incredible 2

Now I’m amazed at what Harriet Harman has been quoted as saying it’s her personal view that we should follow what they’ve done in Sweden and make it illegal to pay for sex:

Can’t be a bad thing surely, but it came as a surprise after a BBC article feebly wondering whether it’s “empowering” for women to be portrayed the way they are in lads’ mags. The answer is no, obviously:

Once women burned their bras, today they send photos of their breasts to lad mags and call it liberating. Is this really a new form of feminism or just the old objectification?

Just more of the same old objectification, even if slightly less far down on the scale than prostitution. But as Harriet Harman says, “Do we think it’s right in the 21st century that women should be in a sex trade or do we think it’s exploitation and should be banned? Just because something has always gone on, it doesn’t mean you just wring your hands and say there’s nothing we can do about it.”

(And given the success of some campaigners in the past, I’m even inclining to a little glimmer of optimism on this – I can’t resist reminding you of Josephine Butler, inspirational mum who battled for women’s rights in spite of serious illness and personal difficulties of her own, in an at least equally uncongenial atmosphere.)

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8 thoughts on “incredible 2

  1. Morality and legality debates aside, I think a good start would be for women (and men) in the sex trade to be treated with dignity and respect. Slavery, abuse, kidnapping and forced labour are already crimes, but it seems that these laws are not enforced adequately when it comes to the sex industry where people are most vulnerable. Also, if we agree that prostitution is exploitation, are we only going to end up punishing the victims i.e. the sex workers? Any such approach would need to be accompanied by an outreach program offering support, healthcare, counselling and training opportunities. I always feel like this is an area that I need to find out more about seeing as most of us have no idea what life is like for prostitues and their clients.

    Incidentally, if you do want to support a prostitution outreach service, there’s an Edinburgh based one which is desperate for support: http://www.scot-pep.org.uk/

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  2. You’re right, it would hardly be an end to exploitation if the sex workers are punished further – I assumed this is what would be meant, but more information is definitely needed.

    I haven’t felt up to googling very much, but a brief article on the Swedish situation again on the BBC says that their recent legislation “criminalises the buying of sex while decriminalising its sale” – if that’s the model they’re thinking of following it might be as good a starting point as any. (Here)

    I’m aware of Scot-PEP and they do do good work but I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the view that sex work is a profession like any other – esp in the UK, the majority of people working as prostitutes are doing so in situations of desperation (substance abuse, dysfunctional personal relationships, etc), so that it’s hardly a free choice even if they haven’t been technically kidnapped or trafficked etc. Which doesn’t mean that people can’t be supported while they’re in the situation of working as prostitutes, but just that an approach which i’d find preferable would be to assist people out of the place where prostitution seems to be their only option. Don’t know if you’d agree … :)

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  3. I read a few weeks ago a marvellously well-realized interview with a woman in Poland who helps women who want to get out of prostitution to do so. I have vaguely wondered about getting someone to publish an English translation. Perhaps I should begin by summing up why it is so very worth reading …

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  4. Yeah, that’s the other issue. I’m sure I’ve heard studies quoted saying that most people in prostitution end up there through abuse, homelessness and drugs. You’re definitely right that there need to be other options and addressing these issues would be hugely important. Prostitution is an issue where I’m never sure what to think. It’s certainly not something I would choose, but I feel like I should respect someone’s liberty and freedom and also not patronise or cast blame or shame. I suppose my confusion indicates that there should be more data on this and more opportunity for those involved to state their opinions and experiences.

    I remember in Germany at one point there was a discussion about whether they should make provisions for brothels to be provided for soldiers on UN missions. This was suggested because of the phenomena of prostitution and forced prostitution where UN troops are stationed. I thought this was pretty shocking. The troops were only there for 6 months at a time so surely you could just instruct your forces to have some respect for the local women and explain that what they were doing was endangering and exploiting the civilian population. I’m pretty sure a rational adult can live without sex or attend to themselves for 6 months. I don’t recall ‘sex’ being a universal human right that you’re entitled to at all times, especially not at the expense of others.

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  5. Charliegrrl at the Blog of Feminist Activism says this:

    “if we reduce the demand for paying for sex, we will have to also tackle the issues that lead women and girls to become prostitutes: criminalising men paying for sex would have to go hand in hand with more exit-prostitution projects, supported housing projects, supportive drug treatment programmes, tackling poverty, child abuse and allowing trafficked women and girls to remain in Britain with recourse to public funds, amongst many other things. I wholeheartedly support the drive to criminalise men paying for sex, but I hope that this drive will bring about more support for prostituted women and girls as well.”

    Also found this on some voices from Canada (and with a further link to a comment on the Australian situation)

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