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I would like to introduce a new writer to harlots. Morven has been a fan of Harlots for some time and has written this interesting piece questioning the impartiality of government research and of those who are awarded the tender to do that research. It is from an historic perspective very obvious how governments have validated policies by the subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) manipulation of information and of the evidence to support that information.
Through out the world we have seen how much government (thats public money) is awarded to rescue organisations. The greater subsequent credos later given to that research gathered by groups with a very clear anti sex work agenda sort of leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
So again part of our job as activists is to inform the public of this bias and to demand that if public monies and public support is being given to research that the research carried out is unbiased.
As a fan of the TV series ‘Yes Minister’ I am often surprised by how this 20 odd year-old programme still remains true to life.
Take a look at this exchange between Jim Hacker and Bernard Woolley regarding a planning inquiry;
Jim Hacker: “I thought these planning inspectors were supposed to be impartial?”
Bernard Woolley: “Oh really, Minister. So they are, railway trains are impartial too, but if you lay down the lines for them that’s the way they go.”
So, what has this got to with anything?
While looking at the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) website regarding the ongoing Inquiry by Baroness Kennedy I came across this on the latest news page;
Tender for research: experiences of people trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation in Scotland
The Commission is inviting interested parties to tender for a research study to investigate the experiences of people trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation in Scotland. If you are interested in tendering for this research, please see full details of this tender in our procurement section. Deadline for submissions: 14 September 2010.
Invitation to quote: draft, analyse, report for Human Trafficking Inquiry in Scotland
As part of its Inquiry into human trafficking in Scotland the Commission invites quotes from parties to undertake evidence gathering work with public authorities that have some responsibility for preventing or combating human trafficking in Scotland. If interested please consult the invitation to quote for this evidence gathering in our procurement section. Deadline for quotations: 6 September 2010.
This got me to wondering a few things;
Who has been awarded the contracts?
Who was asked to bid and who was aware of the opportunities?
Are the people who have been successful going to be providing unbiased information, or could it be that the research will be steered in a particular direction?
Two answer the first two questions I sent a couple of Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests to the EHRC and received some answers.
The research study has been awarded to Professor Roger Matthews and Dr Helen Easton of the Crime Reduction and Community Safety Research Group based at the London South Bank University, while the other tender went to Sandhya Drew, Barrister, Tooks Chambers
A follow up FOI request elicited this information about the bidders and deliverables for the research tender;
The bidders were;
London South Bank University
Collaboration between Eaves Housing and National Centre for Social Research
Women’s Resource Centre
The deliverables are to “produce a research report that sets out experiences of those that have been trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation in Scotland, as well as an analysis of the impact of relevant agencies, policies and practises on victims of sex trafficking”.
I was also told that the tender was advertised on the WHRC website and “an email was sent to academics drawing their attention to the advertisement”
Now, as a layperson, and sometime cynic, this last sentence gives me cause for concern as it seems to suggest that the EHRC holds some form of list of academics that they use, and so it begs the questions such as to who is on this list? , how it is maintained?, and is it properly representative of the academic community?
However, my overriding concern, regards the impartiality of the research. After all, the Inquiry can only deliberate and pronounce based on the information it has, and it seems in this case, that third parties will provide a substantial amount of this data.
How impartial will Roger Matthews and Helen Easton be? Well, having come across this piece in the Guardian website;