Sex Work and Human Rights

Update to Rhoda Grant’s consultation process

Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill (2) fails!

Scottish Parliament ConsultationMSP Rhoda Grant did not receive cross-party support for her recent proposal to criminalise the clients of sex workers in Scotland.

“We, the sex workers at SCOT-PEP want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone for their support over the last few months, we are ecstatic!!! Let’s hope the debate and discussion can continue and together we can work towards a legal framework and social environment that protects, supports and respects the human rights and dignity of sex workers.”

Commenting on the failure of other political parties to support her proposed bill, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said

“I am disappointed that the Bill has fallen due to not achieving cross-party support when there was such overwhelming support expressed in response to my consultation from a wide range of individuals and organisations. I will continue to press for the introduction of legislation that aims to tackle the demand side of the industry and support for those who have been failed by society.”

Rhoda Grant - Disappointment TweetRhoda Grant’s comments appeared on her website but were later taken offline. Click here to view a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 28 Jun 2013 13:36:53 GMT.

Controversies surrounding the Consultation Process

Speaking of failing: when in late May, Ms Grant finally released her summary of the responses to her proposal, she failed to include several responses from opponents to her bill, including my own. While this was later rectified after other participants and I complained to Ms Grant – she blamed technical difficulties for the blunder – it appeared that curiously, no responses from proponents had been omitted. Please click here to read the press release by Scottish sex worker organisation SCOT-PEP in response to Ms Grant’s summary of responses.

In a separate controversy involving the responses to the bill, Amnesty International was forced to clarify its position on the criminalisation of sex work due to a rogue submission by its Paisley Branch, which had supported Ms Grant’s bill and given the impression on its now deleted Facebook page that Amnesty International supported Ms Grant’s proposal.

Wendy Lyon Amnesty IntlIn another press release following Rhoda Grant’s defeat, SCOT-PEP commented:

“MSP Rhoda Grant has never been accountable to any of the many responses to her consultation that suggested that she misrepresented her evidence. One academic, whose work was ‘quoted’ by Ms Grant, was moved to clarify her opposition to the Bill and her objection to Ms Grant’s distortion of her work. Amnesty International UK were forced to re-state their opposition to criminalisation after Ms Grant misrepresented their position in her summary of responses. SCOT-PEP will continue to campaign for an intelligent debate around sex work in Scotland, which must include meaningful dialogue with sex workers themselves, looking at how Scotland can protect their health and human rights.  SCOT-PEP believe this can only be achieved through full decriminalisation of sex work, sex workers, clients, management and others related to sex workers, within a human rights-based framework.”

Other Reactions

SWOU LogoLuca Stevenson, coordinator of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) and co-founder of the Sex Worker Open University (SWOU) in the UK, commented: “Sex workers in Scotland and Europe rejoice at the news that the bill proposal did not receive cross-party support. Members of Sex Worker Open University, in collaboration with SCOT-PEP and the support of many activists, worked tirelessly to create a sex workers’ rights festival in Glasgow in April to give voices to sex workers that would have been directly affected by such law: loss of income, raids by the police, increased difficulty in screening clients, and increased stigma would have been just a few of the consequences of the criminalisation of our clients. We are very proud of what we have achieved and we hope this victory will inspire our comrades to keep fighting such law in other countries.”

Pye JacobssonUpon hearing that the proposed bill had failed to receive cross-party support, Pye Jakobsson, coordinator and international spokesperson of Swedish sex worker organisation Rose Alliance, commented: “For us in Sweden, any country NOT taking the bloody Swedish model is so important! The politicians all talk about the success, how many countries taking it etc etc, so this is very empowering for us!”

Matthias LehmannMatthias Lehmann commented: “On the day after Germany’s ruling coalition pushed a crude law to fight human trafficking and control brothels through parliament, in spite of recommendations to the contrary by experts of all shades, it is encouraging that in Scotland, reason prevailed. I would like to congratulate all sex workers in Scotland on this great success! It’s excellent news for Korean sex workers who today, on June 29th, celebrate Korean Sex Workers Day.”

@whorephobia@whorephobia commented: “This bill showed how little antis care about the women they claim to want to save. Every single piece of evidence shows that the criminalisation of clients puts us in danger. However, for them, with a moral objection to sex work, this is a price worth paying. They prefer dead women to consenting women. Today is a glorious day!”

Melanie MayMelanie May, a German sex worker and member of Sexwork Germany, a union of sex workers, which is currently in the course of formation, commented: “I am happy for my colleagues in Scotland how things turned out. Unfortunately, sex workers have to fight for their rights all over Europe these days; even here in Germany we are facing more and more serious problems. Therefore, the Scottish success gives me hope, while I have to admit that it makes me feel a little jealous, too. I wish you lots of strength and success for the future!”

SCOT-PEP Logo darkKat*, a sex worker in Scotland, said, “So much evidence shows that criminalising sex work makes us more vulnerable. Where clients are criminalised, sex workers face more police and client violence, and we have nowhere to turn to if we want to report this. The Swedish government itself acknowledges that its law to criminalise clients increases stigma. Stigma is what makes us vulnerable; it means the police won’t believe or listen to us, and people who pose as clients know this, and this makes us easy targets. I’m so relieved that this bill has fallen. It would have worsened the structural violence and stigma that we face.”

SCOT-PEP Logo darkAn anonymous Scotland-based sex worker* said, “It’s been a difficult time ever since Ms Grant took over Trish Godman’s work, but thinking back I realise that I am very grateful to her. The danger of possible criminalisation helped many sex workers get together; in a society where we’re alienated by stigma I now have friends and this means a lot to me. Regardless of her motives, Ms Grant helped us break the isolation, find allies and become stronger together. We’ve learnt to defend our position, now we know we can achieve more. It was a difficult time but it was totally worth it.”

SCOT-PEP Logo darkAlice*, a Scotland-based sex worker, said, “The next step is decriminalisation. Decriminalisation in New South Wales and New Zealand has been shown again and again to tackle abuse and exploitation, fight trafficking, effectively promote condom-use and thus profoundly help the fight against HIV, and empower sex workers to access justice and labour rights. What’s not to love? New Zealand has always been at the forefront of women’s rights – it was the first country in the world to give women the vote – and its still a globally-acknowledged leader in tackling violence against women, as this brave and successful policy demonstrates.”

Coyote RIBella Robinson, founder of sex worker organisation Coyote Rhode Island, commented: “No government has ever been successful at policing prostitution, so is it even rational to think they can regulate it? There is no doubt in my mind that all these regulations will be used to harass and discriminate against these adult businesses and sex worker themselves. Other than not allowing anyone to live on the premises and requiring each worker to fill out an application, show ID to prove they are an adult and sign a contract that says they understand that they are entering sex work by choice, what is there to REGULATE? I didn’t hear much about how this would effect independent sex workers. I didn’t hear anything about what long term services do they even have in place for any victims they find. They didn’t even discuss why so many people are entering the sex trade. No mention that it’s directly linked to POVERTY, and whether a person is being threatened by a pimp or a landlord that is threatening to throw them out if they can’t make the rent that it’s basically the same thing. Why are they IGNORING the fact that long term housing and medical insurance are necessary for harm reduction as well as jobs that pay wages people can actually live on? I heard no mention of law enforcement having to take “sensitivity trainings” nor who will monitor the bad cops that exploit and rape sex workers. I did not hear about how any sex worker can report violence. They chose to ignore all the evidence that shows that criminalization creates the perfect playground for bad cops and predators to rob, rape, beat, exploit, threaten and murder sex workers. I did not hear anything about the human rights of sex workers nor the civil rights of all consenting adults. We did not hear about all the anti-trafficking groups that are nothing more than anti prostitution groups in disguise and that their main focus is to exterminate all prostitutes from the face of the earth as if we were cockroaches. No mention of how these groups are PROMOTING VIOLENCE against sex workers with this “they get what they deserve” mentality. In closing, there was no mention that criminalization and shaming people does nothing to stop anyone from buying or selling sex. There will be a next generation of sex workers, and since victims in the sex trade are in the minority, let’s get back to the SOLUTION of protecting the majority of sex workers by allowing them to report violence, and by granting them the same labor rights, civil rights and human rights as any other civilian. To hear from the mouths of 11 US sex workers themselves please watch American Courtesans.”

Frans van RossumFrans van Rossum, a former sex worker and life-long sex worker ally from the Netherlands who provides legal assistance to migrant sex workers, commented: “What a relief. Sex workers need this everywhere, because society needs sex workers, urgently, maybe more urgent than ever before. This is great news in the European corner of the globe, after this week’s shameful, embarrassing defeat in the German Bundestag, and the goings in the Netherlands where the legal freedom of sex work is eroded in a careful, well planned strategy of stigmatization, step by step. Parliament is (still) not buying it and resisting it, but city councils are slowly roped in. The victory in the Scottish Parliament is much needed. what a relief! Love to all sex workers, in Scotland and any place of the globe! You’re great human beings, and fun to boot!”

*Quoted from SCOT-PEP’s press release

What are your thoughts on the success of Scottish sex workers?
Leave a comment below and I’ll add it above.

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Update to Small Fundraiser for Translation Job | Research Project Korea

  2. Pingback: Update #2 to Rhoda Grant’s consultation process | Research Project Korea

  3. Pingback: Criminalising the payment for sexual services | Research Project Korea

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