As the economic crisis hit, feminists in government are redoubling their attack on their more vulnerable sisters: sex workers. Today Harriet Harman is speaking at the Women’s Institute (WI). Under the guise of stopping trafficking in persons, she is calling for sex workers to be banned from advertising in local papers. It’s regrettable that the WI, some of whose members did thorough research into prostitution and advocated decriminalisation based on successful New Zealand legislation, is lending their credibility to government propaganda.
The figures the government is using to justify such raids are entirely bogus: they claim that there are 80,000 women involved in prostitution, 70% of whom have been trafficked. Whatever happened to all the British women we know to be working? The UK definition of trafficking for prostitution, unlike trafficking for any other industry, does not mention force or coercion. This enables every woman with a foreign accent to be assumed to have been trafficked! Yet when premises are raided very few “sex slaves” are found; those who are, are deported rather than helped. And no comparable government campaign is being waged to “liberate” the much greater number of undocumented immigrants who are being exploited in the agricultural, domestic and service industries.
The word brothel conjures up images of big exploitative establishments. Yet by law two prostitute women sharing premises to work constitute a brothel, even if no force and coercion are involved. Most brothels are discreetly run by two or three women (sometimes with a receptionist), or by one woman (usually an ex-sex worker) who employs two or three others. Many women prefer to work in such brothels because they offer greater safety, companionship and lower running expenses. (Working indoors is 10 times safer than working on the street.) Why should women not be allowed to work in this way? And while the government wants to bring in hefty fines and a criminal record for men who pay for sex, women arrested for brothel keeping face seven years in jail.
Women’s hourly wages range from £5.73 (less for young and undocumented workers) to an average £11.67, according to the EOC (2007). Most prostitute women are mothers, who get the lowest wages. If feminists in government had concentrated on fighting for recognition of the work of raising children, and pay equity when we go out to work, the number of women working in prostitution would be fewer.
While the government witch-hunts sex workers and clients, violent men continue to get away with it: the conviction rate for reported rape is a shameful 6%.
At a meeting in the Commons today, people from all walks of life will speak out against the government proposals.
Stop government proposals vs consenting sex!
As the economic crisis hits, laws vs sex workers & clients will force prostitution underground, increasing violence, poverty & jail.
Tuesday 25 November 2008 6-8pm
House of Commons, Committee Room 15
Westminster, London SW1
Fully wheelchair accessible All welcome Allow 15 minutes to get in.
English Collective of Prostitutes
020 7482 2496 / 07811 964 171 / 07956 316 899