QotD: “Here’s what’s about ethical porn: it doesn’t matter. It makes up such a tiny proportion of the industry, it’s like putting a chicken in your back garden and claiming you’ve fixed factory farming”
Whenever I agree to write about porn, it’s followed by an immediate plummeting of my soul: oh God, I’m going to have to look at PornHub now. PornHub is the second biggest website in the world for adult content by traffic, but in terms of public profile, it’s far and away the leader. And PornHub is horrible. For example, I just checked in on the homepage and was greeted by multiple clips promising mini-versions of Flowers in the Attic. Ugh. Why am I here? Oh yes, to find out if PornHub will let me search for racist porn.
Not that I really have to search. In the homepage thumbnails, everyone is white, unless their race can be sold as a kink. Japanese wife. Chocolate. In the sidebar, I can click on the category “interracial”, because this is 2020 and apparently two people of different skin tones getting down is still as niche an interest as “babysitter” or “smoking”. “Female orgasm” is also a category, for that subset of men who are interested in whether a woman actually enjoys it. Have I mentioned, I hate PornHub.
But I am a brave journalist, so I press on. (Is this sex? Do people like this? Are women people? No, we are sluts and milfs and bitches, according to PornHub.) Will PornHub let me search for racist porn? Spoiler: it will. I put the word “racist” in the search bar, and am served multiple videos, all of which are definitely racist.
Some of them, though, have a veneer of woke, which is very heartwarming. I search for Black Lives Matter: I get a video tagged “black cocks matter”, and one “ebony slut”. All this should be a surprise, because PornHub was recently vaunting its progressive credentials. “Pornhub stands in solidarity against racism and social injustice”, the company tweeted, along with links to Black Lives Matter-adjacent campaigns that followers could support. It’s not a surprise, though, because PornHub is horrible.
If I wanted to be chippy, I would call this a perfect example of the indulgence model of modern liberal mores. Pay your tithe to the bail fund as directed, get back to whacking off over racism with your conscience salved. But actually, I would probably be being both chippy and incorrect, because does anyone really feel bad about their porn? The generally agreed position is that porn exists somewhere outside morality. Things which, at a tenth of the strength, would be instant cancellation offences in any other medium are granted licence in porn because someone, somewhere got an erection from them.
The porn industry’s success in positioning itself beyond petty questions of good and bad is one of the great marketing triumphs of modern times. If it feels good, watch it. Heck, watch it at work if you want to. Here, I run into some tricky terrain, because what happens in the dark between our own heads and hands is really no one’s concern but our own, and if you want to think about that particular woman bent OTK in a lace chemise then what does it have at all to do with me. Hectoring our fantasies seems a spectacularly fruitless endeavour.
But porn is not fantasy. Porn is business, and a profoundly exploitative one. I don’t mean that in the no-doubt tiresome feminist sense that it exploits women, although it does. I mean it in the sense that, in its modern form, pornography is an industry where the capitalist rinses out the worker, then puts up a blogpost to mark International Sex Workers’ Day, which aims to “honor sex workers” and “push for better working conditions”. The fact that PornHub is a major driver of those working conditions is, well, wouldn’t you like to look at some tits instead of thinking about it?
PornHub belongs to the conglomerate MindGeek, which also owns multiple other “tube” sites for watching free porn. Where does this porn come from? From production companies, many of which are also owned by MindGeek. In many cases, if a performer wants to defend their royalties on a clip, they’ll need the help of the copyright holder, which just happens to also be the company drawing down a profit by serving it for free, so good luck with that. Another group of people have also struggled to get PornHub to remove content that violates their rights: victims of “revenge porn”, whose abusers upload their images to the “amateur” category.
At this point in the argument, people like to say: but what about ethical porn? Here’s what’s about ethical porn: it doesn’t matter. It makes up such a tiny proportion of the industry, it’s like putting a chicken in your back garden and claiming you’ve fixed factory farming. Apologies to those who twist themselves into astonishing shapes to produce the kind of porn they think should exist, but at best all they’re doing is providing a talking point for people who want to stall the discussion by saying “what about ethical porn?” so they can get back to their vertically integrated faux-incest.
If you want to talk about ethics in porn, let’s discuss why the industry has yet to have its #metoo moment. There was a possibility of one in 2015, when the performer James Deen was accused of on-set assault by multiple female costars; but the reckoning failed to come. (Deen denies any wrongdoing.) Journalists with an interest in the porn industry proved surprisingly incurious about following these allegations up. For example, writer Emily Witt met Deen during a set visit for an article published in n+1. The abuse claims emerged while she was revising that piece for inclusion in her 2016 book Future Sex: rather than address them, Witt cut him from the copy.
Now another porn celebrity has been not just accused, but charged: the performer Ron Jeremy faces three counts of rape and one of sexual assault. And perhaps this will, finally, be the occasion for a conversation about the attitudes inculcated by an industry which makes a show of brutality against women. Probably not, though. The porn industry could hardly survive if it went in for any self-reflection at all. But, then the hollowness of PornHub’s ethical credentials is obvious. It’s the credulousness of porn’s defenders that’s the really shocking thing.
Judges will be empowered to intervene in cases of domestic abuse to prevent the complainant from being re-victimised by aggressive lines of questioning, as part of a new raft of legal changes announced today.
Victims will also be provided with separate entrances to court buildings and given their own waiting rooms as well as protective screens to shield them from former partners.
The reforms have been announced as the domestic abuse bill goes through its report stage in the Commons on Thursday. Some changes will be incorporated into the legislation.
The additional powers for ‘investigative’ or ‘inquisitorial’ judges to direct the course of hearings rather than following the adversarial approach of British justice will initially be developed in pilot programmes. Judges are being urged to adopt a more continental-style in the way they conduct their courtrooms – intervening and directing lines of questioning rather than merely letting lawyers for each side present their case.
There will also be trials of a “one family, one judge” system where family and criminal proceedings are combined to avoid victims having to relive traumatic experiences on multiple occasions. Judges will also be authorised to ban abusive ex-partners from repeatedly dragging their victims back to court.
An expert panel from charities, the judiciary, family law practitioners and academia have been advising on the reforms. They spoke to more than 1,200 individuals and organisations for a report, “Assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law cases”, which is also published on Thursday.
Introducing the changes, the justice minister, Alex Chalk, said: “Every day the family courts see some of the most vulnerable in society and we have a duty to ensure they are protected and not put in danger.
“This report lays bare many hard truths about long-standing failings, but we are determined to drive the fundamental change necessary to keep victims and their children safe.”
Adversarial procedures in the family often worsen conflict between parents, re-traumatising victims and their children. Family court hearings sometimes enable abusers to continue hounding their victims through the courts.
The report says: “In reality, [family court] proceedings are brought by one parent and, especially where allegations of domestic abuse or child abuse are denied, are conducted on an adversarial basis where the court has to adjudicate between the two opposing parents, each trying to win the case.”
The Ministry of Justice is also to review the pivotal presumption of ‘parental involvement’ in care cases which encourages a child to maintain relationships with both parents, unless involvement of a parent is deemed to put the child at risk. The review will examine whether the correct balance is being struck between the risk of harm to children and their right to have a relationship with both parents.
The report said many experts involved in the family courts reported that the “pro-contact culture of the courts” coincided with what some see as a “systematic minimisation or disbelief of abuse, and … acceptance of counter-allegations without robust scrutiny”.
Nicki Norman, acting CEO at Women’s Aid, said: “This report marks a major step forward in exposing what women and children experiencing domestic abuse have been telling us for decades.
“The culture of disbelief identified by the panel is a barrier to courts making safe child contact arrangements in cases of domestic abuse. The result is that, all too often, survivors and their children experience the family courts as failing to effectively protect them.”
Nicole Jacobs, the UK’s first domestic abuse commissioner, said: “Problems in the family court are the single most common concern raised with me … and I am glad to see this report published in time to implement its recommendations through the domestic abuse bill.”
Dame Vera Baird QC, victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, said: “This panel of experts has dug deep to understand, and address, the serious harm to domestic abuse victims and their children caused over many years by the presumption of contact, and the intensely adversarial process present in the family courts.
“With children’s voices rarely heard in these proceeding and even more rarely heeded, victims and children are in need of better protections from abusive perpetrators.”
Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division of the high court in England and Wales, said: “We are keen for judges to be fully involved in trialling reformed processes for family cases which involve allegations of harm. We hope that parliament will be able to allocate the recommended resources which are identified by the MoJ expert panel as necessary to implement the proposals.”
The coronavirus lockdown has created a “perfect storm” for many children isolated with their abusers, ex-home secretary Sajid Javid has said.
Writing in the Telegraph, he said this will contribute to a “surge” in cases.
He said he will lead a new “no holds barred” inquiry into child sex abuse in the UK with the Centre for Social Justice think tank.
The inquiry will examine organised child sexual exploitation and the abuse of children online.
It comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced last month that the government will publish a paper “later this year” on research into group-based child sexual exploitation, which was commissioned by Mr Javid when he was home secretary in 2018.
Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that something that “weighed the most heavily on him” during his time as home secretary in 2018 and 2019 was child sexual abuse and its “true scale”.
He said he was “particularly concerned” about lockdown because “children are left to isolate alongside their abuser and they will therefore suffer severe long-term damage and this kind of thing isn’t reflected in statistics just yet, but it will be, and I’m very concerned about that”.
The former chancellor said the investigation into will look at organised child sexual exploitation, including gangs and on-street grooming.
The second part of the inquiry will examine how child sexual abuse “happens today”, with a focus on online abuse and live streaming.
Of the gang-based exploitation, Mr Javid said: “We know that of all these high profile cases when there have been convictions, a disproportionate number of people are from Asian heritage, particularly Pakistani heritage, my own heritage and that both saddens and angers me.
“People from my heritage, many of them disproportionately responsible for what we’ve seen and I want to know know why.”
He said in the past there had been an “ignorance” of this in some authorities.
Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Javid said: “The surge in child sexual abuse happening right now won’t be reflected in statistics until later this year.
“As appalling as those numbers will be, however, they’ll still only scrape the surface of what’s been occurring under our noses for decades.”
Andy Cook, chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice think tank, said it was “highly courageous” of Mr Javid to “speak out on the issue, which has been difficult to confront and too often neglected”.
Javed Khan, chief executive of children’s charity Barndardos, said it was an “important warning” from Mr Javid that some children are trapped at home with their abusers.
In 2018, in his role as home secretary, Mr Javid ordered research into the “characteristics and contexts” of gangs abusing children, arguing that ignoring issues such as ethnicity is more likely to fuel the far-right.
He said he wanted officials researching the causes of gang-based exploitation to leave “no stone unturned”.
The review came after grooming gangs were convicted in Huddersfield, Oxford, and Rotherham.
Due to be published later this year, the paper on this review “will outline the insights gained” and will “focus on how agencies can learn lessons from the past to tackle group-based offending and safeguard vulnerable children”.
The text accompanying this BBC report (which itself does not use the term ‘sex work’), refers to commercially sexually exploited children as ‘workers’.
You can complain to the BBC here, please feel free to copy or adapt the below text:
I am writing to complain about a report on missing/trafficked children in India using the term ‘sex work’ to describe the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Words and the meanings of words matter, a raped child is not a ‘worker’; ‘sex work’ is a partisan term, and using it in the context of child exploitation reduces a sexual exploitation issue to a mere labour issue.
Sixty children taking part in a fitness class on Zoom were subjected to footage of child sexual abuse streamed into the session by a hacker. The class was being hosted by a sports club in Plymouth, Devon.
Devon and Cornwall police believe the hacker gained access to the virtual class after the details of the event were published on online forums. The force is trying to track down the hacker and is working with Plymouth city council’s social care team to identify everyone who saw the footage.
Det Insp Lesley Bulley, who is leading the investigation, said: “We are progressing enquiries to identify the suspect in this distressing offence. We are working closely with Plymouth safeguarding children’s partnership and I request that if you have been affected by this then you come forward so we can provide the necessary advice and support.”
The force has issued advice to people using video conferencing, including ensuring that the host is the only person able to share material and that the meeting is locked to prevent unauthorised access.
Grahame Mace, a cyber-protection officer, said: “Keeping in touch with our friends and family is vital during this period of lockdown. But please ensure when setting up video conferencing sessions that you follow the guidelines on keeping your sessions private.
“First and foremost understand what security settings you have implemented and are available for your software, don’t leave yourself or others vulnerable, lock it down and keep the criminals out.”
The NSPCC children’s charity said there was a worrying pattern of meetings held on Zoom being “bombed” with images of child sexual abuse.
Following similar incidents across the UK and worldwide, the NSPCC is urging parents to supervise their children when using Zoom, and urging conference organisers to take steps to secure meeting details and passwords.
Other Zoom meetings that have been targeted include a wine-tasting event in Manchester. The incident left some participants in tears.
Andy Burrows, the NSPCC’s head of child safety online policy, said: “There appears to be a deeply disturbing trend emerging. While the responsibility for this lies with those uploading this terrible footage, it’s important to take precautions to lessen the risks posed to children and adults, including not sharing full meeting details and passwords on social media and only providing them to people you trust.
“Zoom needs to urgently act to protect their users, while all tech firms providing video conferencing services must immediately set out how they are responding to these very real risks.”
A spokesperson for Zoom said: “This incident is truly devastating and appalling, and our user policies explicitly prohibit any obscene, indecent, illegal or violent activity or content on the platform.
“We are looking into this specific incident to ensure the appropriate action is taken. Zoom strongly condemns such behaviour and recently updated several features to help our users more easily protect their meetings.
“We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind either to Zoom so we can take appropriate action or directly to law enforcement authorities.”
Coronavirus has led to a “global slowdown” in the removal of internet child abuse images, say campaigners.
The Internet Watch Foundation says tech firms have fewer staff to delete illegal material, making it easier for sexual predators to view and share.
Almost 90% fewer suspicious web addresses, or URLs, have been deleted during the pandemic, says the charity.
The warning comes as the IWF’s annual report reveals Europe is the “hub” for child sexual abuse photos and videos.
In 2019, 89% of URLs containing abuse material were found on computer servers based in Europe, compared with 79% in 2018.
Servers in the Netherlands, which has a strong technological infrastructure and low costs, hosted the most illegal content discovered by IWF staff – 93,962 URLs, or 71% of the total.
“We have seen a real and frightening jump in the amount of child sexual abuse material that is being hosted right on our doorstep here in Europe,” IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said.
Countries must adopt a “zero tolerance” strategy to the problem by tackling supply and demand, Ms Hargreaves added.
“While the UK doesn’t have this ‘hosting’ issue, our problem is that many consumers of child sexual abuse live here,” she pointed out.
She praised staff at the charity who last year removed 132,676 web pages and newsgroups showing child sexual abuse material, after assessing reports from people across the globe.
“It doesn’t matter how often the team sees this content, they never lose their humanity or fail to be shocked by the level of depravity and cruelty that some, a minority, engage in,” she said.
The immediate problem identified by the IWF is that social-distancing and self-isolation rules have cut the number of staff able to flag and respond to reports of illegal content in technology companies, call centres and law enforcement.
As a result, it is taking longer for child abuse images to be removed.
Between 16 March and 15 April, 1,498 URLs were deleted compared with 14,947 in the previous four weeks.
“Hotlines and abuse teams across the globe need to be aware there is a slowdown of this content being removed and to be mindful of doing what they can, within their ability, to get this content taken down,” the charity said.
The majority of online child sexual abuse material is hosted in the Netherlands, where greater internet freedoms have made the country a hub for illegal websites, figures show.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has said that 90 per cent of URLs for child abuse content are in Europe, the majority in the Netherlands. The material is made all over the world but held on computer servers in the Netherlands.
In Britain the IWF is responsible for identifying and removing such content from the internet. The watchdog’s annual report found that hundreds of babies were subjected to the worst abuse.
Eighty-nine per cent of images analysed last year were hosted in Europe, with 71 per cent of the images around the world hosted in the Netherlands, followed by Slovakia (6 per cent) and the US (5 per cent). Fewer than 1 per cent of images were hosted in the UK.
Susie Hargreaves, IWF’s chief executive, said: “It is not necessarily that the Netherlands is a bad country. The big issue is that they don’t take it down, it’s tied into digital freedoms and digital rights, and the fact you have to get a court order to take it down — that’s tens of thousands of trips to court. We also have an absolutely zero-tolerance attitude to it in the UK.
“They [the Netherlands] recognise they have a major issue and will do what they can to revise the legislation. I am confident something will happen but it needs to happen quickly.
“If every country stood up to it like we did in the UK, it would have nowhere to go.”
Of the images flagged by the IWF last year, 63,533 (48 per cent) were found to contain children aged 11 to 13, and 45,744 contained children who were seven to ten years old.
Some 1,609 images last year featured babies and toddlers under the age of two, and 71 per cent of those contained the most serious level of abuse, category A, depicting rape or sexual torture. Similarly, 41 per cent of images of children aged three to six years old were in this category.
Overall, about one in five of the total images (27,005) across all age ranges was deemed to be in category A, up from 23,879 the previous year. The data also showed that 92 per cent of all images featured girls, with a further 3 per cent containing boys and girls.
Almost a third (29 per cent) of web pages taken down by the IWF contained self-generated imagery — content created using webcams and shared online, often after children have been groomed.
Seventy-six per cent of these images showed a girl aged 11 to 13 — something that the IWF said was at risk of increasing during lockdowns where children are likely to be spending more time in their bedrooms on computers.
The report’s publication comes after Britain’s National Crime Agency reported that 300,000 paedophiles were sharing sexual images or abusing children on the dark web — nearly four times previous estimates.
Ms Hargreaves said: “Those children are so young, they’re so vulnerable to being coerced and tricked into sharing sexual images and engaging in sexual activities on webcams, and they don’t have the emotional wherewithal to know they are being exploited.
“By the time that is videoed and recorded it is on a child sexual abuse website, which is where we see it. It’s a sad fact that the younger the child, the worse the level of abuse.”
A British academic whose new book is about why women are blamed for crimes committed against them has been subjected to thousands of coordinated attacks from alt-right trolls over the last week, culminating in her personal computer being hacked.
Dr Jessica Taylor, a senior lecturer in forensic and criminal psychology, is due to publish her exploration of victim blaming, Why Women are Blamed for Everything, on 27 April. Looking into what causes society to blame women who have been abused, raped, trafficked, assaulted or harassed by men, the book has drawn increasing publicity, including an appearance on Woman’s Hour.
But since 17 April, Taylor has been targeted by what she describes as a “group of organised trolls” who align themselves with the “alt-right”, men’s rights activists, incel (involuntary celibates) and Mgtow (men going their own way) movements, who have posted thousands of messages on her public Facebook page, including rape and death threats. On 21 April, Taylor contacted police when the screen on her laptop was remotely accessed. The investigation is ongoing.
“They had total control of my keyboard and mouse. I tried to stop them … after about 30 seconds of this, I realised how serious it was and I shut my laptop down and ran inside to turn my wifi off and shut all other devices down,” Taylor told the Guardian on Friday.
For five days, she was receiving 100 comments every few minutes, “everything from telling me to die, kill myself, messages saying ‘I will rape you’, messages saying I am not a real psychologist or PhD, that I’m fat, ugly, disgusting, dyke, ugly lesbian, barren, infertile, will die alone, that my parents hate me etc … When we started banning and blocking, they really ramped it up and it became violent and abusive.”
By Friday, more than 2,000 accounts had been blocked from her Facebook page.
Taylor is the founder of VictimFocus, an international research, teaching and consultancy organisation which aims to challenge the victim blaming of women subjected to violence and abuse. Her book is based on her doctoral research and on her 10 years of practice with women and girls, including interviews with women who were blamed for being raped, and the professionals who supported them.
“I knew the book needed to be written – but I didn’t know it needed to be written this badly. The targeted attacks from men in the last week have been appalling. I will always centre women in my work and I will keep making misogynists uncomfortable. Abuse and trolling is scary and it’s exhausting, but it’s never going to get me to a point where I say, ‘I will just stop talking about the abuse of women and girls,’” said Taylor.
She said the book was “written for every single woman and girl who has been told that she had to do something differently, change something about herself or make her life smaller so she isn’t subjected to male violence. I’ve had enough and millions of other women have had enough, too … [This book] has made a lot of men angry. You have to ask why that is. What are they frightened of?”
Nazir Afzal is best known for helping victims of the Rochdale sex abuse ring get justice. When he became a chief crown prosecutor in 2011 he overturned a previous decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to take the case forward, suggesting that as the perpetrators were Asian, “white professionals’ oversensitivity to political correctness . . . may have contributed to justice being stalled”. Nine men were later convicted of a catalogue of offences including rape, sexual activity with a girl under 16 and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
This fast-paced memoir, cantering through some of the most complex, violent and fascinating cases he oversaw, explores what led him to become a champion of the ignored. Afzal grew up in 1960s Birmingham in a Pakistani Muslim family who often felt that “without any warning, we might be told to leave”. The book opens with a powerful account of a young Afzal being assaulted in a racially motivated attack. Afterwards his father tells him: “The police are not interested in you. Justice doesn’t mean anything to us.” Afzal says he felt determined to ensure that justice really was for everyone.
He was an industrious student. Law school beckoned and by the end of the 1980s he was a defence solicitor. A second epiphany came when he was defending a rapist who he knew was lying. “The sex was consensual,” said the man. Afzal resigned that same day. Eventually he realised his calling lay with the CPS, even though the work was “relentless”. What Afzal, who left the CPS in 2015, confronted repeatedly is an anachronistic legal system, with archaic laws and courts that force victims to stand outside with the suspects’ families.
The main thrust of his career focused on what he terms “gender terrorism”: violence against women and girls, including so-called honour killings and forced marriages. He scrutinised in particular the way victims of honour killings were often treated as partly responsible for their own murders. One such case was that of Heshu Yones, a 16-year-old girl from west London whose father slit her throat after she started dating a boy. In court she was portrayed as “wayward” and when the judge sentenced the father, he said that he understood what it must be like to have a daughter who was out of control. The killer received a reduced tariff as a result. Afzal realised there were systemic problems with the way honour killings were handled by the police, by social workers, by the legal system — and started trying to educate them.
A similar victim-blaming attitude was present in Rochdale, where the girls were initially dismissed as not being credible. What had occurred was an epidemic of grooming and abuse; teenagers plied with alcohol and coerced into unprotected intercourse with multiple, much older men. In one case a man poured petrol over a 14-year-old with learning difficulties and threatened to set her alight unless she carried out a sex act on him. It was a world before #MeToo and these girls were brave silence-breakers.
Now Afzal sees the grooming trial as “one of the most important cases in the history of modern British justice”. The repercussions were huge; police officers were investigated and social workers struck off. I wish Afzal had gone into more detail on the case, though — it feels worthy of its own book.
The government of Bangladesh has started sending emergency food and aid to the tens of thousands of women working in the country’s commercial sex industry as brothels across the country close.
To try to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the authorities have ordered the lockdown of the sex industry, closing the country’s biggest brothel in Goalanda in the Rajbari District of Dhaka until 5 April along with many others across the country.
The closures will leave many of the estimated 100,000 women working in brothels in Bangladesh with no way of supporting themselves or their children.
“We don’t earn much here, I make enough to survive day to day and most of us are in debt,” said one 26-year-old woman who has worked in a brothel in Goalanda for more than seven years. “What will happen if things don’t get better? Yesterday I needed to get some food but all my money is stuck in online banking apps and all the cashpoints are closed. I managed to borrow some from a friend, otherwise I would have been in big trouble.”
Local government official Rubayet Hayat, of the sub-district of Goalanda, said food and financial aid from the disaster management and relief ministry would start to be distributed by the end of this week.
“There are some 1,800 [prostituted women] in the brothels under our jurisdiction. We have asked for 30kgs of rice and 2,000 taka (£20) [for each of these women],” he said. “We have got the initial approval and are hoping the funds will be sanctioned by the end of this week.”
Healthcare workers at a charity hospital near to the brothel in Goalanda said more help would be needed to prevent an outbreak of Covid-19 in brothels and red light districts.
“The brothel area is very dirty and unhygienic. The rooms are inhumanly tiny. The house owners built the rooms strategically for more profit so that they can fit more rooms in a small area,” said Zulfekar Ali, the in-charge doctor at the Gonoshasthaya Kendra charity hospital. “In that same tiny room, the [prostituted women] live, work and often cook. Many share common toilets.”
He added that many women working in the brothels are often reluctant to access healthcare services because they fear being shamed and stigmatised. “We are using loud hailers to spread awareness in the brothels, telling the women who are there to wash their hands properly,” he said.
Prostitution is legal in Bangladesh and the government estimates that around 100,000 women are working in the sex industry. One study reports that less than 10% of those working in prostitution entered the sex trade voluntarily.
So many truths hidden in plain sight (I have ‘edited’ the use of the term ‘sex worker’ to more accurately reflect the reality of the situation), and waiting till the end of the article to mention that over 90% of the women in the sex industry are coerced, and not even bothering to mention that many of these ‘sex workers’ will actually be girls as young as 12! I have sent a complaint email to The Guardian, although they have never once replied, please feel free to copy or adapt the below:
I am writing to complain about the article “Bangladesh sends food aid to sex workers as industry goes into lockdown” (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/06/bangladesh-sends-food-aid-to-sex-workers-as-industry-goes-into-lockdown).
There is something incredibly dishonest about writing an article on ‘sex workers’ in Bangladesh, and only admitting in the final paragraph that over 90% of the women you are writing about are coerced, while the side-bar links to an article that reveals that many of these ‘workers’ will be girls as young as 12.
Under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but, somehow, if the rapist hands over money afterwards, this rape is relabelled ‘work’. ‘Sex work’ is a partisan, obfuscating term, it turns a sexual abuse issue into a mere labour issue, and disappears the abusers.
The Guardian is still asking for financial support, I will not give you a penny while you are still calling commercially raped women and children ‘workers’.
Amazingy, The Guardian has responded, and changed the article!
Thank you for your email.
We put your points to the relevant editor who replied:
Yes, in this instance I do agree that the headline was not what it should have been and the reader makes a fair point. We have changed the headline and moved the last paragraph up to near the top of the piece.
We take great care to distinguish between the terms prostitution, sex trafficking and sex work, and the only place that the term ‘sex workers’ was used in the body of this piece was in a direct quote from the Bangladeshi politician. At all other times we used “women working in brothels” as we have no way of knowing how many of the women receiving these aid packages are coerced or working in the brothels of their own free will.
Prostitute and sex worker are very politically charged terms and we usually use the words “women working in prostitution” when not referring to sex trafficking.
I hope this goes some way to addressing your concerns.
The current article is here (same url, changed headline):
An archived version of the original article can be found here: