This is a repost from exactly a year ago about the government’s policing and crime bill, which contains provisions to outlaw the purchase of sex from ‘coerced’ prostitutes and should become law next year.
Whilst looking at the follow-up to the Guardian’s revelations about the government’s misinformation around the trafficking of women I thought I’d check to see if the impact on gay men had acquired any mentions following my year-old post. Bar a brief mention in an Iain Dale post I could not.
The woman from the ECP didnt defend the sex industry on Newsnight. She said the anti-trafficking crusade, premised on false statistics, has been used, first of all to justify raids, prosecutions and convictions of sex workers working together from flats. It seems that immigrant women have been particularly targeted as anti-trafficking laws have been used as an extension of immigration controls to get them deported. www.prostitutescollective.net. Secondly, she said that this crusade has been used to justify the Policing and Crime Bill which under the guise of targeting demand, that is clients, would push prostitution underground and sex workers into more danger.
Those who claim that the Policing and Crime Bill would somehow increase womens safety say nothing about the other measures which would: change the definition of soliciting on the street to make arrests easier, introduce forced rehabilitation of those arrested, and the targeting of brothels for raids and closure (It is well established that working from premises is much safer than working on the street, as women can work collectively and support each other), increase police powers to take sex workers hard won earnings.
Where are the expressions of concern or action to oppose this increased criminalization from those that claim to be concerned about victims? Did those women stop being victims when they decided to sell sex? What about the women working in Soho who were all raided a few months ago and were shouted at, called liars, threatened with prosecution. Or the women near Oxford Circus, one of whom had to lock herself in the toilet to stop the police taking (probably) illegal photos of them. Or the women in Baker Street who are raided three times in the last few months and who think they are being targeted because they are Black. Or the Black women from Leeds who was dragged out of her home in handcuffs where she worked ON HER OWN and prosecuted for running a disorderly house. Or the Brazilian woman who was convicted for trafficking for working with a few friends who she helped come over from Brazil, got imprisoned, nearly lost custody of her young son and is now facing deportation. Abuse of women doesnt seem to count with some people, who claim to care about victims, if the abusers are the police.
Convictions for offences like brothel-keeping (used against women working together with others) are soaring. More and more women are getting criminal records for what is essentially consenting sex, preventing those who may want to leave prostitution from getting other jobs, even when they are qualified for them. When New Zealand decriminalised prostitution five years ago the most dramatic change was that sex workers felt like they had more rights both to report violence but also to take action against harassment from employers. It seems that more women are saved from traffickers by other women in the sex industry than any government anti-trafficking crusade (especially if, when you look at how victims are treated, protecting vulnerable women doesnt seem to even be the aim.)
It is no accident that the Policing and Crime Bill is happening at the same time as the Welfare Reform Bill. That Bill abolishes Income Support, the only benefit single mothers and other carers have been able to rely on. Most prostitute women are mothers, especially single mothers. How many will be driven into prostitution by benefit cuts? So feminist ministers proud record will be to have driven women onto the streets with one bill, and arrest them with another.
Is this happening to gay male prostitutes, particularly migrant ones? I simply don’t know but there’s no reason to think it might well be. And, given the widespread disinterest, infact the frequent hostility, shown towards similarly marginalised LGBT asylum seekers, even those from places like Iran, there’s no reason to think that the ‘gay community’ would rush to defend them if it did.
News that Jacqui Smith – bless – has found a compromise and will outlaw hiring prossies who have pimps.
This is a somewhat watered down version of what was being pushed by various Labour ‘feminist’ MPs – the so-called Swedish model of ‘prostitution law reform’, which completely outlaws paying for sex.
I’m indebted to blogging colleague Cosmodaddy who has dug up research showing that this ain’t working:
Again it’s a seductive argument, but bear in mind (which Prostitution Reform do not) that although the criminalisation of men using female prostitutes in Sweden (the model being adopted by Jacqui Smith) was accompanied by legislation decriminalising the selling of sex, there have been undesirable outcomes:
When the prostitution market disappears underground it is harder for the authorities to intercept the persons that really need help. In Gothenburg many young women seek help to detoxify because of their addiction to heroin and almost all of them have sold sexual services. But the city’s prostitution group (social workers) seldom comes in contact with these women because they don’t show up on the streets today.
The risk of infection have gone up because if a sexseller gets infected with a sexually transmitted disease, and the authorities advise customers to the sexworker to contact them, many are afraid to do so.
If a client meets a sexworker that he/she suspects is in need of help the client is scared to contact for example the social services. Anf if a customer meets a sexworker that he/she suspects is the victim of sexual trafficking that person is today scared of going to the police. Before you could obtain evidence against traffickers and pimps based on customer’s testimony. These days they aren’t likely to participate in trials and if they are forced to testify as the same time they are prosecuted for buying sex their testimony are not credible in the same way.
I used to work in HIV prevention, OF COURSE driving sex underground isn’t a good idea! Any HIV worker worth their salt will tell you this.
If you want to stop trafficking of women the answer is policing of criminals. Full, stop. Anything else (‘let’s make a law!’) is showboating.
But further, I found the original proposals from Harman et al anti-gay. Yes, anti-gay. Not ‘good for the gays’ as the Jews might put it.
I immediately thought when the Labour ‘feminists’ trumped up this idea – they’re forgetting the gays. Again.
Gay male prostitution is not generally pimp-driven, it’s a small business. Of course there are issues (self esteem and body fascism to name but two) but just as with Andrea Dworkin and her 80s fantasies about what gay male porn was it’s not the equivalent of the heterosexual version.
Largely from my Australian experience, I had numerous friends who dabbled or supported themselves for a while or did it for a one-off. It didn’t make them community outlaws. The experience wasn’t damaging, as it might be with women. Yes, some guys on heroin do it but they weren’t even gay. Gay male prostitution is part of a sexualised culture which many feminists plain don’t like.
Just as with Dworkin the collateral oppression of gays passed Harman et al by. That they actually have ‘oppressive’ power – despite being supposedly power-less women, despite being cabinet members – passed them by.
Must be the gay=male thing.
And they were trusting that Laura Norder will play fair (if they were thinking of us at all, which I doubt). When experience tells us otherwise (just look at Terror law misapplication).
Feminists are not always the allies of gay men. Lesson.
Postscript: I note that this proposed law apparently has something about funding ‘drug dealers’ in it – that is. it’s not just about pimps. Laura Norder will make a meal of gay prossies using this ‘law’. Bless Ms. Harman + Smith et al for creating this … not.
Postscript: Harman and Smith’s incompetence gets more obvious:
Human trafficking police unit to close
Britain’s only specialist police human trafficking unit is to be shut down after two years because of a lack of funding, the government said today.
A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that money for the Metropolitan police team, which totalled £1.8m in the first year and £700,000 in the second, would no longer be available after April.
Experts and campaigners reacted to the move with dismay. Denise Marshall, the chief executive of the Poppy Project, which helps trafficked women after they have been rescued, said she was appalled at the decision, which would have a “hugely detrimental impact”.
“This is at best foolhardy and at worst discriminatory,” she said.
Postscript: I shall be continuing this meme on pinknews. In the meantime, my friend Tania Hurst has a few thoughtful comments (nod, well worth quoting in full):
At the moment in this country it’s widely seen as socially acceptable for men to pay for sex (whether with women or other men). In current law it is the prostitute selling sex who is viewed as the criminal – not the person buying the sex.
Whether a prostitute has “freely chosen” a sex industry profession, or has been forced into it (by pimps or traffickers) is largely seen as irrelevant and unimportant by the customer.
The question is: how does one change the perception that having sex with a man or woman who has been “forced” into prostitution is wrong – and that this is effectively rape? One way is to make a law against it.
This law is making a distinction between prostitutes who’ve “chosen” to work in the sex industry from those who are being “forced” to have sex (by pimps or traffickers).* [see note below]
The new law isn’t criminialising everyone who pays for sex, but it is saying buying sex from women (or men) who have been “forced” to have sex (by pimps or traffickers) is not acceptable. This woman (or man) has not freely chosen to have sex with you – you are raping them. You have a responsibility to recognise this and to know the difference when you go out to purchase sex.
I’m in agreement with (what I think is) the motivation behind this law: 1) making it socially unacceptable to purchase sex from someone who’s been forced into it. 2) reducing the demand for and ultimately the numbers of prostitutes who are being forced to have sex.
The real question is whether this law is the right way to achieve the objectives? Can the negative impacts that your article has highlighted, be mitigated? For example, maybe customers could be exempt from prosecution if they report to police that they believe a woman they had paid-for-sex with was trafficked or pimped? Are there other ways of getting HIV and substance-abuse services to prostitutes?
Or are there other better forms or combinations of legislation? Closing down the Human Trafficking police unit doesn’t seem particularly helpful if you’re trying to reduce the numbers of trafficked women. But prosecuting traffickers alone hasn’t changed the perception that it doesn’t matter whether the prostitute you pay for has been “forced” to have sex with you or not.
I have a couple of issues with your original article:
1. The UK law appears to be different from the Swedish law: the Swedish law is criminialising everyone who pays for sex; the UK one criminalises the purchase of sex from a prostitute who’s been forced to have sex. This is very different – and you can’t assume that the negative impacts will be the same.
2. I don’t see how this law is prejudicial against gay prostitution (although I accept that the original proposals criminialising all paid-for sex may well have been). If a man buys sex from a male prostitute who isn’t being forced into having sex, then no criminal offence will have taken place. If gay male prostitution is not generally pimp-driven as you say, then this law doesn’t sound like it’s going to have any impact on gay prostitution and their customers at all!
* [I've put "chosen" and "forced" in quotes: I'm not going to get into a debate about whether a heroin addict and/or a previous victim of child abuse is really making a free choice when they sell themselves; nor am I going to discuss the varying levels of exploitation/protection that may occur in prostitute-pimp relationships]
As I said in discussion with Tania this, (my point) isn’t about heterosexual prostitution (which I may have an opinion about), it’s about the ‘collateral impact’ of law on the gay ‘community’. Tania’s point “it’s widely seen as socially acceptable for men to pay for sex” is worth quoting because I don’t think this is true and another example of something I don’t think is true in the gay community!
This idea underlines the gulf in understanding of how this issue relates in these two worlds.
And this community isn’t going to give much of a s**t about people like prostitutes – there is zero comment already on this proposed law. There are a lot of issues here, but it’s unlikely that many of them in relation to gay prostitutes are being even vaguely considered. That’s my point.