Labour's Poll Tax and they survived that.

Smith and Harman do want to ban paid sex. They've just realised that at this point in time they don't have public opinion on their side, but I reckon that they'll try again once they have a few high profile prosecutions under their belt...

i doubt it will become law as it stands,i'm sure the house of lords will want the law clarified

The Lords may want it 'clarified' (whatever that means), but ultimately there isn't much they can do.

Whatever, if they do manage to sink or otherwise emasculate it, I'm sure it will end up in their next manifesto and so will get pushed through under the Parliament Act if Labour win the next election, which I still think is quite likely.

B

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As much as I don't want to see the law passed as it stands, to say this is Labour's Poll Tax is pushing it. If anything, the Iraq war was Labour's Poll Tax and they survived that.

Smith and Harman do want to ban paid sex. They've just realised that at this point in time they don't have public opinion on their side, but I reckon that they'll try again once they have a few high profile prosecutions under their belt...

The Lords may want it 'clarified' (whatever that means), but ultimately there isn't much they can do.

Whatever, if they do manage to sink or otherwise emasculate it, I'm sure it will end up in their next manifesto and so will get pushed through under the Parliament Act if Labour win the next election, which I still think is quite likely.

B

Not much they can do??? They torpedoed the 42 day detention bill. That's gone. Defeated by such a margin that the govt have admitted it'll never pass. That bill was pretty high up the govt's list of things to do, much higher than this is. The Lords can do a hell of a lot. Strict liability will never pass. Without it the law is largely unenforceable. Unenforceable laws will struggle to pass too.

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Not much they can do??? They torpedoed the 42 day detention bill. That's gone. Defeated by such a margin that the govt have admitted it'll never pass. That bill was pretty high up the govt's list of things to do, much higher than this is. The Lords can do a hell of a lot. Strict liability will never pass. Without it the law is largely unenforceable. Unenforceable laws will struggle to pass too.

You may well be right. Let us hope you are. But it's hard to predict what the Lords will do. My own experience is that people think the sex industry consists of dirty old men sleeping with very young girls, and that the said girls wish they could be anywhere other than where they are. We know this isn't true, but their lordships may well not want to associate themselves with the defence of the industry, given the perception the public have of it. They may hence be willing to let strict liability through, even though it is such an abuse of power. But I do agree that, if they oppose it, it will probably fall. So this is why I am advocating writing all these letters, etc. I wonder if Elrond knows how we can donate to the IUSW anonymously. If not, I'll give them a ring and post.

Gildas

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