Newcastle child sexual exploitation network convicted

The BBC has managed to report on this better (although I still had to change the headline from ‘child sex’ to ‘child sexual exploitation’):

Eighteen people have been convicted of abusing girls in Newcastle who were plied with alcohol and drugs before being forced to have sex.

The vulnerable victims, some as young as 14, were exploited by a “cynical organisation”, a court heard.

The 17 men and one woman were convicted of rape, supplying drugs and conspiracy to incite prostitution.

Over the course of four trials, 20 young women gave evidence covering a period from 2011 to 2014.

These trials involved 26 defendants, who were mostly Asian, facing a total of more than 100 charges and 22 victims.

Those prosecuted were from the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish communities and mainly British-born, with most living in the West End of Newcastle.

Of the 26, three people have been jailed. The rest will be sentenced next month.

Continue reading here

An absolute low from the Guardian

In an article describing how underage girls and vulnerable women in Newcastle were groomed using drugs and alcohol, then trafficked and pimped, we have this paragraph:

Although many of the defendants were charged with conspiracy to incite prostitution for gain, there is no suggestion that any of the victims were sex workers.

It’s disgusting. It implies that there is a separate class of underage girls and vulnerable women who are unexploitable, because they are ‘sex workers’. It implies that some women and girls can be complicit in their own exploitation, that if any of those women and girls laid claim to a certain ‘identity’ (or had that ‘identity’ applied to them, as happened in Rochdale), then they wouldn’t have been victims of exploitation.

It is also implying that there is a separate realm of ‘sex work’ which has no connection to paedophilia, grooming, exploitation and forced prostitution.

I will be emailing the editor (guardian.readers@theguardian.com) and the journalist (frances.perraudin@theguardian.com), not that it ever does any good. Frances Perraudin is also on twitter (@fperraudin) if any reader of this blog would like to let her know that she is throwing vulnerable women and girls under the bus.

A temporary hiatus and a new media platform

There has been a brief (semi) hiatus on this blog, there are comments (and emails) to be answered, and that is not going to change for a while longer.

I have created a tumblr blog, most of what I re-blog here is from tumblr, and the sheer volumn of material has become overwhelming.

I will continue to run this blog, but will reblog from tumblr on tumblr.

Let’s see how it goes!

The Guardian is still calling raped women ‘workers’

From a long article today about a housing development in Cambridge:

It’s not quite so positive in the eyes of the Cambridgeshire police, called to the development “a disproportionate number of times”, not only to patrol late-night student antics, but to investigate the trafficking of sex workers. “We’ve seen an awful lot of ‘pop-up brothels’,” says Detective Inspector Nick Skipworth, who recently asked the council for extra resources to police the area.

“A huge number of the properties are available as short-term holiday lets for a week at a time, so they’ve been targeted by the sex trade. We’ve been running an operation to safeguard sex workers over the last two years and made several arrests related to trafficking in the CB1 area.”

And so, unfortunately, are the police, but I’m not sure how one complains to a police force over this kind of thing.

I have emailed the Guardian before about this, and never received a reply (the Observer has been better), but I’m going to keep on trying. Please feel free to copy or adapt this template:

Dear editor,

I am writing to you to complain about the article ‘‘An embarrassment to the city’: what went wrong with the £725m gateway to Cambridge?’, published in today’s Guardian.

It is wrong to call women trafficked into prostitution ‘sex workers’, rape is not ‘work’ and a raped woman is not a ‘worker’.

Under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but when the rapist hands over money to a third party, who has violent control over the rape victim, it gets called ‘sex work’. This makes no sense, and invisibilises the men who are happy to pay to rape trafficked women; it turns a sexual abuse issue into a mere labour issue.

The fact that the police officer interviewed for the piece used the term ‘sex worker’ is no excuse, newspapers are supposed to hold public bodies to account.

I look forward to hearing back from you on this issue.

Kind regards,
Abi

guardian.readers@theguardian.com
politics@theguardian.com

“Romanian couple jailed for trafficking girl, 14, into prostitution in UK”

A Romanian couple have been jailed for trafficking a 14-year-old girl and other women into prostitution in the UK, in the first prosecution for child sex trafficking under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

Romelia Florentina Radu, 32, and Petre Niculescu, 39, were each sentenced to 14 years in prison after they pleaded guilty to trafficking the child and eight women.

A third Romanian national, George Maracineanu, 47, who persuaded a woman to come to the UK, promising her love and work before handing her over to the couple, was jailed for two years and eight months.

The criminal network run by Radu and Niculescu was dismantled by the Metropolitan police and Romanian police after an eight-month joint operation.

The trial at Kingston crown court in Surrey heard that the group preyed on women from impoverished backgrounds, telling some they would be given work in shops or restaurants.

“The defendants benefited criminally from the sexual exploitation of a number of women,” prosecution counsel Caroline Haughey told the court. “They beguiled and deceived their way into their lives and them put them to work on the streets.”

In the case of the pair’s youngest victim, they “deliberately and callously stole her childhood,” she said.

The pair had operated in the UK since 2013 and lured the 14-year-old, one of nine siblings from a poor family, in 2016 after promising her a job as a waitress.

But on the night she arrived in the UK, she was told to change into “sexy” clothes and put on heavy makeup, because “she had the face of a child”, said Haughey.

The court heard that the girl was forced to have sex with men every day for four months.

In a victim impact statement, the girl said: “I was forced to have sex continuously. Many times it was painful and I was disgusted.”

She said she lived in permanent fear and was told not to tell anyone her age or her real name. “They would swear at me and threaten me with violence. They would tell me that they are going to hurt my family and that they would set fire to the front of my door,” she said.

Met police became aware of the gang after one of the victims, a 41-year-old woman, went to a north London police station. She told officers she had been recruited by Maracineanu, who had promised they would earn money together to buy a house in Romania.

The court heard that other women had been controlled by the couple, recruited through friends and family with the promise of a better life. One had been offered work as a prostitute when she was 14. Four years later, she agreed to go with Radu for unspecified work in the UK, but when she arrived was told she would be working as a prostitute.

Others knew they would be working as prostitutes and were told they would share takings. But when they had arrived in the UK thye found themselves in debt bondage – told by the couple they owed money for their travel costs, as well as their “patch” of the street and rent in the flats they used in Paddington, west London. While the women could earn at least £250-300 a night, they were often given as little as £20-30 a day.

They described physical and mental abuse. In a victim impact statement, one of the women said: “Once [Niculescu] beat me really badly. He punched me and then hit me many times with the pole from the hoover… I was covered in blood. I still have a scar because of what happened that day.”

Another described being beaten by a man who refused to pay for sex. “The client was under the influence of drugs and beat me for an hour, both during and after sex,” she said. “He slapped me all over my body, including my face. I was praying to God to escape alive.”

DC Alison Hines said all the women had been subjected to various levels of abuse. “All of them were threatened that their families would be harmed, their houses would be burned down, or they would be beaten up,” she said. “The fact that they were willing to give evidence against their traffickers is incredibly brave.”

Damaris Lakin, a prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service London’s complex casework unit, said: “All three suspects initially denied controlling these women and girls for prostitution. The bravery of these women in providing evidence and supporting this prosecution has helped stop a dangerous criminal network taking advantage of vulnerable young girls.”

(Source)

“Hiding in Plain Sight: The Life and Crimes of Dr John Davies”

Julie Bindel is using Byline to raise funds for her investigation into John Davies:

Teflon John: The Man Who Hid In Plain Sight

This is the story of suspected baby trafficker, pimp, kidnapper, and major charity fraudster John Davies.

It is also the story of a world renowned academic, missionary, gold-hearted philanthropist, and expert in combatting trafficking in women and children.

Which of these two descriptions is true?

After an investigation lasting almost 20 years, Julie Bindel knows the answer. But will you believe her? Or might you prefer the version peddled by Davies and his supporters since the rumours began to circle back in the 1980s?

The intensive 18-month stage of this long-term investigation has been self-funded by Julie. She now needs to secure production costs to make a ten-part series.

The estimated cost per episode is approximately £500. The remaining funds will go to promotion and distribution in order to disseminate the story of John Davies far and wide. Julie is confident that on hearing the evidence against Davies, more victims and witnesses will come forward.

Once the first two episodes are funded, the team will begin to produce them.

Once properly underway, with regular donations coming in, we aim to produce a 20 minute podcast on a regular basis, covering the ten major phases of the story.

Please help fund this vital investigation, where there will be attempts to silence Bindel’s reporting and allow the podcast team to start producing.

You can listen to a taster of this story here: https://t.co/i4BmmJzM69

Julie Bindel is a British journalist, researcher and feminist campaigner. She has written hundreds of articles published by The Guardian, The Independent, The New Statesmen and other news agencies in Britain and around the world.

She has appeared in countless television interviews and debates in defence of feminist perspectives of male violence, and is a co-founder of the law reform group Justice for Women https://www.justiceforwomen.org.uk/

Bindel is sole author of the forthcoming book, ‘The pimping of prostitution – Abolishing the Sex Work Myth’ (Palgrave McMillan, 2017).

Bindel has devoted her working and non-working life to campaigning against male violence – going after the men who murder, stalk, abuse, terrorise and rape women and girls. Equally, she has exposed the structures, cultural, legal and political practises and ideas which lend themselves to the epidemic of male violence, particular the very idea that the bodies of women and girls are things to be bought, sold, acquired and taken in service of male power and privilege.

Read more at:https://www.byline.com/project/68

QotD: “Why studying porn is like taking a cold shower”

It is almost impossible to talk about pornography without wading into a swamp of controversy. Facts are not neutral, the politics are contradictory and, if you suspend judgment altogether, it often reads as silently taking a side. And still, we try. Good old us.

Last month’s Goop was The Sex Issue. If you browsed through pieces on the ethics of porn and one titled “Reality Check: Anal Sex” you found yourself in Gwyneth’s “Get It On Shop” where you could spend $885 on a pair of silver “benwa balls” to “strengthen your kegels and have a better orgasm all at once”, and $20 on individual sachets of “sex dust”. Goop sex is mindful, artisanal, aspirational and typically expensive. If US shipping costs put you off I have a good recipe for sex dust you can make at home that simply requires a swab from the underside of the far booth in the Brighton All Bar One, and some finely ground turmeric.

Last week, Rowan Pelling (ex-editor of the Erotic Review) launched the Amorist, which she describes as “an erotic version of Woman’s Hour”, a phrase that will undoubtedly be swimming in your head the next time you wake at dawn with a start, sweaty and scared, the taste of pennies on your tongue. It’s “a general interest magazine for those who are generally interested in sex and desire – and an antidote to Brexit”. It seeks to “counter the excesses of online pornography and the tendency to see sex through a functional prism”. It’s based in the same building as the Oldie, and the tone is that of a frisky couple whose youngest child has recently left home to study PPE.

Elsewhere, porn is being investigated in a new Netflix series of documentaries called Hot Girls Wanted, produced by a team led by Rashida Jones. In their first film we meet female filmmakers in the porn business; in the last, a teenager in Ohio facing 20 years in prison and a lifetime on the sex offenders’ register for livestreaming the rape of her friend on Periscope. Jones “wanted to show where there was dark, there was also light”. In particular, she said she was interested in “self-empowerment versus self-objectification”.

Except, says the New Republic in a crushing critique: “In their rush to ‘humanise’ adult performers and explore the concept of ‘empowerment,’ the producers enact precisely the kind of objectification and dehumanisation that they aim to critique.” Thinking about sex sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Every seven seconds, a thesis.

We snap the word porn on to images of excess. We understand the meaning of phrases like food porn, property porn, plant porn, travel porn, cocktail porn, not because these are sexy things, but because we associate the word “porn” with the feelings we have when we look at them – a combination of desire and guilt, and fantasy, and disappointment at the celibate reality of our real lunch, our real home.

But while we know what porn means, what it stands for, to judge by the ever-growing number of takes on the subject, the lure of learning about it seems almost as powerful as porn itself. That’s how we excuse our obsession: porn stops being something private and dirty, and becomes instead something you can discuss with your partner’s boss at dinner parties over cheese.

The cycles of thought have rolled between empowering to dangerous and back again, with new incendiary debates on whether it’s right to call porn “work”. What the commentaries have in common though, is that they’re all deeply enervating.

Porn has proved as slippery and ungovernable as sexuality itself. However much people attempt to pick away at it with words, porn remains, this mountain looming above us, its shadow falling over everybody’s private lives. Ironically the act of intellectualising porn, drilling into the stone of it, is the one thing that threatens it, in that it makes pornography a chore and not sex, and therefore much harder for a person to enjoy during their “me time”. Despite featuring nudity and lust, debating pornography is the opposite of talking dirty.

Eva Wiseman

QotD: “If ‘sex work is work’, poverty is necessary”

For instance, if instead of paying for sex a landlord would rather receive sexual favours from a tenant living rent-free, would that really be so bad? Well, yes, actually it would, at least according to recent reports of landlords making this very offer. Apparently, this is an appalling example of the current housing market allowing predatory men to exploit the vulnerable.

Only if this is the case, why is paying for sex not viewed with the same horror? It’s the same marketplace, the same bodies, the same needs. All sex for rent does is cut out the symbolic means of exchange in the middle. Yet far from decrying the exchange of sex for money, supposedly progressive organisations such as Amnesty International and the NUS, in addition to mainstream political parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, are pushing to liberalise attitudes towards the purchase of sex. Why are these two things seen so differently?

True, live-in work carries with it particular risks and uncertainties, but do any of us feel the same qualms about housekeepers or nannies getting to live rent-free? And aren’t many of us doing jobs we’d rather not do, only a pay check or two away from eviction? So why should sex for rent be seen as especially problematic?

If it’s to do with the fact that it’s sex and not, say, cleaning or childcare, shouldn’t we be able to pinpoint why this is? And yet few are willing to do so, silenced by the thought-terminating clichés – “sex work is work”, “my body, my choice” – that have come to dominate the left’s approach to sex and gender.

I’d go so far as to suggest the mainstream left has no real right to be shocked about sex for rent. After all, it’s only the logical conclusion of a pseudo-feminist politics which refuses to engage fully with power and labour redistribution, choosing instead to talk in circles about the right of individuals to do whatever they like with their own bodies while bypassing any analysis of why one group seeks to control the sexual and reproductive lives of another. It’s politics for the unthinking and the privileged, yet it appears we can all afford to be unthinking and privileged when it’s only the bodies of women at stake.

“My body, my choice”, a perfectly appropriate slogan when used to mean only a pregnant woman should be able to make decisions about her pregnancy, has been expanded ad absurdum. Yet the point about abortion is that the only alternative to it is the work of pregnancy; there’s no possible third option, whereby the already-pregnant individual gets to go through neither. The same is not true of sex work or poverty. It is possible for there to be alternatives to exploitation or destitution. That for many women there are currently none is not least down to a politics that values unlimited sexual freedom for all – an impossibility – over a fairer redistribution of limited choices for everyone.

If we regard women as full, equal human beings, then we cannot have a world in which there are no limits placed on men’s access to female sexual and/or reproductive labour. “Sex work is work” and “my body, my choice” simply don’t cut it when it comes to deciding where to draw the line. We should all face restrictions on what we can do with our own bodies, just as we should all have duties of care towards the bodies of others. The problem with patriarchy is not that it prevents women from having the same physical freedoms as men due to some inexplicable, knee-jerk “woman-phobia” –it’s that it shifts most of the necessary physical restrictions and duties attached to reproduction and care onto women, leaving men with the belief that liberation means no one ever saying “no” to you.

Such a belief – at heart pro-capitalist and anti-feminist – has seeped into supposedly pro-woman, left-wing thought and activism, yet anyone who points out the absurdity of it is treated to a Victorian asylum-style diagnosis of prudery and whorephobia. To claim, on the one hand, that one is anti-austerity and anti-neoliberal, while insisting, on the other, that no woman is without means as long as she has orifices to penetrate, is not progressive. On the contrary, it’s ultra-conservative. It shifts the baseline of our understanding of need and it does so dishonestly, masking coercion by repackaging it as free choice.

If anything is for sale – any body part, any experience, any relationship – then the poorest will be stripped bare. If you accept the principle that there is nothing wrong with buying sex – or ova or breastmilk or babies – how do you ensure supply can meet demand? Only by making sure there are always enough women with no other options. There is no other way. There are not enough female bodies to meet male sexual and reproductive demands without any form of coercion; that’s why patriarchy, with all its complex systems of reward and punishment, exists in the first place.

If sex work is work, poverty is necessary. The alternative to patriarchy isn’t a world in which everyone gets to be a de-facto patriarch, free to make whatever sexual and reproductive choices they want, safe in the knowledge that there will always be willing bodies to meet their demands. The postmodern fantasy that an underclass of coerced, poverty-stricken females can be replaced by an underclass of willing, always-up-for-it, cisgendered females, while charming in its naivety, remains just that: a fantasy.

Glosswitch, full article here

“Women’s Equality party leader seeks backing for a clear run to beat ‘misogynist’ MP”

She is the leader of the Women’s Equality party (WEP), a new political force committed to furthering the cause of gender equality, but which has yet to make inroads electorally.

He is a Tory MP who tried to derail a bill to protect women against violence, and told a conference hosted by an anti-feminism party that “feminist zealots really do want women to have their cake and eat it”.

Now, in what is likely to be one of the most fascinating clashes of the general election, Sophie Walker and Philip Davies are to face off on the campaign trail as other opposition parties consider giving her a free run in her attempt to unseat the Shipley Conservative MP.

The developments in the West Yorkshire constituency come as attempts to engineer a broader “progressive alliance” gather steam. On Monday the leftwing pressure group Compass will launch a website to help maximise the anti-Conservative vote in constituencies around the country, and bring together activists from the three main opposition parties in a new political movement.

Walker, a journalist who became the WEP’s inaugural leader in 2015 and has been at the forefront of its campaigns for equal representation and pay in working life, said: “Philip Davies basically is a sexist misogynist who puts his own ego ahead of his constituents. His anti-equality agenda in Westminster threatens the rights and freedoms not just of women but also people with disabilities, BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) and LGBT+ communities. I think that Shipley deserves an MP who will prioritise representing them and the issues that are important to their constituency, rather than using parliament as a stage to play out attention-seeking performances.”

[…]

The Green party approached the WEP with the offer to stand aside, according to local Green activists in Shipley, who have yet to rubberstamp the idea but are supportive of it in theory. The idea has not so far been floated widely among local Liberal Democrats, who meet on Thursday, but there is strong support already among some officials.

However, while the idea of Walker’s candidature has been discussed by WEP and Labour members of Shipley Feminist Zealots, a local group, some Labour members are eager to field a candidate. Local chairman Joe Wheatley said that Labour had shown itself as the “most effective” opposition to Davies, who racked up a 9,624-vote majority over his Labour runner-up in 2015.

The Brexit-supporting MP will be boosted in a constituency that mirrored the referendum’s national result. Walker, a Remain supporter, wants an “equality impact assessment” of any final Brexit deal, and the chance for MPs to vote it down if necessary.

Full article here

From the Shipley Feminist Zealot’s ‘about us’ page:

We are a grassroots group of women and men in Shipley, West Yorkshire, working for gender equality.

We started with a cake stall in August 2016, when our local MP Philip Davies notoriously said “Feminist zealots want to have their cake and eat it” and also complained of “politically correct males who pander to this nonsense”. He is also a well known supporter of Trump and opponent/filibuster of equalities legislation – despite currently sitting on the parliamentary committee for women and equalities.

We run cake stalls raising money for Bradford Women’s Aid and CALM (a charity working to prevent male suicide) and we organised the Shipley Sister March on 21st January.

QotD: “Today’s feminists are bland, shallow and lazy”

The book is called Why I Am Not a Feminist, which is, of course, a lie as well as a provocation, for its author’s feminism runs through her veins like blood. Crispin’s principles, however, have their roots, radical and angry, in the second wave of feminism, not the third: she, for one, is not about to renounce the likes of Andrea Dworkin and Shulamith Firestone, whose uncompromising books she has, incidentally, actually read.

What she disdains, then, is what she deems lifestyle feminism: a bland, ultra-inclusive marketing exercise that demands absolutely nothing from those who buy into it save for to ask that they use the word “feminist” as frequently as possible, preferably while looking utterly adorable. “Dior has this $600 T-shirt that says on it: ‘We Should All Be Feminists’,” she tells me, when she talks to me on Skype from New York (where she is ill and rundown, her pink kimono almost matching the colour of her feverish cheeks). “But what does that say about the person wearing it other than: ‘I can afford a $600 T-shirt’? Feminism has been entirely co-opted by consumerism.”

The new feminism, which is not really feminism at all, is by Crispin’s telling as shallow as a martini, and a good deal less good for you: “This is a T-shirt you can wear in order to cloak your bad behaviour, to let you think of yourself as some kind of political hero or rebel without you actually having to do anything.”

What, she wonders, is the end result of so many younger women choosing to call themselves feminists? “It’s about individualism, and self-achievement. It’s about pop stars and television and narcissism. It’s not about subsidised childcare, or institutional and structural social change. It’s meaningless.” This self-obsession and ideological laziness extends, she thinks, even to their reading matter. “Roxane Gay [the US feminist writer] is on the record as saying that she hasn’t read Andrea Dworkin [the anti-pornographer campaigner], and that we don’t have to, either. Really? Isn’t there work and sacrifice in being a political person?”

[…]

Crispin looks out at the world and sees a hyper-masculinised realm in which women must mimic men if they’re to survive, let alone to rise in an upwards direction. “I realise that using words like ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in this way can get you into trouble these days,” she says. “But where are the [feminine] values of community, care and empathy in our modern world? Their absence doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people.”

[…]

“Good intentions are nothing against the system,” she writes sombrely. And then, more terrifyingly: “The system is older than you. It has absorbed more venom that you can ever hope to emit. You will not even slow it down.” She would also like it to be known that not getting what you want is not, by any stretch of the imagination, oppression.

[…]

The Women’s Marches which followed his inauguration seemed to her to lack focus. “This is a repeated problem with the American left: the lack of clear goals. Those marches were celebratory. They were good for the heart. But we’ve had [municipal] elections in the US since then where the turnout was, like 15 to 20%. During the Women’s Strike [on 8 March], I saw a journalist ask a woman what she was going to do instead of working. She said: ‘Oh, I’m just going to do something empowering like watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer!’ I mean, come on! Let’s do something, here.”

[…]

Well, now I’m going to have be a little tough myself. If our marches are pointless and our workplace aspirations without worth, what should we do instead? She can’t be allowed to get away with writing a feminist manifesto with no plausible suggestion for the society of the future.

“You can start by all divorcing your husbands!” she says. For a moment, I wonder if she’s joking. But, no. “There does have to be a process of understanding the way you participate in these systems of oppression. Marriage’s history is about treating women as property, and by being married you’re legitimising that history.” Another good start would be to remove your money from the big banks and put it in a small, local credit union instead, “even if you only have $80”. Above all, maybe women should start listening to one another again.

Jessa Crispin, interview in today’s Observer