delve a little deeper....
The following blog is about the experiences a friend of mine had when she was raped by a client. I have dithered about whether to post this in what is essentially a blog to promote myself and on a site where I want people to learn about me and my services. However, if you read me often enough you'll know that I do wander into other realms occasionally and this I think is important and what has happened is important to me and other sex workers.
Those of you who do not want to read about rape and sexual assault should stop now, although there won't be anything too graphic. I think this is what is known as a Trigger Warning.
I have asked my friend if I can do this and she is happy for me to so. I am going to refer to her as G. Any details which are hazy are ether because of the gaps in my own knowledge or to protect her identity
G had been working as an escort for a few years. She is in her early 30's and studying part time along with escorting and working on adult phone lines. She had decided a few months previously to stop offering full penetrative sex for various personal reasons. It was going well for her and she had retained several of her old clients.
One evening last year she saw a client she had not met before. He was nice enough on the phone and even when he arrived she was not suspicious of him or wary. He did however leave her flat after he had arrived to say he needed to get some cash and be back. Even then she wasn't concerned and thought either he will be back in a minute or he has changed his mind and made an excuse to leave and not come back. It happens.
When he came back he pulled a knife out on her, threatened her and proceeded to orally, vaginally and anally rape her. She was too terrified to struggle because he had a knife to her throat and was much stronger than her. When he left he stole her laptop.
After he left she rang me. I kicked into practical mode and told her to get off the phone and call the police and her mother (who lives locally to her, I was over an hour away).
From the 999 operator who took her call and stayed on the line whilst the police arrive to all the police officers she came in contact with she was treated kindly and with respect.
According to An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales by Ministry of Justice, The Home Office & the Office for National Statistics (published January 2013) females who had reported being victims of the most serious sexual offences in the last year were asked whether or not they had reported the incident to the police. Only 15 per cent of victims of such offences said that they had done so. Frequently cited reasons for not reporting the crime were that it was ‘embarrassing’, they ‘didn’t think the police could do much to help’, that the incident was ‘too trivial or not worth reporting’, or that they saw it as a ‘private/family matter and not police business’
Baring in mind 90% of serious sexual assaults (including rape) are carried out by someone known to the victim it's easy to see why many women do not report crimes. The reasons are very different for prostitutes. The chances of sex workers knowing their attacker beforehand are much lower but there is still a feeling among many sex workers that there is no point going to the police because they don't think they will be taken seriously or that they risk arrest themselves.
Between July 2012 and April 2013 The Ugly Mug scheme has received just under 60 reports or crime, half of which were of rape or sexual assault from sex workers. Only a third of these attacks were reported to the police. According to The Metro (April 2013) The English Collective of Prostitutes said victims were afraid of being arrested.
‘Until the police prioritise prostitutes’ safety over prosecuting them, we do not think things will get better,’ said spokesman Niki Adams.
A famous case is that of Shelia Farmer who has been attacked twice in her career but still also arrested when working in a flat with other women for her own safety. High profile cases like this make women too scared to report crimes against them. Her story is here if you're interested. She is an amazing brave woman.
Of course what myself and G do is perfectly legal but many many women are breaking the law by either being street workers or work for other people in brothels or agencies who do not want to draw police attention to themselves and will discourage them from reporting crimes. So for both sex workers and non sex workers reporting sex crimes such as rape is difficult and woefully under reported
My friend did phone the police. They were fantastic. They arrived within minutes along with an ambulance. She was checked out by the medics and then taken to a police station and given a female officer for company in an informal meeting room until a specialised officer arrived to talk to her. She was then taken to a specialist centre for sexual offences where a forensic examination took place. At no point did any officer she come into contact with suggest or insinuate that she was lying about what happened or that her role as an escort made any difference to anything.
The police caught her rapist by tracking him down using his mobile phone. He still had her laptop in his possession. They also spent hours examining her flat for evidence.
The following day G had to return to the police station to give her formal statement. The police seemed confident that the arrest of her rapist would result in a trial. They took copies of her Adultwork page which made it clear she didn't offer penetrative sex services, they had the knife the rapist used, she was clearly distressed by what had happened and her 999 call was further evidence of her trauma. She reported the attack quickly so there was no question over whether it was something she had thought about because she regretted having sex with this man.
The police work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide the best course of action with regards to any crime. In 1993 the CPS were accused of not taking sexual offences against sex workers seriously. The Independent newspaper reported that there was a growing number of cases where the CPS has refused to prosecute for rape because they believe the witness would be considered 'unreliable' and 'unsuitable'. In a recent case the owner of an escort agency in southern England complained to the CPS after it dropped a case involving a rape allegation made by a prostitute. The CPS denied this.
Here is a table of figures to demonstrate how few rapes result in a conviction.
These figures were taken as a 3 year average from Sexual Offending in England and Wales
Estimated number of victims of rape- 60,000-95,000
Police Recorded Figures- 15,670 (plus another 3,850 of 'detections')- Total 19,520
Rape Cases that become court proceedings- 2,910
Guilty Convictions- 1,070
Note on Detections. There are a number of ways that the police can detect a crime, including by charging a suspect, issuing a summons, or administering a caution. Sanction detections are where offences cleared up by the police result in a formal sanction issued to an offender. These can take the form of a charge or summons, a caution, a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PNDs), or offences that are asked to be taken into consideration by a court (TICs)
The figures speak for themselves really. Rape is notoriously hard to get to court let alone convict against. Add to that the added perception some people have about rape and sex workers....
G's attacker is an illegal immigrant from Africa so was detained in a London prison and not granted bail. The CPS were happy with the police evidence and the case proceeded to court.
Last week a trial went ahead at a Crown Court. He was charged with three counts of rape (oral, anal and vaginal rape are considered separate offences) as well as aggravated robbery for the theft of her laptop. Aggravated means that a deadly weapon was used.
The arresting officer who liaised with G kept her up to date throughout the period running up to and during the trial. I met him when he came to take my statement as the first person she called after the rape. He was lovely, very kind, very non plussed and non judgmental about us being escorts. He was full of admiration for her bravery and commented that he really liked how she was so open and didn't hide that she was an escort or what services she did and didn't do. i also spoke to him after she had given evidence (there was a possibility I would have to stand as a witness) and he told me how proud of her he was.
On the second day of the trial G appeared for two hours on the stand. This was done in a way she didn't have to see her attacker and she said the judge was very kind.
G couldn't fault the police or the courts in any way. It was incredibly heartening to hear how she had been treated. The arresting officer kept her up to date and was positive. Apparently after the tape of her 999 call was made the judge commented that is was pretty damning for the defense. By Thursday the jury had come to their decision.
It's hard to put into words how angry and disappointed I was. My feelings won't compare to how G must have felt of course but I was devastated her on her behalf. I wanted to find each of those twelve jury members and shake them hard. How fucking dare they pass a not guilty verdict.
Noone apart from those jurors will know how they came to that decision.
I have to remember that it is a basic presumption in our legal system that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty. The accused does not have to prove his or her innocence. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. This means that if the jury has a reasonable doubt about whether the person is guilty, then the verdict must be 'not guilty'.
I have to try and believe that the jury felt there was not enough evidence to confidently pass a guilty verdict and not that they were prejudiced that G offered sexual services for money. It doesn't make it a less bitter pill to swallow though.
They did pass a guilty verdict on the aggravated robbery which I suppose is something. His defense basically said she cried rape because she was pissed off that he took her laptop and that they had consensual sex.
The rapist (I refuse to think of him as anything else) has been returned to prison pending an investigation into his immigration status. The sentencing is not happening until June, and I think that whatever he gets he will be deported after he has served that. With some luck he will get the maximum sentence allowed. It's a small 'at least...' I suppose. I don't believe two wrongs make a right as a rule, but I hope someone rapes his arse hard in prison.
As for G, well she doesn't regret going to the police, she is filled with praise for them. She has told me she can't and won't let this man ruin her life despite still living with nightmares, flashbacks and fear of leaving the house.
In 2006, Merseyside police declared crimes against sex workers hate crimes. In Liverpool, in 2009, police convicted 90% of those who raped sex workers. In 2010, the overall conviction rate in Merseyside for crimes against sex workers was 84%, with a 67% conviction rate for rape. 6.5% is the national average conviction rate for rape.
Much is being made of the Merseyside Model at the moment and there are calls to ensure this becomes UK wide. There is currently a government e-petition found here if you'd like to sign and here is a link to a Guardian article about the Merseyside Model.
As I have said right through this blog the London Metropolitan Police that dealt with G were fantastic, but it would be even more fantastic if this kind of treatment was UK wide and guaranteed for every woman in the sex trade. I'm not sure there was anything the police could have done to ensure a conviction for G's rapist but anything that ensures sex workers can stay safe and be treated fairly when things go wrong is a must.
Finally- a link to Ugly Mugs for those sex workers who haven't signed up-
and for thsoe of you who would like to make a donation to this cause contact them on
Telephone: 0161 629 9861
International: +44 161 629 9861
Link to the Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales by Ministry of Justice, The Home Office & the Office for National Statistics
Ok, this is really bloody long, but I thought it might be useful both to comment on the questions asked, my interpretation of them and some possible ways of answering. Of course I am not saying Here are the answers, this is what is right, copy me!
What I am hoping to do is a) Give my opinions (It is my blog after all) b) Maybe someone will read my responses and be inspired to respond to the survey- that would make me happy and c) Possibly help guide someone one flummoxed on how to answer.
If anyone wants to pinch any of my responses I don't mind, but I think it's important to add your own personal experiences and views.
So, here we go!
6. Do you consider the current laws on prostitution in the UK to be effective and consistent in safeguarding those involved in prostitution from violence, exploitation, and/or abuse? Please answer 'Yes' or 'No', and provide reasons for your response.
Which laws? It even asks specifically for a yes or no answer! *sigh* not a good start.
Prostitution is itself not illegal- this is good. Brothel keeping is illegal- The definition of a brothel is more than one woman working in a location selling sex. This is a bad law, some women would be safer working with someone else. It is illegal to profit from prostitution as a third party- i.e a pimp. Pimping is procuring the services of a prostitute for another and taking a cut of the fee. This is illegal. If it’s a pimp who works by forcing, threatening or drugging a women then of course this should be illegal. However, parlours or agencies can provide support, advertising, security checks and so on for women and as a business should get a cut. Many women who don’t have a location to work from on web savvy rely on their agency to provide them with business. Good parlours provide a great support network and security for many women. I personally agree kerb crawling and soliciting should remain illegal, others may disagree. Laws regarding trafficking are good and the harshest penalties should be give for those found guilty of this.
If you answer Yes it implies you think that everything is hunky dory or that violence, exploitation, and/or abuse does not exist. If you answer No it implies you think that violence, exploitation, and/or abuse does exist and is a problem. It is for some women and isn’t for others. We already know that the ethos of this inquiry is to bring about paying for sex as illegal so saying No can be interpreted as No, we need to make prostitution go away.
Don’t just say either yes or no or else you will be plopped into a statistic saying something you don’t mean.
How I’m answering
Prostitution should not be made illegal, nor should paying for the services as a prostitute. The laws on brothel keeping need relaxing. It would be safer for women to work together legally for their own security and support.
Whilst it is illegal to profit from prostitution as a third party, parlours or agencies can provide support, advertising, security checks and so on for women and as a business should get a cut. Many women who don’t have a location to work from on web savvy rely on their agency to provide them with business. Good parlours provide a great support network and security for many women. I agree kerb crawling and soliciting should remain illegal. Laws regarding trafficking are good and the harshest penalties should be give for those found guilty of this.
There are already laws in this country that cover coercion, abuse, rape, theft and assault and can already be applied to those who are victims whether they work as a prostitute or not.
7. Do you consider the current laws in the UK to be a barrier to those who wish to exit prostitution? Please answer 'Yes' or 'No', and outline reasons for your response.
Again, which laws? I’m not entirely sure what the law has to do with those who wish to exit prostitution. Women who want to leave have all manner of barriers from the fact they are forced by someone else, have gaps in their CVs, are unqualified for other work or can not earn as much as they need to to live on in careers they are qualified for as well as high unemployment rates, a lack of part time work for those who are carers and so on. There are already laws in place and charities for those who need to escape from someone forcing them into prostitution.
I’m not sure what they are getting at. Can someone enlighten me?
How I’m answering
Women who want to leave prostitution have all manner of barriers from the fact they are forced by someone else (which obviously needs tackling and there are already laws that make this illegal) Other reasons are that have gaps in their CVs, have been outed as sex workers at some point and have a stigma attached to them, are unqualified for other work or can not earn as much as they need to to live on in careers they are qualified for as well as high unemployment rates, a lack of part time work for those who are carers and so on. The real issue is that escorting carries a massive social stigma which means many have to hide their work. Laws won’t change this, the erosion of Victorian morals in this country will.
8. Around the world, there are different legal settlements that govern prostitution. Do you think any of the legal settlements outlined in the summary above would be a good basis to base reforms in the UK on? Please give evidence and reasons to support your answer.
Ooh, a good question. However it relies on those answering to have a clue about the laws in other countries and how to interpret the statistics and spinning by those for and against!
The background on the first page of the questionnaire mentions New Zealand and the quote- ‘the majority of sex workers interviewed felt that the (act decriminalising prostitution) could do little about violence that occurred’ in the sex industry, and that the social stigma surrounding involvement in prostitution continues.
This implies it is a bad thing, however is the most popular model among prostitutes because brothels and agencies have been decriminalised. There has not been an increase in prostitution (a myth the antis have tried to perpetuate) and more women are reporting crimes against them.
This is a great article why decriminalisation works in NZ- http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6292753/Sex-conditions-safer-but-prostitute-stigma-remains
USA- Illegal to buy and sell sexual services. Not an option!
Canada- Very similar to the UK
The Netherlands- legal and regulated, including brothel running. During the 1990s, some 10% of prostitutes worked on the streets, 30% in window prostitution, 30% in a sex clubs, 15% in an escort service, and 15% in their private residence. However, there is some evidence to say that because of these laws the criminal element is high and is the top destination for human trafficking.
However, I think there is some merit in regulating the industry, but only if there are resources to prevent an increase in trafficking. I also think the problem with The Netherlands is based on a reputation and a culture which has made it a destination for buying sex- rather like Thailand. I don’t want this for the UK and I don’t want prostitution to become a career option for young women who are encouraged by financial gain yet not enjoy it.
Sweden- The laws on prostitution in Sweden make it illegal to buy sexual services, but not to sell them. Pimping, procuring and operating a brothel are also illegal. The criminalisation of the purchase, but not selling, of sex was unique when first enacted in 1999, but since then Norway and Iceland have adopted similar legislation, both in 2009.
As our survey tells us “ The aim in Sweden is to reduce or end prostitution rather than to manage it” which will obviously appeal to the antis in this country and for those offended by prostitution seems like a good idea.
This is a bad idea. In a nutshell- it will NOT make prostitution go away, it will push it underground, deprive some men of the only bit of affection they might get, make it impossible for women to report crimes against them if they carry on, criminalise decent men, makes hundreds of women ‘unemployed’ thus financially vulnerable, not stop the real criminals anyway.
And this will tell you in more detail why it doesn’t work:
How I answered
Prostitution will not go away. Nor is it a crime of violence against women, which was the thinking of the Swedish Model and the proposals in Scotland. I am hugely opposed to this. The closest legal settlement I support is of that in New Zealand where women who choose to work as prostitutes receive police support when required, have better access to health information. Research has shown that the Prostitution Reform Act (2003) has had little impact on the number of people working in the sex industry. Here is link to evidence. http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy/commercial-property-and-regulatory/prostitution/prostitution-law-review-committee/publications/impact-health-safety/2.-estimation-of-numbers
This article also demonstrates the positives- http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6292753/Sex-conditions-safer-but-prostitute-stigma-remains
9. At present it is often legal to purchase sex. Do you feel criminalising the purchase of sex could make a contribution to tackling demand? Please answer 'Yes' or 'No', and outline reasons for your response and what other measures would be required.
I think the answer is yes. Many men, certainly initially would be put off paying for sex if it became criminalised. However, I feel there would be ways around it. Prostitution won’t go away, it’ll be driven underground and draw out the criminal element of this world making it harder and more dangerous for both clients and providers.
However, I’m not simply answering ‘YES’ because next thing we’ll know is newspaper articles saying ‘89% of people want paying for sex made illegal’ headlines and something for the antis to bang on about, Therefore you answer needs to give a bit more detail. Maybe some personal information?
How I answered
The estimated figure of men who pay for sex in the UK is about 10%, although some surveys have put it at 20%. In 1948 Kinsey stated that 69% of white males had at least one experience with a prostitute.
My instinct says that 69% is closer to the reality, even in the UK today. As an escort with 3.5 years experience I have met a huge number of men from every profession, background, race, nationality, religion and age. They all have different reasons paying for sex. None of them have been to commit violence against me. This indicates that many men do pay for sex and those men are nice, decent polite men. Of course there are abusive men who do pay for sex, but there are also abusive men who play golf or ride bicycles. Banning bikes or golf will not make those men any less abusive. If a man is intent on hurting a women he will find someone to do this to, not necessarily a prostitute.
Why does there need to be any legislation made to decrease the demand for sex? What happens between two consenting individuals is no one else’s business.
What Criminalising paying for sex would do is deter the kind, law abiding clients that all sex workers wish to see. Business would be reduced for many women leaving them financially vulnerable. It could potentially force women to take more risks on whom they see or offer services that they may not be entirely comfortable with. Why should women have to leave a job they enjoy because someone else believes they are not enjoying it?
10. At present a number of laws seek to regulate and restrict prostitution in England and Wales. Do you think altering or removing these laws could make a contribution to tackling demand? Please answer 'Yes' or 'No', and outline reasons for your response and what other measures would be required.
Isn’t this the same as question 9?
I’m wilting now.
How I answered
Please see my response to question 9. I do not believe the issues regarding prostitution that need addressing is tackling demand.
11. There is evidence that a number of people involved in selling sex would like to exit prostitution but find it difficult to do so. What measures (including legal measures) would be most helpful to support those involved in prostitution who wish to exit?
Isn’t this a repeat of question 7? Is this survey trying to trick us?
This ‘evidence’? Not seen any. Are there more women who want to leave prostitution than women who work stacking shelves want to leave that? Wouldn’t we all prefer to leave a job we either hate or at least tolerate to go and do something wildy exciting, fascinating and challenging yet unstressful and with a huge salary? How many people in this country are miserable at work but can’t leave for financial reasons?
For the record, I have days I want to do something different, but I do like it most the time, which frankly can be said for every single job I have ever held.
Of course, the real reason is that this is asked is because a big deal was made about helping women exit prostitution when the Swedish laws were changed.
How I answered
I refer you back to question 7 for my views on this. I would also like to add that if the law changed to criminalise clients, many women would be in a financially worse position due to a decrease in business. Is it realistic to offer them benefits or other financial assistance, training courses, child care for them to work more traditional hours and so on over the many other people who are struggling in this country at the moment? For many women I know (including myself) the biggest barrier to finding alternative employment would actually finding a job I am qualified for that would pay the salary I require to exist on. That and explaining the gap in my CV as well as dealing with what happens when they find out I was outed in a tabloid and had to resign my previous position. The latter being the biggest issue with prostitution, the stigma. I am not sure what laws would realistically change that.
14. Do you have any other comments surrounding the legal settlement on prostitution in the UK?
This is your chance to say anything else that you feel strongly about or that is pertinent to you as an individual.
How I answered
I would like to add that there are many women in prostitution who do it through choice, because they enjoy it and are good at it. Many many people who see prostitutes are decent people and are not abusing the women they see. The law that needs changing is one that would allow women to work together for safety.
What the police need to be able to do is tackle those who are forced into prostitution. If the women out there who are abused and trafficked have not been rescued yet then that is a huge failing and where resources need to be focused. The law that prevents women working together in the same location needs reviewing. If the wellbeing and safety of sex workers is a concern of yours then you have to actually listen to sex workers, find out what would make our already stigmatised jobs safer and focus on those who are forced and abused. This is what those in power should be focused on, not the criminalisation of the innocent.
I have already written about this in this blog, but I wanted to add some further food for thought.
It has been announced that The All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade (APPG) are launching an inquiry to assess the current UK legal settlement surrounding prostitution. They wish to identify how legislation to tackle demand could safeguard those in danger of sexual exploitation and abuse.
A survey has now been published to gather data for this inquiry. I am urging you, whether as a punter or sex worker to complete it. This is the link.
I will follow this blog with one on some thoughts on how to fill it in if you're stuck!
As with the Scottish bill and anything most anti prostitution feminists say the onus is on those who are victims and who are abused. Hooray! Of course, we all want those who are violating women and forcing them into prostitution dealing with. We want women to be able to work safely and have confidence that the law will look after them.
However, I already had a sneaky suspicion that the tone for this inquiry has been set. I shall quote Mr Shuker, the chair of the APPG again.
"While a minority of women who enter prostitution claim to do so willingly, for the overwhelming majority it is a result of contributing factors including previous sexual abuse, debt, drugs, coercion, homelessness, domestic violence and others."
Secondly, the project is funded by CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) and whilst one dislikes stereotyping I’m fairly sure that Christian groups tend not to look favourably on any type of prostitution.
The problem of course is that there is a whole raft of types of women in prostitution, but of course certain groups (the church, feminists, MPs, the unworldly) like to browbeat us with the notion that prostitution is violence against women, no woman wants to be a prostitute and that they are all drug addicts, victims, mentally unstable etc etc.
I decided to find a little more out about the members of the APPG. We already know the chair’s opinion so who else is in this gallery of rogues? The full list of the APPG members can be found here.
Let us look at Fiona MacTaggart-
Pretty well known in her views on prostitution. In 2008, on the BBC’s Today in Parliament programme Mactaggart said "Something like 80% of women in prostitution are controlled by their drug dealer, their pimp, or their trafficker."When questioned on her claim she stated that it "came from an official Government publication into prostitution and the sex trade". However, The Home Office have stated that they "do not endorse or use the figure that 80 per cent of prostitutes are controlled by others". In January 2009 MacTaggart told the House of Commons that she regarded all women prostitutes as the victims of trafficking, because their route into the sector "almost always involves coercion, enforced addiction to drugs and violence from their pimps or traffickers."
In May 2011, she went further and said "I don't think most men who use prostitutes think of themselves as child abusers, but they are"
Although to be fair to her, back in 2006 she did tell the BBC:
"What we have a responsibility to do as a government is to make sure that women who are involved in prostitution are safe and one of the ways of doing that is making sure that where two women are working together from a flat they don't face a 14 year sentence."
Hmmm, not sure what changed...
Baroness O’Cathain said in May 2009 (regarding Clause 14 of the Policing and Crime Bill) that she would have preferred an outright ban on prostitution.
So already we can see that possibly some of the members have quite strong opinions about what they think about prostitution. How can an inquiry be unbiased when such people are responsible for it. Whilst I haven’t found anything much relevant on other members I certainly haven’t found any of them to have a positive, more rounded view on the subject.
Note the official purpose of this inquiry is this-
To raise awareness of the impact of the sale of sexual services on those involved and to develop proposals for government action to tackle individuals who create demand for sexual services as well as those who control prostitutes; to protect prostituted women by helping them to exit prostitution and to prevent girls from entering prostitution.
I have highlighted the section that basically means that they have already decided that individuals who pay for sex require tackling. That means men (and women) who pay for sex could well be criminalised, as per the proposals in Scotland (and other countries). This is a big fucking deal. I've written about this before so won't repeat myself again.
The Good News
Yes, there is some! All Party Groups are informal, cross-party interest groups that have no official status within Parliament and are not accorded any powers or funding by it (Hence the funding by CARE) They should not be confused with select committees, which are formal institutions of the House. More here if you're interested.
Therefore they have no real power, but of course do need to be taken seriously on the basis responses received may be used to formulate a new proposed bill.
The other good news is that the Lib Dens are likely to be against criminalising those who pay for sex. In the run up to the last general election Lib Dems were in favour of the decriminalise brothels and prostitution in general. Official policy documents stated “We would establish a system to regulate the activities of privately-operated brothels.”
Therefore with the current coalition government there is a chance it won’t go anywhere, especially seeing as there are plenty of other issues that Cameron is busy with. Whilst this might sound like something the Tories would get on top of in reality it isn’t. Public opinion would probably go along the lines of ‘Haven’t they got anything better to do?!’ That and it’s common knowledge Tory men are kinky deviants! *insert winky smiley face*
However, if (and it’s currently looking likely) the Tories don’t get in again, Labour probably won’t let this one drop. Harriet Harman was pretty determined that it become illegal to pay for sex.
Finally, remember the poor coerced, trafficked abused women mentioned earlier? Well, yes they do exist. Statistics are hard to find, and remember Operation Pentameter? If not read this but where abuse does exist it does need dealing with and women should be able to get off the streets and work in safe environments. Noone on the pro prostitution side denies that trafficked women are out there and the last thing I want is for people to think I'm dismissing those who are exploited.
Michelle Sweeney is an Anti Human Trafficking Activist. There is an interview with her here.
The work and fundraising she does is amazing and her passion is inspiring, but she does say when asked about what legal improvements would help stop trafficking,
"All men who are thinking about buying sex should bear in mind that it’s usually trafficking victims who are affected. I often wonder if the people buying sex would think differently if they knew that the people they were buying it from were in fact victims of human trafficking, if they knew that they were in fact raping a woman or maybe even a child, would they stop buying sex? So again, educating the men in our communities that slavery still exists in the form of sex trafficking might help end the demand side of the issue."
That's pretty emotive and she believes that by stopping demand the need to supply would vanish. I don't think it's as straight cut as that. I think most men who pay for sex would hate the idea of seeing a trafficked woman and I know from personal conversations with my clients that they are repulsed at the idea of seeing a forced woman and actively choose independent women. I also think the criminal element wouldn't give a toss and the kind of men we escorts don't want to see would carry on and the ones we do are more likely to stop for fear of prosecution. Criminalising our clients would of course have detrimental effect on business and would probably force women to see dangerous clients or offer services they don't want to do to survive.
We also need to consider that there are laws currently in place to tackle this. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 made it illegal to buy sex from anyone aged under 18 and introduced tough penalties for trafficking adults and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Other crimes associated with prostitution such rape, assault and theft are all covered under the law, and although I appreciate many women are less likely to report a crime against them if they are a prostitute. If the laws on women working together was removed maybe there would be less fear of repercussion when the worst happens and the police should be called.
The issue of paid sex is emotive and far more complicated once you scratch the surface. What we can't allow is a broad sweep that decrees all men who pay for sex are bad and all women who offer the service need rescuing We can't let the 'antis' pull on the heartstrings to push through laws that will leave many women more vulnerable.
This is why we need to act now and make the voices of intelligent, decent, law abiding service providers and clients heard.
You have until February 4th to complete the survey.
I will try and write a guide to completing it over the next couple of days. Don't get me started on the bias of the questions though!