Following a series of article in the UK newspaper The Guardian, ICRSE and many sex workers organisations, academics and allies have signed a letter demanding a fairer representation to the debate on criminalisation of clients.
To this date, the letter (or its shorter version) have not been published and The Guardian has not contacted ICRSE.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Sex workers and academics demand fairer representation of the debate on criminalisation of clients in Europe.
We are shocked by the recent series of articles published in the Guardian. Unrelated to any specific news, The Guardian published four articles in two days (11thand 12th December) in the Global development section, including an interactive map of Europe’s prostitution legal framework, one Comment piece and an Audio guide, all arguing in favour of the Swedish Model to criminalise clients.
This series of articles comes at a time where many sex workers are being arrested in Aberdeen, Bradford, Glasgow and London, and a week before the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, where many sex workers in Europe and around the world will come together to demand an end, not only to physical violence, but to state-sponsored violence including the criminalisation of our clients. The Swedish Model, receiving so much attention in your paper, runs counter to such a demand.
The quantity and quality of the articles and information presented manifest more as a propaganda effort for the Swedish Model, than factual reporting. Further research would show that the Swedish model has been demonstrated to be not only inefficient, but also dangerous to sex workers and has been opposed by a number of important international organisations including Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, World Health Organization, United Nations Development Programme, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and many more. There is also a significant amount of peer reviewed evidence, by respected academics which questions this model as a model which supports the well being of sex workers.
We are submitting this response to some of the erroneous information stated as evidence in your reports.
In your interactive map of Europe, you define France as a country where “it is illegal to buy sex although prostitutes are not prosecuted. Buyers can be fined”. This is incorrect. The criminalisation of clients voted by the National Assembly has not yet gone through the Senate, nor has the repeal of passive soliciting laws. Sex workers are still criminalised. In the last few days, in Paris alone, police operations have led to the arrest of many migrant sex workers, abusive treatments of transgender street workers, confiscation of vehicles, money and other belongings. Criminalisation, arrests and deportations is a daily reality for sex workers in France.
Your explanation of the situation in Ireland states that “the law on prostitution was the subject of a major review this year by the Department for Justice, which recommended criminalising the purchase of sex in an attempt to reduce demand for sexual services.” This is incorrect. Though the Oireachtas (Parliament) Justice Committee recommended criminalising the purchase of sex, this has not been accepted by the Department of Justice and in fact, the Minister has expressed significant reservations about it.
Another article (Prostitution: why Swedes believe they got it right) states that in Sweden, since the implementation of the law to criminalise clients in 1999, “police say the number of prostitutes has dropped by two-thirds”. This is a misrepresentation. In 2007, the Swedish government stated, “we cannot give any unambiguous answer to the question [of whether prostitution has increased or decreased]”. It concluded, “no causal connection can be drawn between legislation, and changes in prostitution” (Skarhed, 2007). This is quite different from what you published. The origin of claims that the number of sex workers has decreased comes from an alleged decrease in the number of street-based sex workers. However, the Swedish government has no idea whether these people are quitting sex work, or merely changing the way they work. The Swedish government admits that the number of sex workers contacting clients via the internet is increasing.
In the same article, the quote from Kajsa Wahlberg “We have a small group of pro-prostitution lobbyists that are very powerful” is contentious. To call sex workers advocating for the respect of their human and labour rights a pro-prostitution lobby is attempting to deny sex workers a voice of their own. To call us “very powerful” implies that we speak for the industry rather than for the workers. Sex workers are supported by many groups including human rights, feminist, gay, lesbian and transgender rights organisations as well as many HIV organisations. We are not pro or against prostitution. We are for evidence-based policy on sex work, and for the human rights of sex workers. To call us “very powerful” implies that we speak for the industry rather than for the workers. This statement hides the law and order agendas of governments which have been driving criminalisation worldwide.
This statement is even more shocking when the articles fail to mention that some of the groups leading the campaigns to support in the criminalisation of clients in the UK and Ireland are extremely wealthy and connected Christian organisations such as Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), who is acting as secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade in Westminster. CARE is infamous for lobbying against gay and reproductive rights and for offering free interns to Members of Parliament – with the exception of gay MPs, whose “lifestyle” they oppose. Chris Bryant MP has spoken out against this homophobia. Who would believe for one second they have the interests of any women, trans women or gay men – the majority of people selling sexual services – at heart?
In Ireland, the main organisations supporting the criminalisation of clients of sex workers is Ruhama, which is quoted in one of your articles. You reporter again fails to mention that Ruhama is the 21st century re-brand to the Magdalene Laundries – popularly referred to as the slave laundries. The Magdalene Laundries have been exploiting “fallen women” for decades, and the abuse they inflicted, and the mass graves they created, are a permanent stain of shame on Ireland’s history. Ruhama was founded as a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters, who were both running the Magdalene Laundries. The former LGBT Director at Human Rights Watch has written, of Ruhama, “even their own slave laundries could not wash the blood from their hands”.
We end this letter with a statement from World Health organization published in December 2012: “All countries should work toward decriminalisation of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers.”
We thank you for publishing this letter and hope that in the future your newspaper will offer a more nuanced debate. We also encourage reporters, journalists and researchers to fully research the influence of Christian groups on sex work policy.
Luca Stevenson, Coordinator, International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe www.sexworkeurope.org
Molly Smith, Organiser, Sex Worker Open University www.swou.org
SCOT-PEP, sex worker organisation, Scotland
Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes
Dr Kate Hardy, University of Leeds
Dr Graham Ellison, Reader in Criminology, Queen’s University, Belfast
Dr Jay Levy, Researcher, UK
Professor Phil Hubbard, University of Kent
Nicola Mai, Professor of Sociology and Migration Studies, London Metropolitan University
Dr Tuppy Owens, Disability Charity Worker, Outsiders Trust & TLC Trust
Dr. Mary Laing, Lecturer in Criminology, Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences, Northumbria University
Anastacia Ryan, PhD researcher, UK
Caoimhe Mader McGuinness, Postgraduate Researcher, Queen Mary University, UK
Rosie Campbell OBE, CEO Genesis Leeds, Chair National Ugly Mugs Advisory Group UKNSWP, visiting Research Fellow Leeds University & postgraduate researcher Durham University
Jane Pitcher, UK Network of Sex Work Projects
Alex Bryce, Manager National Ugly Mugs Scheme
PG Macioti, Postgraduate Researcher, Open University, UK
Katie Kruz, Keele University, Law department
Ellis Suzanna Slack, writer, campaigner, researcher, UK
Caroline Lynch, Chairperson, Scottish Secular Society
Morgane Merteuil, General Secretary, STRASS, French Union of Sex Workers
Support Transgenre Strasbourg, France
Irina Maslova, Silver Rose – Association of sex workers and their allies, Russia
Veronica Munk, coordinator TAMPEP-Germany
Aoife Nic Seáin, public relations officer Sexworker Verein (UNO-recognised international NGO based in Vienna)
Jury Kalikov. Director of NGO AIDSi Tugikeskus (AIDS Information & Support centre), Estonia
Matthias Lehmann, Researcher, Germany
Christiane Howe, sociologist/researcher, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
Kemal Aysu Ördek, Chair of Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Associaton
Sonja Dolinsek, Researcher and editor of the online magazine “menschenhandel heute”, Berlin, Germany
Aliya Rakhmetova, Executive Director, Sex Workers Rights Advocacy Network of Central & Eastern Europe and Central Asia (SWAN)
Association of Hungarian Sex Workers
Christian Knappik, CEO Sexworker Verein (Vienna) & senior admin www.sexworker.at
Ron Weitzer, Professor of Sociology, George Washington University, USA
Borche Bozhinov, President STAR-STAR, Macedonia
Dr Calum Bennachie, Co-ordinator, New Zealand Prostitutes Collective
Tais Plus, Sex Worker Organisation, Kyrgyzstan
Agata Dziuban, researcher/lecturer, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland
Licia Brussa, TAMPEP International Foundation
Marjan Wijers, independent researcher, trainer & consultant human rights and human trafficking, Netherlands, Rights4Change, Netherlands
Alexandra van Dijk, Buro Brycx, Netherlands
Jerry Barnett, SexAndCensorship.org
Sonia Verstappen, anthropologist, Brussels, Belgium
Marian Ursan, President, Carusel Association, Romania
Paul S. Braterman, Professor Emeritus University of North Texas, Hon Sr Research Fellow in Chemistry, University of Glasgow
Francisca Funk, sexworker from Frankfurt und Vorsitzende des http://www.regenschirm-ev.de/
Fuensanta Gual, President CATS (Comite de Apoyo a las Trabajadoras del Sexo), Spain
Сharitable organisation «All-Ukrainian League «Legalife»
Mag.a Sophia Shivarova, LEFÖ Tampep Austria
Colectivo Hetaira, Spain
Marianne Schweizer, Association Aspasie, Geneva
Fabian Chapot, Association Boulevards, Geneva
Pia Covre, Comitato per i Diritti Civili delle Prostitute Onlus, Italy
Rayna Dimitrova, Health and social development Foundation, Sofia, Bulgaria
Mechthild Eickel, Madonna e.V., Germany
MariaMagdalena, Beratungsangebot für Frauen im Sexgewerbe, CH/St. Gallen, Switzerland
Fleur de Pavé, Lausanne, Switzerland
Hydra e.V., Berlin, Germany
Feminist Initiative -network from Finland
LEFÖ/TAMPEP, Vienna, Austria
Associazione Radicale Certi Diritti, Italy
Alexandra Oliveira, Professor at the University of Porto, Portugal
Dan Gallin, trade unionist, Geneva, Switzerland