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In the dying throws of 2010 we saw the conviction of Stephen Griffiths for the murder of three prostitutes from Bradford, Suzanne Blamires, 36, Shelley Armitage, 31, and 43-year-old Susan Rushworth. The IUSW held a vigil in Bradford outside the court house on the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, days before his conviction. It seems as a country we had not learned how to treat sex work and sex workers after the Ipswich murders. Seemingly by the statements from the Bradford police at the time of the convictions they still had not learnt.
Those who refuse to engage willingly with the specialist services available, are tackled by the Vice Team who utilise the laws available to their full extent to ensure their engagement.
In the last month alone, our operations have seen 40 men arrested for kerb crawling offences in the city centre and we will continue to target those who purchase the services of women.
There though were some rays of hope on the horizon and 2011 has seen some progress to protect sex workers from violence. A ground breaking project involving Armistead a Liverpool outreach organisation, and the local police, started in 2006 had seen the Merseyside Police agree a policy that all crimes against sex workers be treated as hate crime. Armistead was able to secure government funding for an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) located within the project. With this an ugly mugs scheme achieved many convictions of rapists. As 2010 was leaving us, rumours started to appear that a comprehensive ugly mugs scheme might be funded by the Government and rolled out through the whole country. Shelly Stoops talks about her work here. We also heard the Conservative Government might start listening to sex workers and their views.
The police got into the act as well, and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) started to make noises about the enforceability of the existing sex work laws, and how they supported the Liverpool initiative and the Nationwide ugly mugs scheme. Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne felt a review of prostitution law would not come amiss.
A consultation started involving interested parties from various organisations, UKNSWP, ACPO, IUSW, Eaves, the Government and many other organisations into recommendations into harm reduction. The UKNWSP issued a press release in February, Preventing Violence, Protecting Sex Workers. Various submissions were made to the home office, including personal submissions from sex workers.
In November the home office releasednew guidelines on how to treat prostitution and ACPO also came out with their own guidelines on policing prostitution. The guidelines did not make great reading, but the text announcing the Guide Lines from Simon Byrne were a revelation, he was asking for a review of prostitution and that the New Zealand model should be looked at.
To mark the International Day to End Violence against Sexworkers, the UK Government announced funding for an National Ugly Mugs scheme to be to be run by the UK Network of Sex Work Projects and launched in spring 2012.
It is a pity not all police forces were listening to ACPO. The Surrey police continued in their prosecution of Hannah Morris. Hannah who operated discrete flats in Surrey, with the knowledge of the police force. She always moved her flats regularly, usually after the police suggested a move, and her neighbours did not know what went on. One day the flat was attacked by two men who poured petrol through the flat and threatened to burn the place down. She, her partner and the maid were prosecuted by the police for brothel keeping and money laundering. The perpetrators of the crime were never even interviewed by the police despite their identity being known
Another case where the police and CPS were not following prosecution guide lines was in the case of Sheila Farmer who was being persecuted for managing a flat which she shared with other similarly aged sex workers. After many delays (18 months) Sheila Farmer went to court in January where the case was dropped for the lack of evidence. Her article in the Guardian after the case.
Coincidentally in the same week Michael Peacock was being prosecuted for the distribution of obscene DVDs under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. These contained anal fisting, urination and various other sex acts which the police and prosecution service considered obscene. The jury did not agree, and Michael was acquitted on all charges unanimously. I don’t suppose Jacqui Smith is best pleased, she took to the airwaves with a program looking into porn.
Some news stories came back to haunt the journalists, and the Labour Government who fed on them, the story of the buying a 14 year old for prostitution.
The special report by award winning journalist Chris Rogers also ran on ITV’s News at 10 and on CNN in 2008, as well as in the Daily Mail Night and Day magazine – detailing how they had managed to buy a 14-year-old from sex slave traders at a petrol station in Iasi, a town in north eastern Romania.
She actually was 25 years, old and a known Romanian sex worker Monica Ghinga. I am not sure why this has hit the news, this piece of information was available back in 2008 on the Guardian Website of all places. Unfortunately this program set the scene for the legislative changes brought in by the Labour Government.
The legacy of the Labour Government was to bring in a law that criminalised clients who visited sex workers who were coerced. The law is a year old, and 43 men have been convicted. We don’t know if these were court appearances or cautions which are all to easy for police officers to coerce a suspect to accept.
POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act), the law allows the courts to go after the money the villains made. This law was created to go after the serious villians of crime is being brothel keepers, often women who are also working. It is profitable for police, brothels are easy to find, and take little to prosecute and the police get to keep 25% of the proceeds. (50% found on the premises) This owner, a man fell foul of the law, and despite running his brothel with the tacit agreement of the police, was raided and closed down. The judge awarded £750,000 to be recouped from John Williams Burrows. Another brothel keep was ordered to pay 4.2 million from a sting of brothels he owned. He appealed and this was reduced to £873,010 on a technicality,
Canada and the USA Argentina
In 2010 Canadian prostitutes brought a successful case against the the Ottawa Government. The judgement was the laws made sex workers unsafe, and that laws banning brothels etc had to be removed. The Ottawa state is to appeal this and the case has been adjourned several times. The discussions continue. It is now 2012 and we are still waiting the result.
There were other cases of sex workers forcing changes in the Government policy. In the US a human rights question was raised. The statement from the U.S. state department should allow sex workers access to to STD testing without fear of arrest. Some how I can’t see this happening for a country that uses possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution, and in some states puts sex workers on the sex offenders list,
We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution, as this recommendation suggests.
A number of campaigns in the US were progressing well, and some had achieved success. Trafficked prostitutes could now have the slate wiped clean and their prostitution offences removed from their record allowing them to get a job. Carrying condoms in NYC can be used as evidence of prostitution, this was being actively campaigned against.
Sex workers in Argentina are looking to unionise.
Still porn stars, and sex workers get sacked from their jobs, when their past or even current life appears.
In June around the world, slut walk campaigns started, this started as a protest against the comments of a Canadian police officer told a class of students they should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be raped. The reaction was immediate and SlutWalks have been organised around the world and in towns and cities throughout the UK. SlutWalks are also pro sex workers rights, and the ECP used the platform to campaign for Sheila Farmer. Radical feminists did try an hijack the movement.
In August at the International AIDS conference, Sex workers were attacked by police. It seems to be part of the Korean governments brutal crack down on sex workers human rights since sex work was criminalised.
With the recession we started to here the age old story of students funding their education as strippers and sex workers. In December the National Union of Students went to press about this, and the BBC featured the story over a week with a number of interviews looking at prostitution and students. The Lovely Laura Lee, IUSW activist was interviewed.
In April The Daily Sport went into liquidation, removing another print avenue for escort advertising which Harriet Harmen had started a couple of years before. The Sport came back as the Sunday Sport.
Trafficking and Johns
Still the discredited figures on the number of sex workers trafficked, or the number of prostitutes who start work as early teens are quoted by those who feel they have to save sex workers from themselves. Every now and again new research and new opinion comes up to refute these claims. An interesting commentary on trafficking numbers hysteria written by Chris Monfort can be found here.
Eaves who have done good work with trafficking victims, but alas were politically motivated in stopping all prostitution lost their Government sponsorship. The money being transferred to the Salvation Army. Despite being a religious organisation, they do appear to provide a more non judgemental service. Those activists who have contacted them have found them more personable than Eaves.
Mz Farley continues with her brand of research and campaigning which was aired on Newsweek.
Where are the victims, the credibility gap in human trafficking research.
At the end of October, Nick Mai finished his research on migrant sex workers in London. The answer unsurprisingly was that a very vast majority of migrant sex workers are here voluntarily.
Google gives money to many causes, and in December gave money to many organisation working to fight trafficking. Their selection of organisation contained three who should not have received their money. These three are sex work unfriendly. Organizations such as International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, and Not for Sale use the banner of “fighting sex trafficking” as a weapon to push broader religious and moral agendas about “correct” sex behavior. These types of Western NGOs rely on junk science and fake “statistics,” and they are excellent at emotional propaganda which bizarrely argues that they are saving helpless children from sex slavery by arresting adult sex workers. These groups commonly seek to silence our concerns by pointing out that we have a financial stake in the matter. We do. But that stake pales in comparison to the amount of money that gets raked in every year by those spreading panic that lumps all types of sex work in with forced sex trafficking. The real profit is not in sex work, but in maligning us to a public that doesn’t know any better.
Now armed with a new law, councils have started to shut pole dancing and lap dancing clubs. The first to try was Hackney who wanted a nil policy, i.e. no lap dancing clubs in the borough. They polled their electorate and received an overwhelming no to the proposal. They relented a little an allowed existing clubs to stay open, so long as they abided by strict rules. It always seems our rulers know better than us. Even the local vicar hit out at the councils plan. The antis brought in misguided statistics on rape to bolster their case, Belle Du Jour analysed these statistics, and showed the exact opposite and that rape statistics were actually lower after the clubs opened.
Other boroughs of London are are trying what Hackney has done, and Tower Hamlets wants to close all its clubs. They have run a poll, but not published any results. It has been reported they have brought in data forensics to look at the results. The results must obviously not support their case. Islington wants to stop new clubs opening, while Camden has proposed tougher licensing requirements for new clubs. This story will run for the rest of the year,
A number of sex worker advertising campaigns hit the streets. SWAAY- Sex Work Activists and You went to place a bill board in Hollywood. Simple and discrete with the message defining a sex worker, and differentiating between sex work and trafficking. Could SWAYY find any advertising agency to run the bill board. No, eventually it was run, but on a mobile advertising board.
The Irish sex worker rights organisation, Turn off the Blue Light (TOBL), was to advertise using Google ad-words, but had their ad-words dropped. They had to take their case to Google, and Google eventually relented.
In San Francisco the St James Infirmary ran an advertising campaign, Some one you know is a sex worker. They were able to places these advertisements on the local buses of SanFrancisco.
Sweden and the Swedish Solution
France looks like joining Sweden with new legislation to ban the purchase of sexual services.
Scotland looked headed down the same path with Trish Godmans private members bill to outlaw prostitution, advertising and management. She had tried to bring this in as an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill 2010 with the full support of the Scottish Labour Party. This was rejected, so she tried again with her own bill. This was never going to pass as Parliament was due to dissolve. The intention was to pick this up in the new parliament. Labour, were trounced at the polls with major Labour MSPs losing their seat, and unknown Labour MSPs making into parliament through the secondary voting system. At the moment all appears to have gone quiet.
The Kennedy report on human trafficking for Scotland was published in December, and the Lovely Laura Lee has written about it. It does not look at criminalising prostitution, it looks at what can be done to aid trafficked persons. Laura does though bring up the practice of Grampian police (Aberdeen) of photographing sex workers and their clients and keeping these on file.
Though Scotland is quiet at present, the Republic of Ireland sex workers have their own battles and in February asked for help. They are running head long down the path to the Swedish solution. There is a fierce campaign in progress being run by Turn off the Blue Light and the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland.
There are some signs that sex worker rights could get better in the UK, but we have to be mindful that there are strong forces, and a family centred Government in charge who won’t look are sex work as a family friendly business. Having said that, they have been far more listening than Labour.
I worry about strip clubs in London, especially the Labour controlled councils.
I worry about the Swedish law, and the way some countries, France, Ireland and I hear even Denmark would like to implement. There also seems to be a backward movement in New South Wales, Sydney where decriminalisation is looking to turn into legalisation.