Sex-working mother loses custody of her child 1
Östra Göinge, Sweden. January 13, 2018.
Mother is devastated by court ruling.
The mother worked as a sex worker in a village in Östra Göinge, where she advertised her services via the internet. She started doing so after running into financial troubles when her son was only two to three months. She invited men into her apartment and had sex with them for money. Her earnings amounted to around 2,000-2,300 euros per month.
The mother and her son lived more or less isolated, except for the visits from her clients, who stopped having sex with the mother if the boy woke up in his crib next to the bed. The mother said the boy never seemed to be scared but was curious of them. When the boy would wake up, the men went home, understanding the situation since they had children of their own, according to the Administrative Court’s ruling.
Everything came into the open after a concerned person reported the mother to social services, whereupon the son was taken into care. This happened without any formal evaluation of the situation, although the mother’s actions were confirmed by her online ads.
The Administrative Court attached special importance to the fact that the mother had invited strangers buying sex into her home. According to the court, the overall situation meant that there was a significant risk that the son’s health and development would be harmed.
By her own account, the mother closed the book on sex work since her son was taken into care. However, the Administrative Court believed there was a risk that she would repeat her behaviour and has therefore decided that the son should remain in state care in accordance with the Care of Young Persons Act (LVU). In addition, the court held that the mother had shown indifference regarding the safety and protection of her son by bringing male strangers to her apartment.
Instead of sex work, the mother will now look for other work and in the meantime, she has applied for government support, although she realises that those payments won’t be as high as the 2,000-2,300 euros she earned from sex work. The woman also stated that she had resumed contact with her own mother, who had promised to help her.
According to the Administrative Court she is “devastated about the consequences for her son”. She can appeal against the court ruling at the Administrative Court of Appeals in Gothenburg within three weeks.
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Translation for SWAT by Ophelia Eglentyn from Fuckförbundet, an association founded in Sweden in the spring of 2017, by and for sex workers.
“Our two key functions are to uphold a community that offers support for all kinds of sex workers in Sweden, and to raise the awareness on sex workers rights and the negative impacts from the current set of laws. … If your feminism excludes marginalized groups of people then it’s not worthy of it’s name.”
SWAT – Sex Workers + Allies Translate, Edit + Design
“The aim of SWAT is not only to provide sex workers and allies with a network to enable sex work knowledge sharing across as cultural and language barriers, but also to reward contributors for their work whenever possible.”
1 The Swedish original of this article was written by Carl-Johan Liljedahl and first published as “Barn till prostituerad omhändertas” (Child of prostitute taken into care) at Kristianstadsbladet (January 13th, 2018). The terms “prostitution/prostitute” and “sex buyer” were replaced with “sex work/sex worker” and “client.” The copyright for the original article lies with Kristianstadsbladet. It is not licensed under a Creative Commons License.
The images and tweets above and below did not appear in the original article. Translations of articles do not represent endorsements of titles, images, terms used or views expressed therein, or of the authors who have written or the media outlets that published them.
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Sex work stigma
If you read any of the articles published in the days before and after Amnesty International’s decision to support decriminalising sex work, e.g. this one by Luca Stevenson and Agata Dziuban, you are now hopefully aware of the immense stigma sex workers are faced with in their everyday lives, affecting not only them but also their families and friends. To a much lesser degree, the stigma can also affect sex workers’ clients, although at worst, they might be faced with ridicule or ostracism, not violent attacks. However, the stigma might well play a role in why clients are rarely seen sacrificing their anonymity to stand up for the rights of sex workers whose services they enjoy. As a researcher, I don’t feel any tangible impact by the stigma attached to sex work research, but I certainly experience my fair share of verbal abuse. Following the Twitter battle before and after Amnesty’s decision, I’ve updated the above peak meter, which I created a couple of years ago, to include the latest labels others have attached to or hurled at me.
This blog post may appear somewhat self-referential but I would actually like to use the labels, good and bad, as vehicles to point readers to several interesting articles, some of which were written by sex workers, others by researchers, not that the two are mutually exclusive, and yet again others by sex worker-exclusionary radical feminists (SWERFs). Please note that the below is by no means intended to compare my experience to the stigma and its consequences faced by sex workers.
[-10] John / Pimp Apologist
Trying to shame sex workers or sex workers’ rights advocates by labelling them “johns” is very common, although it doesn’t really make much sense. After all, if someone believes that consenting adults should be allowed to buy and sell sexual services, being called a “john”, although buying sex carries its own stigma, is pretty much the same as being called a customer, which is hardly an insult.
A prostitution prohibitionist using the pseudonym Stella Marr once called me a “pimp apologist” before later deleting her comment. Although she set her own blog to “private” after she was outed, you can still read her libellous article “Pimps Posing as Sex Worker Activists” at the “Anti-Porn Feminists”-blog, in which she slanders veteran sex worker activists Maxine Doogan, Norma Jean Almodovar and the late Robyn Few, founders of the Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project (ESPLER), the International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture and Education (ISWFACE), and the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA (SWOP-USA) respectively.
[-30] Pornstitutionist / Useless A**hole / Sexist Propagandist
Francois Tremblay, in his own words a “pessimistic feminazi, radical whackjob and antinatalist”, responded to a blog post of mine with one of his own, in which he labelled me a “pornstitutionist”, a term, as he explained, “for people who oppose abolitionism in prostitution and pornography”. His post “The strange connection between pornstitutionists and lying” is still online. He later added a postscript with the above mentioned expletive.
After I had posted a series of memes to mock the Hollywood celebrities who had gullibly believed the false claims by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) and co-signed a letter to oppose Amnesty‘s draft policy, a self-declared radical feminist tweeted that my memes were “sexist propaganda” and that I should quit insulting women’s intelligence – although my post includes memes mocking male celebrities, too. I wouldn’t usually mock spelling mistakes, but, well…
[-50] Sleazeball etc.
All of these are comments left about me underneath a post at the “Anti-Porn Feminists”-blog. To get an idea about the barrage of abuse that sex workers are regularly faced with, please read the Storify entry #whenantisattack, gathered by a group of current and former sex workers to highlight the silencing, shaming, abuse and insults by those who oppose sex work.
[-70] Pimp / Trafficker
In 2013, an Irish-based tabloid re-posted a video that YouTube had previously removed since it violated its terms and conditions. In the video, an undercover reporter of the tabloid filmed and outed a sex worker without her consent. In the comment thread underneath the video, a troll called me both a pimp and a trafficker. While that video was a particularly extreme example, media reports regularly add to the stigma attached to sex work, which is why in December 2014, four South African organisations jointly published “A guide to respectful reporting and writing on sex work”. An article about the guide was published in Open Democracy‘s excellent series Beyond Trafficking and Slavery. To download the complete guide as PDF please click here.
The term “pimp lobby” is frequently used by sex worker-exclusionary radical feminists (SWERFs) to slander “anyone who advocates anything but the full criminalization of sex work”. Apart from watching the video below, I recommend reading “Hanging out in the Pimp Lobby” by Jemima, “Everything You Need To Know About The Pimp Lobby” by Charlotte Shane, and “I Am the Pimp Lobby” by Jes Richardson.
Perhaps the worst insult I’ve experienced was one during the Amnesty #ICM2015 twitter battle, when a Canadian anti-prostitution activist accused me of using the murder of Swedish sex worker activist Petite Jasmine to further my alleged agenda to legalise “sexual slavery”.
Black + Green Labels
A French sex worker activist once told me I wrote even “more politely than English people”. I believe that any movement needs different types of activism and writing. Some of it needs to be fierce; at other times, it’s better to be diplomatic. I’m always up for creating satirical memes, but in my writing, I prefer to be very diplomatic, although when faced with ideologues like Rhoda Grant or Mary Honeyball, that’s not always possible.
[+30] Idealist / Activist
What an American and a Turkish friend in South Korea called me. Justice Himel from the Ontario Court of Justice found that anti-prostitution activist Melissa Farley had allowed her advocacy to permeate her opinions. Although Farley’s work has been frequently discredited, anti-prostitution activists continue to cite her in support of sweeping claims about sex work, just as the notorious Cho/Dreher/Neumayer study is constantly rolled out to back up the argument that legalising sex work leads to greater human trafficking inflows, despite the seriously flawed data used to make that argument. I believe on both sides of the divide, it’s sometimes difficult to remain detached when people close to oneself experience violent abuse. When it comes to activism for the rights of sex workers, I believe it’s important to acknowledge what you don’t know and stay clear of problematic arguments. And that’s true regardless of whether you are a sex worker, a researcher, a journalist, an artist, a writer, or any combination of these.
[+50] Sex Worker Ally / Great Partner
[+70] Fabulous / Friend
What the above mentioned French and a South Korean sex worker activist have called me.
My preferred way of dealing with SWERF attacks is to create memes and share them with the #sexwork community or respond with counter evidence to the most ludicrous claims, like the one about sex workers’ rights advocates allegedly living in a land of milk and honey, when actually, it’s faux anti-trafficking organisations who rake in the dough.
Should you experience verbal abuse because you publicly stated your support for policies to safeguard sex workers’ human rights, try not to let it get to you. As American comedian W.C. Fields once put it, “it ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to”.