Sex Work and Human Rights

Posts tagged “trafficking

Janice Raymond’s modus operandi

Raymond's Ouija BoardJanice Raymond’s Ouija Board (Source: Wikipedia)

Introduction

In an exclusive for OpEdNews, a US-based website for political and social analysis, radical feminist Janice Raymond responded to sociologist Julie Kaye’s opinion piece in the New York Times, titled “Canada’s Flawed Sex Trade Law”, in which Kaye criticised the Canadian government for having merely replaced one flawed policy with another by passing Bill C-36. [1] It would be hilarious, if it wasn’t so serious an issue, that of all people, Raymond felt she was in a position to criticise Kaye for ignoring evidence. Responding to claims made by Raymond surely is not what gets me up in the morning but I decided to do so due to the sheer amount of misinformation put forward by her, including continuing to misrepresent South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws. The statements from reports and articles listed below will illustrate that ignoring evidence is in fact Raymond’s very own modus operandi.

Alleged increase of human trafficking during sport events

Raymond is indignant that someone could have the audacity to challenge “the numbers of women and girls sexually exploited during sports events”. In the report “What’s the cost of a rumour? A guide to sorting out the myths and the facts about sporting events and trafficking”, Julie Ham wrote:

“There is a very wide discrepancy between claims that are made prior to large sporting events and the actual number of trafficking cases found. There is no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution.”

Source: Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)

And in a study commissioned by the European Football Association (UEFA), Martina Schuster, Almut Sülzle, Agnieszka Zimowska wrote:

“As in our previous analysis of major football events, we suggest that the topic of human trafficking should not be brought up in connection with such events, since this is detrimental to efforts to help victims. Before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, for example, various campaigns predicted an increase in human trafficking, which did not materialise. As a result, the organisations concerned were no longer taken seriously by the public because their predictions had been so inaccurate.”

Source: La Strada International (LSI) – Network against Trafficking in Human Beings

Finally, Ruth Krčmář, Coordinator of the International Organisation for Migration’s Counter Trafficking Programme in the Ukraine stated:

“NGO case data as well hotline responses show no evidence that human trafficking surged before or during the EURO 2012. The scare of increased human trafficking for sexual exploitation comes up every time there is a large sporting event on the horizon, although our experience only reinforces earlier findings in other countries. We hope that studies like ours will eventually put an end to the myth, which results in scarce counter-trafficking resources being spent on one-off campaigns rather than long-term solutions and victim assistance.”

Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

You say ‘Nordic’, I say ‘Swedish’, let’s call the whole thing off

With regards to Raymond’s conflation of different countries’ prostitution laws as ‘Nordic Model’, May-Len Skilbrei and Charlotta Holmström wrote:

“We found that the differences not only between, but also within, the Nordic countries are too great for there to be anything like a shared ‘Nordic’ model – and that the case for their success is far more fraught than popular support would suggest. Only Sweden, Norway and Iceland have acts unilaterally criminalising the purchase of sex. Finland has a partial ban; Denmark has opted for decriminalisation. The ‘Nordic model’, then, is in fact confined to only three countries. … The Nordic countries also police prostitution using various other laws and by-laws. Some of these regulations do, in fact, assume that the women who sell sex are to be punished and blamed for prostitution. This goes to show that one should be careful in concluding that Nordic prostitution policies are guided by progressive feminist ideals, or that they necessarily seek to protect women involved in prostitution.”

Source: The Conversation

Raymond blames Kaye for ignoring the findings of the Swedish Institute’s evaluation of the Swedish Sex Purchase Act from 2010, claiming that “there is no evidence that the decrease in street prostitution has led to an increase in prostitution elsewhere” and that “Sweden is one of two countries in Europe where prostitution and sex trafficking is not increasing”. However, the one who is doing the ignoring here is Raymond.

A 2014 report by the Stockholm County Council, titled “Extent and development of prostitution in Sweden”, states that “the methods currently available are unable to estimate the exact extent in Sweden” and that “the size of the population” engaging in prostitution is unknown. What’s more, the report also states that there is a lack of “a single definition of prostitution and human trafficking, which makes it difficult to draw comparisons between and within countries over time”.

Whereas Raymond cites the 2010 report as stating there was no evidence that prostitution had moved elsewhere (from the streets), the 2014 report states that “the number of escort ads aimed for men who buy sexual services from women has increased markedly during the past eight years from 304 to 6,965 ads”. Apparently, prostitution did move elsewhere: online. One should also note that the claim of the Sex Purchase Act having halved street-based sex work is problematic, since it is based on guesstimates from as early as 1995 – 4 years before the adoption of the law. [Source: Stockholm County Council]

A recent research report from Malmö University, commissioned by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU), also criticises the Sex Purchase Act, concluding that claims of the policy’s success have been greatly exaggerated. “There is no evidence that the demand has declined to the extent claimed by the state-led evaluation,” RFSU’s President Kristina Ljungros told the daily Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “The law has instead led to increased vulnerability for sex workers.” [Source: Global Network of Sex Work Project (NSWP)/Dagens Nyheter]

Fictitious numbers

Where Raymond’s statements about Germany are concerned, I shall give her credit for correctly stating that Germany decriminalized aspects of prostitution in 2002, as opposed to legalising sex work in 2002, as is commonly and incorrectly claimed. However, the number she mentions of persons engaged in prostitution is a mere figment of her imagination. The claim that they are 400,000 sex workers in Germany actually dates back to the 1980s – before Germany’s reunification – and was only an estimate by Hydra e.V., a meeting and counselling centre for sex workers.

At a symposium titled “10 Years Prostitution Law in Germany” in 2012, researcher Elfriede Steffan stated that Hydra’s estimate was continuously being cited for over two decades although it lacked any scientific basis. According to Steffan, another estimate from the 1990s put the number of sex workers in unified Germany between 60,000 and 200,000. She added, “Objectivity also means to admit what we don’t know. There is no new data.”

A 2005 evaluation report by the German government estimated that there were 200,000 sex workers in Germany, and on its website, the responsible ministry states that where the number of sex workers in Germany is concerned, there are no reliable statistics available. Thus, Raymond’s claim that “two years after the law was passed, the number of persons in prostitution rose from about 200,000 to over 400,000” is entirely fictional.

Raymond’s Reprise: Misrepresenting the ‘South Korean Model’

Finally, as I mentioned in my introduction, Raymond continues to misrepresent the nature and alleged success of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws, currently under review by the country’s constitutional court. Raymond states that the law prohibits “the purchase of sexual activities” but conveniently leaves out that sex workers are equally criminalised. In addition, as I have written previously, her claims about the existence of better victim protection and assistance and the alleged reduction of the sex industry in South Korea lack common sense as well as scientific evidence.

Conclusion

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of evidence to counter the wild claims made by Janice Raymond, and I shall leave the remaining ones to others, since there really isn’t enough time in a day to debunk articles such as Raymond’s. But at the very least, I hope that the above listed sources will suffice to illustrate that Raymond is in no position to blame others for “selecting certain examples at the expense of others” and that what Raymond laments, ignoring evidence, is in fact her very own modus operandi.


Footnotes

[1] Janice Raymond is an American radical feminist author and activist, and a professor emerita of Women’s Studies and Medical Ethics at the University of Massachusetts (UMass). Julie Kaye is the Director of Community Engaged Research and Assistant Professor of Sociology at The King’s University in Edmonton, Alberta.

[2] For the reason why I do not use the term ‘sex trafficking’ as Raymond does, please see Borislav Gerasimov’s article ‘Hey, mind your language’ and my own comment below.

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#NoClause6 | Sex workers protest in Northern Ireland

Interview with sex workers’ rights activist Laura Lee at Stormont Parliamentary Buildings, Belfast.
© 2014 Matt Lemon Photography | Please read the copyright notice

What is Clause 6?

No Clause 6 anigif 150Clause 6 is part of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill in Northern Ireland, proposed by Lord Morrow from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), currently the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly. With Clause 6, the DUP aims to “create a new offence of purchasing sexual services to reduce demand for trafficked individuals and combat exploitation” and proposes to amend the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 to criminalise any and all purchases of sexual services, regardless of consent between the individuals involved.

On Monday, October 20, 2014, sex workers and allies protested against Clause 6 at the Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast where parliamentarians debated over the more than 60 amendments before a vote on the Bill scheduled for the same night. +++ UPDATE: Clause 6 passed the Northern Ireland Assembly with 81 votes in favour, 10 votes against. +++

Against Clause 6

Research commissioned by the Department of Justice and carried out by researchers at Queen’s University found that 98% of sex workers who responded to the survey were against criminalising the purchase of sexual services.

“Sex workers worry that criminalisation of clients will lead to a potential decrease in security, worsen working conditions and increase risks of violence and other abuse. Some are also concerned about the loss of what they determine as decent clients and an increase in the number of violent clients. Another common concern is that criminalisation of clients will lead to the increased involvement of organised crime groups and ‘pimps’ in the sex industry.

For sex workers criminalisation of clients may mean that they would be less inclined to report crimes to the police out of fear of incriminating themselves or becoming involved in legal procedures.” (Source: Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland, Report prepared by Queen’s University Belfast)

Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford commented:

“My view is that the research report raises clear questions as to whether the objective that Lord Morrow and I share – that is to reduce the incidence of trafficking – will indeed be furthered by Clause 6. I also believe it provides sufficient evidence for anyone who has any concerns about the welfare of individuals involved in prostitution to oppose Clause 6 on the grounds that we need more time to understand this, virtually hidden, element of our society and more time to make decisions on the right course for future law and policy.” (Source: Department of Justice)

Ford said the issue of trafficking people and human slavery should be separated from the issue of prostitution. “The research has established that the framework of prostitution in Northern Ireland is more complex and diverse than the picture generally painted. I have, however, seen no evidence to suggest that the change proposed by Lord Morrow would reduce the incidence of trafficking. Indeed the report contains evidence to suggest that criminalising the purchasing of sex, as a single clause in a bill, may create further risk and hardship for those individuals, particularly women involved in prostitution,” the justice minister said. (Source: The Guardian)

In a press release, sex workers’ rights activist Laura Lee stated:

“Will sex workers in NI have to wait decades for an apology just as the Magdalene women did ? Or will that apology for bad law making come after the first murder, or fourth serious assault perhaps ? It remains to be seen, but they cannot for a moment pretend they didn’t have the evidence available to do right by an already marginalised and stigmatised group. Sex workers will suffer, and it could have been prevented by the courageous actions of a few. Instead we have been let down by the cowardice of many.” (Source: Laura Lee)

+++ Update: Statement by sex workers in Northern Ireland on passing of Clause 6 +++

“We, as sex workers are devastated to hear about the news that the purchase of sex will be criminalised in Northern Ireland under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. This new bill will only drive sex work further underground and make it more dangerous for the most marginalised sex workers. 

The Northern Ireland Assembly are not listening to current sex workers who will be affected by this new legislation and the evidence released by the Department of Justice on Friday backs this up. 98% of sex workers surveyed are against this new law and 85% working in the industry said it would not reduce trafficking. 

We ask the Northern Ireland Assembly to reconsider this law and look at the evidence. This law will not reduce trafficking and will make working conditions more unsafe.” (Source: Ugly Mugs Ireland)

Stormont Protest: Sex workers and allies protest against Clause 6

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Photos: Sex workers and allies protest against Clause 6 of Lord Morrow’s ill-informed Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which criminalises the purchase of sexual services in Northern Ireland. © 2014 Matt Lemon Photography | Please read the copyright notice

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Criminalising the payment for sexual services – An introduction for the uninitiated

Northern Ireland’s criminalisation of buying sex puts sex workers at risk | Ruth Jacobs

Clicca qui per vedere una traduzione italiana di questo articolo.

Open Letter to the Modern Slavery Bill Committee

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News coverage about Queen’s University Prostitution Research and Clause 6

(Includes appearances by “Andy”, an anonymous female sex worker; Dr Susann Huschke, lead author of the research report; and Justice Minister David Ford)


SPIEGEL Rebuttal Goes Korea

Der Spiegel 22.2013 Mock English Korean - Image by Matthias LehmannThe story so far

In May 2013, leading German news magazine DER SPIEGEL published a cover story on the alleged failure of the German prostitution law which, according to DER SPIEGEL, rendered the State complicit in human trafficking. Contrary to South Korea, prostitution is legal in Germany, though it is heavily regulated in most municipalities.

Since its publication, the SPIEGEL article has been quoted by campaigners for the criminalisation of prostitution in many parts of the world. Most recently, Mary Honeyball, a member of the European Parliament for the British Labour Party, cited the article as evidence in her “Report on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality”. The Honeyball Report was subsequently voted upon in the European Parliament, despite strong opposition from 560 NGOs as well as 94 academics and researchers who published a counter-report exposing the inaccurate and misrepresentative data used by Mary Honeyball.

Notwithstanding, a majority of MEPs backed the report, which was adopted as a non-binding resolution, thus formally establishing the EU’s stance on prostitution as being in support of the ‘Swedish Model’ that criminalises the buyers of sexual services.

Back in June 2013, Sonja Dolinsek and Matthias Lehmann had published a critique of the SPIEGEL article, which they found to be deeply flawed and failing to address numerous relevant aspects of human trafficking prevention and prosecution, including victim protection.

Noticing that the SPIEGEL article had found its way into the Korean news media, Research Project Korea launched a small fundraiser to have the critique translated into Korean. Nearly 90% of the funding target were reached quickly and the translation was completed at the end of June. The real challenge, however, was just beginning.

The plan to place the translated article in a Korean newspaper proved to be extremely difficult. Many editorial staff didn’t even bother to reply, but eventually, one of the biggest dailies expressed interest. The editorial department even planned to expand the article to include comments from sex workers and feminist academics. After protracted correspondence – months would literally pass by until the research team received new responses – it then suddenly transpired via a contact that the article wouldn’t be published after all. A journalist from the newspaper later confirmed this, without giving any reasons.

Self-Publication

Although a lot of time has passed, we have now decided to self-publish the article, since the constitutional review of the Anti-Sex Trade Law in South Korea has still not concluded; a second reason is the significance the SPIEGEL article appears to retain for prostitution law discourses, especially outside Germany, where, long after the print edition has been recycled, it finds acceptance as unrefuted truth and continues to be utilised by anti-prostitution activists. It is currently disseminated on Korean online forums to insert some much-needed factual evidence into prostitution discourses in South Korea.

To view the Korean version of our article, please click here.

The research team would like to express its deepest gratitude to the generous donors who helped fund the translation as well as to the translators, Miss CHO Woori, Miss SONG Byol and [Anonymous].


Change the Met’s culture

Soho Raids - Photo West End Extra

The following is a brief introduction of the Soho Raids and an excerpt from a letter I sent to London’s Metropolitan Police in support of the Action Alert to Stop Attacks, Arrests & Evictions Against Sex Workers by the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP).

Background

Last December, 200 officers in riot gear with dogs raided sex workers’ flats in Soho. Some women were handcuffed and dragged out in their underwear in front of the media.  Closure Notices were issued against 18 flats and Closure Orders were then confirmed by a district judge in subsequent court cases. Soho is one of the safest places for women to work as they have a maid or receptionist with them and the support of the local community.

Police claimed in court that women were controlled because they were “required to work certain days of the week, between certain times and charge a specified amount of money for each service”. No “controller” was named or identified. District Judge Susan Williams found sex workers’ evidence “truthful”, admitted that “no evidence has been put before me of force and coercion” and acknowledged that a maid “is considered essential for safety”.

Click here to continue reading.

Excerpt

I was appalled to learn about the actions of the police in Soho on December 4th, 2013. In my opinion, these actions in no way reflected the Metropolitan Police’s concept of ‘total policing’, apart from maybe the ‘total professionalism’ with which your officers mistreated sex workers during the raid. Adding insult to injury, you invited the media to witness and document the actions, enabling them to publicly humiliate sex workers present at the scene.

Total Policing

  • A ‘total war on crime’ this was not, but a war on sex workers earning a livelihood in Soho.
  • If you were looking for victims of human trafficking, then how come your staff lacked the ‘total care for victims’?
  • If you were aiming to ‘cut crime’, then why did you choose to attack, harass and evict women selling sex, which is not a crime in England?
  • If you wanted to ‘cut costs’, then why did you send 200 of your officers to conduct a major raid in Soho?
  • What kind of ‘culture of the organisation’ do you aim to develop by evicting, detaining and harassing sex workers, by kicking down doors, closing working flats, confiscating money and personal belongings as well as manhandling women in the street in front of the media?
  • Where’s the humility, integrity and transparency with which you aim to achieve this ‘culture’?

If you genuinely aim for the Met to become ‘the best police service in the world’, you might want to take a moment to listen to Chris Armitt, Assistant Chief Constable for People Development at Merseyside Police.

ACC Chris Armitt Screenshot 3

“I genuinely think that enforcement is short-term. It doesn’t have a long-lasting effect, and sadly, there were a number of case studies who would say that where very robust and overt police enforcement is taking place, shortly after that, the incidents of violent attacks on sex workers increased, and that is possibly because those who would target sex workers become emboldened by what they say as an intolerance to the actual activity taking place.” – Chris Armitt [See Video below]

I believe the two recent murders of Mariana Popa and Maria Duque-Tunjano should give you more than enough reason to rethink your ‘culture’. Both women were sex workers, one working on the street and one working indoors but alone.

I ask you not only to genuinely change the nature of your operations and the culture of your officers, but to have the closure orders against sex workers’ flats revoked with immediate effect. Throwing women out on the street, as your officers literally did on December 4th, demonstrates a complete and utter disregard for their lives and safety, a safety they enjoy when working together and inside.

The claims that the raids were somehow needed to investigate suspected trafficking and abuse have been shown to be without foundation. No victims were found and there have been no prosecutions for trafficking. Instead, several migrant sex workers were taken into custody and shanghaied to a detention centre of the UK Border Authority, despite having reassured officers that they had not been trafficked into the UK and were working voluntarily.

During a recent visit in Soho, I could well see the changes the community is under. By coincidence, I actually witnessed how well-dressed staff of Soho Estates wandered about the area in which the closed brothel apartments are located, discussing the plans they have for area – a stark reminder of what is actually at stake in Soho, an area that has always been famous among locals and tourists for its diversity. The writing surely is on the wall. Whatever property developers have in mind, however, does not give the police the right to harass sex workers and evict them from their premises.

I firmly oppose the closures and urge you to reverse them, apologise to the women you harassed and caused distress, reimburse them for their losses, and ensure that sex workers’ safety will be given a priority in all future actions by the Metropolitan Police. If you manage to establish links and trust with sex workers and local outreach organisations, as ACC Chris Armitt suggests, you are likely to see an increase in collaboration with sex workers and a decrease in criminal activity. If you continue down the same path, however, you will shoulder a big part of the responsibility of violence against sex workers. As Valerie Scott, one of the plaintiffs in the Bedford v. Canada case asked recently: “How many bodies have to pile up?”

Yours sincerely,

Matthias Lehmann

Stop the closures!

Women are appealing against the evictions on 10, 17 and 24 February at Isleworth Crown Court. Please join them in demanding that these closures be stopped. Please write urgently addressing your letters to:

Borough Commander Alison Newcomb alison.newcomb[at]met.police.uk
Westminster Cllr. Nickie Aitkin in charge of community safety naiken[at]westminster.gov.uk
cc: English Collective of Prostitutes ecp[at]prostitutescollective.net

For a model letter click here.


Does legal prostitution really increase human trafficking in Germany?

Der Spiegel 22.2013 Mock English - Image by Matthias LehmannIn late May, leading German news magazine DER SPIEGEL published a cover story – now published in English – on the alleged failure of the German prostitution law, which rendered the State complicit in human trafficking. The deeply flawed report failed, however, to address numerous relevant aspects of human trafficking prevention and prosecution, including victim protection. It also failed to insert much needed factual evidence into the broader global debate on human trafficking, which is also about labor rights, migration, sustainable supply chains and human rights. DER SPIEGEL thus contributed to a very narrow debate on human trafficking and to the wrong debate around sex work.

Feminist Ire, “Not your fluffy feminism”, kindly published an article by Sonja Dolinsek and myself, which critically engages with the international community on the difficult relationship between trafficking and sex work. Please click here to read the article.

The above image (click to enlarge) is not an actual SPIEGEL cover. The red umbrella is the symbol of the sex workers’ rights movement. Click here for more information. Image: Matthias Lehmann