Rape and Prostitution – A Question of Consent
Tuesday 3 February 6pm
Committee Room 6
House of Commons While government feminists and religious fundamentalists equate prostitution with rape and claim most sex workers have been trafficked, rapists continue to get away with it – the conviction rate for reported rape in England and Wales is a shocking 6%. But a growing international movement for women’s safety is demanding the decriminalization of sex work. In England it has defeated government attempts to “rehabilitate” sex workers and is opposing proposals to raid brothels and criminalize clients. In San Francisco 41% voted for decriminalization in the last elections.
SPEAKERS from the Safety First Coalition, Women Against Rape, the International Prostitutes Collective, and from GUYANA, INDIA, PERU, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO.
We have already sent you information about this meeting on 3 February which is part of an International Gathering organised by the Global Women’s Strike and the International Women Count Network.
Rape and Prostitution – a Question of Consent, which we are helping co-ordinate, will bring together opposition to anti-prostitution measures in the Policing and Crime Bill (PCB) which is coming up for Second Reading in Parliament on 19 January. We will have the added advantage of international speakers who can enlighten us about the situation in other countries, including the US PROStitutes Collective which was recently involved in an impressive ballot campaign on decriminalisation.
The Cross Party Committee which looks in detail at the legislation following the Second Reading is likely to be sitting by the time of our meeting. We want to be prepared in order to be as effective as possible.
All proposed measures would drive prostitution further underground and sex workers into even more danger. They include:
- criminalisation of paying for sexual services of a “controlled” prostitute
- criminalisation of kerb crawling as a first offence through removal of persistence
- enabling police to close premises at 24 hours notice
- introduction of compulsory “rehabilitation” under threat of imprisonment – similar to proposals thrown out a year ago
- tightening (and increasing the cost) of licensing of lap dance clubs.
But the truth is beginning to emerge. Figures we have always questioned – that 80% of women working in the sex industry are “trafficked” and assumed to be “controlled” are being discredited. On 9 January, Radio Four, More Or Less programme resoundingly exposed that there is no evidence to support these figures. By the end of the programme MP Fiona Mactaggart was forced to admit that most women are not trafficked, and the Home Office that they do not endorse or use the figure that 80 % of prostitutes are controlled by others.
We shall have information at that meeting about writing to the Select Committee as well as to your own MP and networks. When proposals for compulsory rehabilitation were thrown out of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill in the Lords this time last year, it was very much as a result of the flood of opposition MPs and Peers received.
We need your help both in terms of time and skills as well as financially to defeat this latest repression. Please let us know if you can help in any way. We’ll contact you again nearer the time with details of speakers.
Yours for Safety First,
Niki Adams and Cari Mitchell