Where is the evidence?

Some argued in a previous Morning Star article[1] against our labour rights, considering that we are not workers, but as Fiona McTaggart MP puts it: “bodies used as commodities” or, according to Heather Harvey from Eaves, that we campaign: “for legitimacy for pimps and exploiters”.

Let’s have a look at their claims: “In countries where prostitution is legal or tolerated there is still a high rate of violence, death and exploitation of prostitutes.”

In New Zealand[2] and New South Wales, our attackers know that we can report crime to the police without being arrested. Why not considering worth reducing this violence, instead of criminalisation, like if attempts to make the sex industries disappear had been efficient? So far, it hasn’t stopped women being murdered either.

On the contrary, a labour rights approach provides sex workers with protection and health and safety measures. Sex worker trade unionists have organised against violence, developing ‘Ugly Mug’ systems, which is the share of information about potential attackers who pose as clients.

Heather Harvey from Eaves opposes brothels in particular for the absence of health and safety checking by law enforcement officials. Yet, in many industries, health and safety laws are not implemented but we don’t reject them; while they are nonexistent in the prohibitionist context she defends.

Certainly, decriminalisation is not enough. There is still a lot of violence against nurses, bus drivers, and in many industries, but we continue to support these workers’ labour rights instead of considering their whole industry as inherently violent.

Where the evidence to claim: “prostitutes die much younger than other women” is? Do they die younger than female soldiers? Having sex is not violent, nor is earning money. Hilary Kinnell[3] shows that the majority of violence comes from those who do not pay for sex, while our clients in their majority respect our conditions.

Most sex workers in Britain were not “recruited as children”. Estes and Weiner study, often cited by prohibitionists to claim that the average age of entry in prostitution is 13[4], is not about Britain, and was on child prostitution only.[5] [6] On the other hand, Suzanne Jenkins[7] shows that the majority of sex workers are in their thirties.

We don’t know the exact trafficking numbers but we know that Pentameter police operations rescued 0 victims,[8] and that the estimation from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is 2600 victims.[9] If Hilary Kinnell’s estimation of 80.000 people working in the UK sex industry is correct, trafficking victims represent 3.25 per cent of UK sex workers. This would mean that 96,75% of UK sex workers are NOT victims of trafficking.

Ms McTaggart defends the Policing and Crime Act 2009 which increased sex workers’ criminalisation, forced rehabilitation, and introduced a new offense to pay for sex with someone who is subject to force. She complains that only 43 men were arrested, which according to her will, shows the inefficiency of the measure. Meanwhile, the number of sex workers arrested has increased because of this same law, since we are more easily identified than our clients.

Only the last Swedish government’s report says that clients are “deterred by the risk of legal action”, and it has been strongly criticised by independent academic research. Dodillet and Ostergren quote Swedish clients who compare the law with driving limitations, saying that it doesn’t stop them from buying sex.[10] A lot of other independent researches oppose the claims that Sweden has decreased trafficking or sex work. In fact, there is no evidence on whether it has increased or decreased. (Agustin, Persson, Wagenius, Dougherty, Rayman, Pettersson, Greta, Brahn, Egnell, Isberg, Schantz)[11]

Harvey denounces legalisation but contradicts herself, saying on one hand that: “the numbers of illegal as well as licensed brothels flourish” and later that: “many of the window brothels are being closed down by the police, as are the street zones.

She accuses: “Trafficking into those countries where brothels are an accepted part of the service industry increases”. However, the figures from Germany are the following:

2000 – 926 victims

2001 – 987 victims

2002 – 811 victims (law on prostitution enacted)

2003 – 1235 victims

2004 – 972 victims

2005 – 642 victims

2006 – 775 victims

2007 – 689 victims

2008 – 676 victims

2009 – 710 victims[12]

She claims that “the police has come to realise that all legalisation does is attract more pimps and predators into the country, but offers no protection for the women” However, no evidence or statement from the Dutch police is provided, while the UK police, are defending decriminalisation publicly in order to improve women’s safety.[13]

Finally, she claims that: “68 per cent of women in prostitution experience post traumatic stress disorder”. This figure probably comes from Melissa Farley who interviewed sex workers in psychiatric hospitals. Farley was dismissed by Juge Himel as she did not meet the standards set by Canadian courts for the admission of expert evidence. Himel said: “she failed to qualify her opinion regarding the causal relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder and prostitution, namely that it could be caused by events unrelated to prostitution” and that: “Dr. Farley stated during cross-examination that some of her opinions on prostitution were formed prior to her research”.[14]

[3] Hilary Kinnell, Violence and Sex Work in Britain, Willan Publishing, 2008

[5] Richard Estes and Neil Weiner http://www.sp2.upenn.edu/restes/CSEC.htm

[7] Suzanne Jenkins, Beyond gender : An examination of exploitation in sex work, Summary report www.sexworker.at/phpBB2/download.php?id=479

[10]Petra Östergren and Susanne Dodillet, The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed Success and Documented Effects, pp 14 -17 http://gup.ub.gu.se/gup/record/index.xsql?pubid=140671


About Thierry Schaffauser

Queer, sex worker, drugs user, student in Gender History, GMB trade unionist, migrant, wants to change the world, etc
This entry was posted in Sex work and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Where is the evidence?

  1. you are amazing Thierry. Lots of love from a South Australian sex worker!

  2. Pingback: France should not criminalise my clients | Thierry Schaffauser

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s