A poll conducted by GfK (February 28th to 2nd March) for Professor Colin Francome, director of the Campaign for Radical Sociology, shows that over half the population of the UK is opposed to the criminalisation of prostitution. Only three in ten nationwide were in favour. In London it was only one in four.
Prof. Francome will announce the findings of the poll tonight at a meeting in Parliament:
Stop the Criminalisation of Sex Work -- Safety First!
The exact wording for the poll was:
Currently in the UK under certain circumstances, it is legal for men and women to pay for sex. There are some people that wish to make it illegal for the user to pay for sex. Do you think such a criminalisation is a good idea or not?
51% agreed that
No, paying for sex should not be criminalized.
31% agreed that
Yes, it should be illegal to pay for sex.
The other 18% had no opinion.
Professor Francome commented:
The evidence from the Poll shows that such criminalisation would not have the support of the general public. I think it would be a mistake for Parliament to interfere with people's personal decisions about their sex lives or occupations.
Cari Mitchell of the English Collective of Prostitutes which is organising the Parliamentary meeting commented:
Members of parliament should pay attention to public opinion and drop proposals for the blanket criminalisation of sex workers' clients. Criminalising clients will not stop prostitution, nor will it stop the criminalisation of women. But it will make it more dangerous and stigmatising for sex workers.
We are appalled that MPs have nothing to say about the unemployment, benefit cuts and sanctions, lowering wages, increased homelessness and debt which are forcing more women, particularly mothers into prostitution. Their proposals will further divert police time and resources from investigating rape, trafficking and other violent crimes to policing consenting sex.
Soho sex workers have returned to their flat this week after a judge overturned the police's attempts to board it up. The
in Tisbury Court was one of around 20 that police attempted to close following a series of high-profile raids in December.
But the flat reopened for business on Friday and one 35-year-old, who has been working in Soho for more than six years, told the West End Extra:
It was a waste of time. At the end of the day I'm a working girl and I've done nothing wrong, but we were arrested and it's not right. I'm happy I'm back to Tisbury Court because now I can earn money. I don't want to go to work in the street and get killed.
Several other flats were set to reopen this week after
obtained by police expired and were not renewed. The English Collective of Prostitutes, who campaign for sex workers' rights, said the brunt of the operation had been borne by women who had not broken any laws.
Niki Adams of the ECP asked:
Three months later most of the flats are reopening. What exactly has been achieved by these closures? Over 20 women were left without any income and have become increasingly desperate. Some women lost their housing because they couldn't pay their rent, others ended up on the streets. Thousands of pounds were paid in legal fees to challenge the closure orders. We expect that the police will apologise, acknowledge the damage caused by their operation, and give assurances that this will never happen again.
Jerry Barnett, founder of U.K. adult entertainment advocacy group Sex & Censorship, said he was
with the turnout at the Don't Censor Me! protest held in central London today.
More than 50 people joined the Sex & Censorship's organized protest against the Stop Porn Culture conference, including representatives from the English Collective of Prostitutes, the Sex Worker Open University and Queer Strike campaign groups.
At about 3 p.m., adult industry performers, strippers, sex workers, academics, legal professionals and individuals opposed to sexual censorship mounted a peaceful protest outside Wedge House in Southwark, where the Stop Porn Culture conference was taking place.
Led by Stop Porn Culture co-founder and adult industry opponent Gail Dines and English feminist Julie Bindel, the conference aimed to expand the
antipornography feminist movement
in the U.K., and included speeches from antiporn academic Julia Long and Object campaign officer Sarah Matthewson.
Dines and Bindel appeared outside the venue to debate with the assembled crowd, just after 3 p.m. For about 15 minutes, they gave out free biscuits and Dines spoke with individual attendees, including porn performers Johnny Anglais, aka Benedict Garrett, and Ava Dalush, before returning to the conference.
Sex & Censorship campaigners Jerry Barnett, former porn star Renee Richards and porn performers Edie Lamont and Benedict Garrett were amongst those who addressed the crowd, along with spokespeople from the English Collective of Prostitutes and Queer Strike.
Renee Richards, who had previously rallied fellow performers to support the Sex & Censorship, took Dines to task for her lack of industry knowledge:
Dines and the other so-called feminists at this conference claim all porn has harmful effects. Yet Dines has never stepped on a porn set. I never saw any abuse while working in porn, nor was I abused. What's more, Coca-Cola and Apple exploit their workers in horrific ways but the women inside this conference venue aren't boycotting them.
Jerry Barnett, the co-organiser of the Don't Censor Me protest said.
The anti-sex narrative, the view of a tiny minority, has been dominant for too long in the media, from the Daily Mail to the Guardian. Our message here is that we can make our own choices, we don't want to be rescued, and we never asked to be.
Police carried out inspections of Edinburgh's sex-for-sale saunas hours before a new system came into force that is likely to make brothel raids more difficult.
The prospect of endless challenges to the system led to councillors proposing that saunas should no longer be part of the licensing regime. The radical shift was approved in February and came in to force at midnight on March 7.
Prior to the change, officers conducted last-minute inspections of 12 saunas. No arrests were made. One insider said the 11th-hour inspections were undertaken as it was the last time police could freely enter the premises to check whether licensing conditions were being met. Police will now require a warrant, voluntary admittance, or the use of other police powers to enter the unregulated saunas, which will now fall under the council's trading standards regime.
Margo MacDonald MSP said Police Scotland had destroyed a settled policy and made life harder for officers:
Last year's raids have backfired badly on the police. There was a successful policy in place for 30 years, but now the women have less protection and police will have less access to intelligence. Trust has been shattered.
Superintendent Matt Richards said:
Police Scotland and partners planned and carried out routine inspections of Edinburgh's licensed saunas on March 7 as part our continuing commitment to harm reduction and protecting vulnerable individuals.
The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill proposed by Lord Morrow currently being considered in Northern Ireland could, if passed into law, usefully place support for victims of human trafficking on a statutory basis and amalgamate some existing legislation into one single Act. The Bill includes a clause that recommends the criminalisation of the purchase of sex to reduce demand for trafficking. Clause 6 would introduce a hierarchy of criminal liability among those engaged in the selling of sexual services, many of whom may be vulnerable, with some remaining at risk of prosecution and others not.
It is the opinion of the author of the Bill and some stakeholders that demand for paid sex is directly linked to human trafficking or sex trafficking specifically. It is the opinion of the whole of the sex workers' rights movement that legislation criminalising the purchase of sex under policies that seek to
is directly linked to increased levels of stigma and discrimination experienced by current sex workers. It is further the opinion of the sex workers' right movement that the policies that criminalise the buyer of sex have their root in the deliberate conflation of trafficking with sex work.
Amnesty International, who is currently carrying out a global policy consultation on sex work, has called on the Northern Irish Assembly to reconsider Clause 6 of The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill. Amnesty International believes that the clause which seeks to criminalise the purchase of sexual services, unhelpfully conflates two very complex social phenomena, sex work and human trafficking, which could potentially prove counter-productive.
Grainne Teggart, a Northern Ireland campaigner at Amnesty International recently said of the Bill that although:
It is claimed that this clause will help protect sex workers, by shifting the criminal liability away from them as the seller of sexual services on to the purchaser but in reality, though, it fails to do this and provides no exploration of, or guarantees against, the potential unintended consequences of such a move.
Like the numerous popular sites offering reviews of travel destinations, video games, and restaurants, PunterNet.com is designed to help consumers choose where to spend their money. It is just that in this case the shoppers are (mostly) male customers, and the products are sexual services offered by women.
Protected by online aliases, men write reviews of sex industry workers they have patronised. Anti-sex work campaigners have selected some of the inevitable negative comments for an exhibition called
. It is designed to turn the spotlight on men who use prostitutes and challenge social acceptance of the trade.
The words of male customers are superimposed on to blank white face masks and allowed to stand for themselves, with only a price tag added, to show how much the reviewer paid for the encounter.
After showing for two days at the annual Cosla conference in Edinburgh on Thursday and Friday, the same images will be on show to the public at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow from Saturday March 15 until Sunday March 23.
Glasgow City Council' said:.
We would encourage as many right-thinking adults in society to see it as possible. It does provide a unique insight into the reality of prostitution and how horrendous it is for the women involved.
A group of moralist parliamentarians has recommended that people who pay for sex should be jailed or fined
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade is sponsored by the Christian campaign group CARE who acts as the group's secretariat
Chairman of the group is Gavin Shuker, a member of the Christian Socialist Movement and was previously leader of City Life Church in Luton. The rag tag army of moralists and religious nutters making up the group include Fiona Mactaggart, Gary Streeter, Philip Davies, Peter Bottomley, Andrew Selous, Julian Lewis, Julian Brazier, Steve Brine, Meg Munn, Heidi Alexander, Susan Elan Jones, Keith Vaz, Madeleine Moon, Virendra Sharma, Kerry McCarthy
The MPs and peers will recommend that the UK adopts a system whereby soliciting is no longer a punishable offence, but anyone who pays for sex is committing a crime.
Prostitutes who are caught loitering on streets plying their trade should be given anti-social behaviour orders rather than being prosecuted, the group will say.
Following a year-long moralist love-in, the group unsurprisingly concludes that the current law on selling sex is hopelessly confused, with 16 offences listed under five Acts of Parliament spanning 53 years. The group argues that the apprehension and prosecution of prostitutes thwarts efforts to prevent women being drawn into the trade or support their exit from it. The report will call for all existing statutes to be wrapped into a single Act of Parliament, aimed at persecuting those who purchase sex, not those who sell it.
Fiona Mactaggart gloried in the chance to jail men:
The inadequacy of existing legislation has created lucrative market conditions that are exploited by criminal gangs profiting from the sale of women. This inquiry makes substantial proposals which could prevent this vile trade.
Niki Adams, of the English Collective Of Prostitutes, which campaigns for the abolition of prostitution laws, said:
Criminalising clients will not stop prostitution and won't stop the criminalisation of women who work as prostitutes. All it will do is make it more difficult for women to protect themselves and stigmatise sex workers even further.
Comment: Jailing all men
6th March 2013. From DavidT
There are about 32,000,000 males in the UK.
Mature, capable, active and interested in heterosexual encounters = 2,000,000.
If they were all jailed for 6 months they would each use 60 square metres of jail room including common areas.
That's 120,000,000 square metres.
That's 147 square miles.
Which is a hell of a big city.
Maybe these church do-gooders should take a maths course.
One lunacy is ASBOs being used instead of criminal punishment. Effectively it means repeat offenders are jailed. Given that under current law no one is jailed for being a prostitute, this is an increase, not a decrease
A parish priest in London's Soho has claimed that the behaviour of police during raids on local brothels was
unacceptable and at times unlawful
The Rev Simon Buckley, of St Anne's rectory in Soho, has sent a report to the bishop of London and senior Metropolitan police officers airing his disquiet at an operation to clear out Soho's brothels.
Buckley highlighted concerns from sex workers that, despite police assurances that their welfare was paramount, the mass closure would push sex workers on to the streets, where
they are more vulnerable to abuse, attack and rape
During Operation Companion, 18 brothels were closed in raids involving 250 officers, many in riot gear, accompanied by dog units. The raids followed an undercover operation said to have linked the brothels to abuse and human trafficking. Commander Alison Newcomb, who is in charge of policing in Westminster, has justified targeting the flats, saying it was important to
close brothels where we have evidence of very serious crimes happening, including rape and human trafficking
However, no trafficking victims were found in the operation, and a letter from Newcomb, dated 27 January and seen by the Observer , reveals that
no specific number of women were suspected of being trafficked
. In his report Buckley writes:
There is a clear reversal of the rationale that we [community leaders] were given on the night of the operation.
He also claims he has received testimony from sex workers that at least one woman was forced into the street in only her underwear during the raids; that photographs of women appeared in the media because press photographers were invited on the operation; and that some women were threatened by police that their children or parents would be told they were working as prostitutes.
Two sex workers lost their legal battle against Scotland Yard after pointing out that the mass closure of brothels in the heart of London's red-light district put them at greater risk of attack.
Eighteen brothels were closed down after raids following an undercover operation that was claimed to have revealed links to crimes including trafficking and rape. But at least six sex workers have fought the closures, claiming they had not been coerced into working and that closing the brothels would make their work more unsafe.
In the first of three appeals being heard over two weeks, two women lost their battle to have their flats reopened after a judge found that unknown figures were
prostitution in the area. The judge, Judy Khan QC, cited the
payments of daily rent left in a microwave, and a shift system in operation.
However, activists claim that Soho is one of the safest places for prostitutes to work as the flats are covered by CCTV and they work with
who try to monitor customers. They warned that the raids made it more likely that women would find work on their own, either in flats or on the streets, where their lives were more at risk.
In a report sent to the Bishop of London over the weekend, the Reverend Simon Buckley wrote that trust in the police had been severely undermined by the
nature of the operation:
The girls who continue to work in the unclosed flats say that they would not feel confident in turning to the police if they were a victim of crime. Those who previously worked in the relative safety of the flats, and until 18 months ago had a good rapport with the police, are now forced to explore other means of supporting themselves. I am told this is most likely by working on streets outside Soho where they are far more vulnerable to abuse, attack and rape.
Two sex workers have claimed victory against Scotland Yard after they overturned a decision to shut down their flats after early morning police raids in Soho.
The flats had been shut for a minimum of three months after police claimed that the women working there were being controlled, or incited to commit prostitution. It was one of 18 addresses targeted by the police. However, the women said they were working of their own free will and it was safer to work where there was CCTV cameras in the building and where maids helped to vet customers. The women warned they would be at greater risk from harm if they had to work elsewhere or pick up trade on the streets.
In the latest of several such appeals, a judge said the two women used the flats
by arrangement with other sex workers at mutually convenient and agreed times. That does not constitute control.
Niki Adams, of the English Collective of Prostitutes, said:
These closures should never have come to court. The police misled the public and claimed that they were needed to prevent rape and trafficking. No victims of trafficking were found; instead the police threw women out of the relative safety of their flats.
Offsite Comment: A supportive piece from the Daily Express
I HATE what these Soho girls do for a living but I admire their gumption and their refusal to cry victim simply because there is pressure to do so. Nothing succeeds like victimhood these days, especially -- I'm afraid -- if you're a woman. In Soho police took one of the hookers to
a place of safety
even though she protested that she didn't want to go.
The Northern Ireland police force has withdrawn its opposition to proposals to criminalise men who pay for sex -- but stopped short of backing the plans, as they could deter people in the sex industry from giving information to the police.
The new law being proposed for Northern Ireland is based on repressive Swedish legislation.
Senior officers have also pointed out that most convictions in Sweden are achieved through phone tapping and surveillance of suspects -- which would not be allowed in Northern Ireland.
Giving evidence at a justice committee meeting yesterday, Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said:
We don't oppose it... if the Assembly passes this legislation, we will use it to the best effect we can.
However, he pointed out that men who paid for sex were already risking ridicule and knew they were taking a risk so
it is difficult to assess how much effect the threat of prosecution would have
ACC Harris and Chief Superintendent Roy McComb, who also gave evidence, pointed out that it was already an offence to have sex with a person who had been trafficked and that ignorance was no defence.
Six men have so far been arrested for this offence, but none of them have been convicted because of a legal time limit on how long police have to bring charges. That limitation is now being removed and police are hopeful it will help secure future convictions.
Bulldozers are set to roll into a historic Soho street after a massive redevelopment was given the green light, despite a string of objections claiming it would
Soho Estates was given permission to demolish parts of Walkers Court, Peter Street and Brewer Street to create new nightclubs, offices and a restaurant. The narrow backstreet Walkers Court is famous for the scores of brightly lit sex shops and the legendary Raymond Revuebar.
The scheme was given permission by Westminster Council saying that the benefits of removing
outweighed their concerns, which included the loss of
unlisted buildings of merit
, the increase in height of the buildings and the
studio flats that would be built at another part of the development in Wardour Street.
More than 50 letters of objection were received from residents and business owners, which argued:
The changes would be harmful to the character of the area. The seedier side of the area is one of its vital features, the proposals would sanitise Soho and accelerate the transition to a bland and characterless area.
Members of the English Collective of Prostitutes attended the hearing wearing metallic red wigs and sunglasses and heckled the committee when they failed to mention the scores of sex workers who would be kicked out of the
where women had legally been working for decades. They shouted
shame on you
as the proposals were rubber-stamped. They said:
Excuse me, you haven't raised the harm caused to sex workers when they are thrown out of their flats that they've been in for 25 years or longer. You didn't even mention it.
Offsite: Sex worker reports about what went on during the raid
Feminists and religious fundamentalists shouldn't mix. If they do find common cause, it's often a sign that ideological fanaticism has become more important than what happens to real people in the real world.