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I hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and that we are all looking forward to a prosperous new year.
For sex workers 2014 has been a mixed bag. Here in the UK (excluding Scotland and Northern Ireland who have devolved government) sex workers uniting together managed to defeat amendments proposed to the governments modern day slavery bill which would have criminalised our clients. In Canada however sex workers suffered a major set back. After a landmark court ruling that struck down existing anti sex work laws, Canadian sex workers had hoped that their government would, inspired by the supreme court ruling and the mountain of evidence presented by sex workers, move toward complete decriminalisation. Sadly sex workers were to be brutally disappointed. Instead of decriminalisation their government created Bill C-36, which inspired by what has become known as the Swedish model, criminalised the clients of sex workers and severely restricted where sex workers could legally work or advertise.
C-36 is an especially vicious piece of anti sex work legislation that Canadian sex workers hope will eventually, like the old laws, be struck down by the Canadian supreme court. Taking the government to court however takes time and is costly and in the meantime Canadian sex workers will have to endure and survive in a hostile climate.
Closer to home we had bad news from Northern Ireland when the Northern Ireland Assembly voted, despite academic evidence, despite the evidence given by sex workers and even against the advice of their own justice minister, to criminalise the clients of sex workers. In Northern Ireland religion and bigoted morality rode roughshod over the rights of sex workers who’s rights and indeed lives were considered expendable.
The Northern Irish and Canadian anti sex work legislation identifies a worrying trend. Evidence and the voices of sex workers have been continually ignored by politicians. The so called Swedish Model has gained ground despite being exposed as being a failure in that it has not reduced sex work but has increased the danger for sex workers. Politicians have stubbornly refused to acknowledge evidence that criminalising sex work just does not work. Instead politicians have preferred to continue to criminalise and marginalise sex workers hoping that this will somehow make sex work disappear. As a sex worker activist it often feels like you are beating your head against a concrete wall of ignorance when trying to speak to politicians about the reality of sex work that is so very different from their prejudiced misrepresentation.
For British sex workers 2015 especially is going to be a pivotal year. Who wins, or more likely who is able to form a new coalition government in May 2015, will determine the fate of British sex workers. The biggest fear for UK sex workers is a Labour victory. As a party Labour best represents statist feminism at its most pernicious. The labour party are the party most likely to ride roughshod over evidence and implement the Swedish model upon UK sex workers.
The alternative is a possible Tory victory. The British Tory party are a mixture of libertarians and moralists. Libertarians are mostly on the side of sex workers while the moralist are not. The Tory moralists however are more likely to leave things as they are rather than adopt the Swedish model or do the right thing and decriminalise sex work.
The two UK parties most favourable to sex work are the Greens and the liberal Democrats. Sadly neither are likely to form a government and increasingly unlikely to form part of a coalition. Likely coalition partners would seem more likely to be the Scottish Nationalist Party in league with Labour. The SNP are not sex worker friendly. Or possibly UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) in coalition with the Tories and the Ulster Unionists. The Ulster Unionists are bigoted moralists of the worst kind while UKIP will probably support a continuance of existing sex work legislation.
It is therefore unlikely that UK sex workers will have a government who will support decriminalisation as stated policy and quite possibly we will have a government, if Labour win, who will favour further criminalisation and the Swedish model.
So what do UK sex workers do. We continue to fight hard to get our voices heard and we continue to gather evidence and present it to the media and to politicians. We work with friendly politicians and we try and get our voices heard within every political party. We work with the IUSW (International Union of Sex Workers) to build alliances within the trade union movement through our branch within the GMB, while libertarians like myself do what we can within the Tory party to make sure that our voice is heard and understood. We fight prejudice and ignorance and we do whatever we can to have our lives presented positively by the media. Its not going to be easy, but then it has never been easy for sex workers, yet we survive and we prosper and we are going no where.
Finally on a more positive note. Harlots now has a new editor who is relaunching Harlots Parlour in January. I am very much going to take a back seat in 2015 although I will still be around helping in the back ground, insuring that the principles that were the foundation of Harlots remain uncorrupted. Harlots Parlour represents all sex workers and rejects the politicisation of sex work which sadly corrupts so much of the sex worker rights movement. Yes we are biased toward a libertarian view of sex work, but we do not insist upon sex workers being caricatured as either single mothers forced into sex work through poverty or as jet setting happy hookers. Sex workers are a diverse group of individuals and we do not easily fit any convenient profile to please any political misrepresentation of who and what we are.
I am also delighted to announce that Harlots is now a collective. We are actively looking for sex workers and supporters to get involved. We have members in the UK and the USA and Australia. We want to be truly international and to represent independently minded sex workers world wide. Olive, our new editor, is actively recruiting writers for Harlots. Harlots Collective is about more that just activism, it is about reflecting our community, our unique culture and history. If you would like to get involved or can help and support us in any way please contact olive at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is really my last post as editor. So thank you for all your support over the years and lets build on the past and look to the future with a Collective of sex workers and supporters that is international. Lets support Olive our new editor and I wish her every success and Goddess blessings. I am sure she will be fabulous.
Brightest blessings…Douglas XX