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.
This article is in the Observer today, and it is completely one-sided reporting, from the use of the euphemistic ‘escort’ as well as the obfuscatory ‘sex worker’, to the lack of reporting of the opposite side of the story. It reads more like a regurgitated press release from the sex industry.
Sex worker and law graduate Laura Lee is steeling herself for a battle in Belfast’s high court that she believes could make European legal history. The Dublin-born escort is now in the final stages of a legal challenge to overturn a law in Northern Ireland that makes it illegal to purchase sex.
Not a single person in the region has appeared in court charged with trying to hire an escort, though Public Prosecution Service figures show that three are under investigation. The region is the first in the UK to make buying sex a crime. The law was introduced in 2014 by Democratic Unionist peer Lord Morrow and supported by a majority of members in the regional assembly.
But Lee will enter Belfast high court with her team of lawyers aiming to establish that the criminalisation of her clients violates her right to work under European human rights law. Since the law was established, Lee insists that the ban has put her and her fellow sex workers in more peril from potentially dangerous clients.
Just before flying out to address an international conference on sex workers’ rights in Barcelona this weekend, Lee told the Observer that most men currently seeking escorts in Northern Ireland no longer use mobile phones to contact her and her colleagues.
“They are using hotel phones, for example, to contact sex workers in Belfast rather than leaving their personal mobiles. This means if one of them turns violent there is no longer any real traceability to help the police track such clients down. Men are doing this because they fear entrapment and arrest due to this law.
This sounds like a pretty weak argument to me, as if there isn’t CCTV, credit card receipts and plenty of other ways to trace whoever rented the hotel room. If the police really cared about violence against prostitutes – something we all want – they would be able to track these men down.
Where do these ‘bad johns’ go under full decriminalisation of the sex industry? They go to the women who are trafficked, who are desperate, who can’t afford to pick and choose.
What these comparatively privileged woman in the sex industry are fighting for (aside from the sex industry itself) is better conditions for them, the ones at the top of the pyramid (the sex industry is a pyramid with a very broad base); decriminalisation increases demand and lowers standards, it is clear from Germany, and the cracks are beginning to show in New Zealand as whistle-blowers come forward.
Lee seems to be leading a jet-setting activist life-style – subsidised by Amnesty International perhaps? – how much actual ‘escorting’ is she fitting in around the legal action and the public speaking?
Among those supporting Lee is Amnesty International. Before the court hearing, Amnesty’s campaign manager in Northern Ireland, Grainne Teggart, said they had major concerns about the “Morrow law”: “Sex workers are at heightened risk of a whole host of human rights abuses including rape, violence, extortion and discrimination,” said Teggart.
“Far too often they receive no, or very little, protection from the law or means for redress. Laws must focus on making sex workers’ lives safer and improving the relationship they have with the police, not place this relationship at risk by criminalising them and the context in which they work. Similar laws in Nordic countries have failed to decriminalise sex workers, who are still pursued and punished under remaining sex work laws.”
This is just lies, the Nordic/Abolitionist model decriminalises the prostitute her/him self, what they are actually referring to is the criminalisation of pimps:
In Norway we found evidence that sex workers were routinely evicted from their homes under so-called ‘pimping laws’. In many countries of the world, two sex workers working together for safety is considered a ‘brothel’.
We need to remember, AI deliberately chose to look at Norway, a country that had only recently enacted abolitionist laws, rather than Sweden which has had the law in place for over a decade – if the way a law is enacted doesn’t follow the intention of the law, as described above, that can and should be addressed, changes in the law always include re-educating the police and changing the culture, as happened in Sweden.
There is this very dishonest argument from sex industry advocates, that the abolitionist approach doesn’t improve the relationship between prostitutes and the police – if the police hate prostitutes that much, what difference would decriminialising the whole sex industry make?
Decriminalising the whole sex industry is the main goal of sex industry advocates; the proof is there that decriminalisation increases trafficking, and lowers working conditions, the real beneficiaries are pimps and brothel keepers (and the hand-full of already privilidged ‘sex workers’ at the top of the pyramid).
AI’s own research found no evidence of police violence against prostitutes in Norway, so the idea that full decriminalisation of the sex industry is necessary for a good relationship between the police and prostitutes has no foundation. In the UK, the ‘Merseyside Model’ was enacted only by a change in police culture, and no change in the law.
Lee’s Belfast legal battle is only the start of a Europe-wide campaign to overturn the model in which Scandinavian countries pioneered the outlawing of men buying sex. Lee’s next target is the Irish Republic, which, under new anti-trafficking laws, has introduced a similar ban aimed at criminalising clients.
“A win for us in Belfast will have a knock-on effect and set a precedent across Europe. If successful up north there will be a challenge in Dublin and sex workers across Europe can use the precedent to overturn the so-called ‘Nordic model’ in their countries,” she said.
From the outset, Lee said she had expected a “tsunami of abuse” on social media from her opponents, an alliance of religious groups and some feminist organisations on the island of Ireland. “In the hate mails they focus a lot on my daughter and say things like ‘I really can’t wait until your daughter goes on the game’ and vile things like that. Religious people tell me they can’t wait until I burn in the fires of hell – charming really! But they must know I am dogged in my determination to fight this law on behalf of all sex workers, especially the ones that can’t put their heads above the parapet and take a public stand. I am strong enough to do so and can take their abuse.”
And, of course, there is the dishonest lumping together of feminists and the religious right; I am confident no radical feminist has told her to burn in hell, or said “I really can’t wait until your daughter goes on the game” (although they may have asked her how she would feel about her daughter entering the sex industry, not exactly the same thing).
Legislation which criminalises the purchaser of sexual services rather than the seller has been passed in the Dáil by 94 votes to six.
There were three abstentions.
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill also strengthens laws to combat child pornography and prevent the sexual grooming of children. And it amends provisions on incest and indecent exposure.
[…] Provisions in the Bill also include prohibition of the wearing of wigs and gowns in proceedings involving children and the prohibition on the cross-examination of victims of sexual offences by an accused, which will apply once the Bill is commenced.
Today a historic precedent was set when the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which includes laws to criminalise the purchase of sex and ensure vulnerable women, children and men in prostitution can access support, passed its final hurdle in Seanad Éireann and will now be part of the Irish Statute Book.
The 70+ partners of Turn Off the Red Light, which have been tirelessly campaigning in support of this crucial legislation are united in their welcome for
the new legislation, which will better protect vulnerable women, children and men who are being sexually exploited.
Denise Charlton, Chair of Turn Off the Red Light,said: “From the very beginning this Bill has been about protecting and supporting those most vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violence and abuse. It focuses on the perpetrators of sexual crime
– the pimps and traffickers who enable abuse and exploitation to continue, and who benefit from it financially.
“We commend the Tánaiste, Minister Frances Fitzgerald, for championing this Bill as it progressed through the Oireachtas. By supporting it, the Irish Government is making a clear statement that it will stand up for the most vulnerable in our society.
“The inclusion of a review period in this legislation affirms the Government’s commitment to making sure the legislation has a real impact for those it seeks to support. We look forward to working with the Government in the coming months to ensure this happens.”
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD this evening welcomed the passage of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 through both Houses of the Oireachtas.
Speaking this evening the Tánaiste said –
‘This is one of the most comprehensive and wide ranging piece of sexual offences legislation ever to be introduced and has been a priority for me as Minister for Justice and Equality. It is an essential piece of legislation that brings additional protections to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It contains the right laws for these times, laws that will protect victims of the most vicious and depraved crimes.
The provisions of this Bill enhance and update laws to combat the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children. It widens the range of offences associated with child pornography to ensure that no one who participates in any way in the creation, distribution, viewing or sharing of such abhorrent material can escape the law.
Also, the Bill provides greater clarity in relation to the definition of sexual consent for the first time.’
The Bill contains:
· New criminal offences to protect children against grooming;
· New measures to protect children from online predators;
· New and strengthened offences to tackle child pornography;
· New provisions to be introduced regarding evidence by victims, particularly children;
· New offences addressing public indecency;
· A provision in relation to harassment Orders to protect victims of convicted sex offenders;
· Provisions maintaining the age of consent to sexual activity at 17 years of age and for a new “proximity of age” defence;
· A provision to criminalise the purchase of sexual services.
· A statutory statement of the law as regards consent to sexual acts
Concluding, the Tánaiste said, ‘I would like to acknowledge the support and invaluable contributions from my parliamentary colleagues and from civic society, in particular from those people and organisations who made submissions and representations to me and my Department.’
This Bill brings Irish law into line with a number of international legal instruments and implements the recommendations of a number of Oireachtas committees.
SPACE International is delighted to join its voice with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Ruhama, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Children’s Rights Alliance, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Men’s Development Network, Irish Nurses and Midwives Association and all of the other organisations that make up the seventy-two members of the Turn Off the Red Light campaign, in welcoming the passing of the Sexual Offences Bill in the Republic of Ireland.
SPACE International’s Irish members, both publicly known and anonymous, have worked extraordinarily hard alongside many others to campaign for the passing of this Bill since 2011, and it is with great joy that we can finally welcome the criminalisation of the demand for paid sexual access to human beings.
We are relieved and gladdened that the Irish government has finally fully recognised the abusive reality of prostitution and committed to criminalise those who exploit others for their own sexual gratification. This is an important and historical moment for Ireland. We have, for the first time since the foundation of the state, recognised the legal rights of prostituted persons to live free of sexual exploitation.
SPACE recognises the highly gendered nature of the sex trade and welcomes the societal change that this legislation will bring about, in particular its positive effect on the goal of gender equality, and is committed to continuing the conversation with regard to social supports for prostituted persons so that they may exit prostitution if they so wish with the full support of the State.
Kitty Stryker is a phoney and a fake radical who has co-opted the language of radical feminism, and shills for the sex industry while providing a fig-leaf for the BDSM ‘community’.
On twitter a few days ago, she said “I swear to god I wish we could just put the TERFs and Nazis on a goddamn boat together and send them into the sea.”
When someone else added “or we could put them in concentration camps? Maybe before they went into ovens? Lol” Stryker merely complained that that was “in bad taste”.
Sryker has changed her twitter handle to “Punch Nazis”, and added a later tweet about ‘terfs’ drowning, so it’s clear she has no problem with violence against women, when they are women she disagrees with politically.
This isn’t the first time Stryker has demonstrated that she sees women she doesn’t like as not fully human, in this tweet I screen capped a while back, we can see her wondering if radical feminists are actually real people, the ‘kill all terfs’ rhetoric follows on easily.
Stryker is also an intellectual coward, who ran away from conversations on this blog she wasn’t winning, and now won’t even engage, but she does keep an eye on me, as she tweeted about my previous post more than once.
Here’s a clue for you Stryker, ‘terfs’ don’t exist, there are no ‘terf’ organisations, there are no ‘terf’ leaders, there are no women calling themselves ‘terfs’ except ironically, it’s a term trans activists made up in order to intimidate women into unquestioning silence and obedience.
Stryker also likes lying about the Nordic (Abolitionist) Model, claiming that it made it easier for the police to arrest her – tell me Stryker, how does decriminalising ‘sex workers’ make it easier for the police to arrest them?
She’s doing this still, implying that under the Nordic Model, the police are more dangerous to ‘sex workers’, deliberately and cynically obscuring the fact that the Nordic Model means decriminalising the prostitute her (or him) self.
[EDIT 19/Feb/17: If decriminalising ‘sex workers’ under the Nordic Model doesn’t make the police ‘safe’, then how will decriminalising the whole of the sex industry make the police ‘safe’?]
The first loyalty of sex industry advocates is to the sex industry itself, always.
Hawaii lawmakers are considering decriminalizing prostitution in the state after the speaker of the House introduced a bill that would also legalize buying sex and acting as a pimp.
The proposal also would end a state law that says police officers cannot have sex with prostitutes in the course of investigations.
Transgender activist Tracy Ryan said she is trying to convince state lawmakers to pass the bill because transgender women are overrepresented in the sex trade and therefore disproportionately affected by criminalization laws.
House Speaker Joseph Souki said in an interview that he does not have a position on the bill and he introduced it as a favor for Ryan.
“I don’t like seeing people sent to jail that don’t belong there,” Ryan said.
But long-time anti-sex trafficking advocate Kathryn Xian said legalizing the selling, promoting or buying of sex would make it harder to police the industry.
“If this bill passes and everything was no crime whatsoever, then abuses against women and children would just shoot through the freaking roof,” Xian said. “It would be exponentially harder to prove violence in the industry. It would be almost impossible to prove any sort of labor abuse.”
Asked about the part of the bill that strikes language preventing police from having sex with prostitutes during investigations, Souki said: “No, again I have nothing to say about the bill.”
Hawaii has an unusual history with prostitution investigations. Until 2014, it was legal for police officers to have sex with prostitutes as part of investigations, but state lawmakers changed that after The Associated Press highlighted the loophole in a story.
The Honolulu Police Department did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment about the bill.
Ryan wants to preserve the law preventing police from having sex with prostitutes to arrest them if the bill does not pass, but “if they can’t arrest them anyway because it’s no longer illegal, it’s a moot point,” she said.
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said the bill would make it harder to address global sex trafficking because “it would be more difficult to find the bad actors, more difficult to get witnesses to make cases.”
Michael Golojuch Jr., chairman of the LGBT caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said transgender women are overrepresented compared with other women in the sex trade because the discrimination they face leads some to feel it’s the only kind of work they can get.
Golojuch personally supports the idea of decriminalizing prostitution, but he said he and the caucus had not yet taken an official position on the bill.
“My dream job would be union organizer for consensual sex workers,” Golojuch said. “It would be great for people who want to do that work to unionize them and empower them so that they are taken care of.”
Not everyone thinks legalizing prostitution would benefit sex workers.
“By normalizing sexual exploitation and recasting it as a career choice that has no harms attached, we’re creating a setting and a system where we are OK with objectifying women, where we’re OK with buying other human beings’ bodies, and that has effects that are far-reaching in terms of how women are treated,” said Khara Jabola, chapter coordinator of Af3irm Hawaii, a feminist group.
The bill and another to decriminalize marijuana may be part of a push to reduce the prison population, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said.
But any decriminalization bills are unlikely to pass before the Legislature gets a report from a working group that has been meeting on the topic. That report isn’t expected before the session ends, Saiki said.
QotD: “No law gives men the right to rape women. This has not been necessary, since no rape law has ever seriously undermined the terms of men’s entitlement to sexual access to women”
No law gives men the right to rape women. This has not been necessary, since no rape law has ever seriously undermined the terms of men’s entitlement to sexual access to women.
Catharine A. MacKinnon, Towards a Feminist Theory of State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 239.
6) everything is rape culture except porn and sex work, even though most women in those fields are repeatedly raped. “baby it’s cold outside” and “blurred lines” are rape culture but rape porn is empowering.
I think it is most appropriate to make the first post of 2017 a call for female, feminist solidarity, please read Sarah Ditum’s article in full here.
There are females, of course […], but “female” is not counted as a gender identity. Female is written out. Inside the magazine, you’ll find features which reveal that, actually, femaleness is a highly pertinent characteristic: you can read about the poverty and violence inflicted on girls in developing nations, the pressures of bullying and body-shaming on girls in America, and how the two-tiered market in children’s toys might be harming girls through pinkification. Being female is a matter of life and death, but, per the cover, “female” is not a label under which people may gather.
Here I suppose I should concede National Geographic’s good intentions. National Geographic did not, I assume, deliberately set out to produce an issue showing that female people are exploited and abused for being female, while also announcing that “female” does not exist. Nor is National Geographic doing anything particularly new or shocking by deleting women as a class: reproductive rights organisations now talk about “pregnant people” rather than women in order to be “inclusive”, and even references to vaginas can be damned as transphobic. But if it the express motivation of this cover had been to tauntingly depoliticise everything the inside pages have to tell about the place of women and girls in the world, the patriarchy would give it a 10/10 for threat neutralisation.
In the circumstances, wanting out of the class “woman” is eminently rational. And being a woman is only going to get rougher in Trump’s America. Michelle Goldberg is correct in her bleak, eloquent Slate column when she writes that Trump’s presidency means the backlash is on. Abortion rights, protections against sexual discrimination, action against sexual violence – these things will be the first to go. Even if you don’t “feel female”, you will be exposed by being female. A label is no defense against male violence. You can disown your body, but your body is too valuable a commodity to be left alone. It can make babies. It can make dinners, mop floors. It can make a man orgasm. You are a resource to be colonised, and simply stating that you are not one by refusing the title “woman” will never function as a “keep out” sign.
To survive, to resist, we need to organise. To organise, we need to acknowledge what we hold in common. Throughout feminism’s waves and wanings, that’s been the basis of every success: identifying the oppressions imposed on us as women, and working together as women against them. Our female bodies are the battleground, and we can’t escape that even if we deny it by claiming some variant identity such as “non-binary” or “bi-gender”. We need a women’s movement. Even those of us who think we don’t need it, will need it. And for that, we need to call ourselves – our female selves – women, without compromise or qualification.
The EVA Center is a survivor led, social justice oriented program whose mission is to empower women who have experienced sexual exploitation, (prostitution, sex trafficking), to find solutions to the issues they face and exit the commercial sex industry. We also work to challenge public perceptions and strongly advocate for specialized, survivor led, strength based programming that increases awareness of the many socio-economic and situational factors contributing to women’s and girls entry into the sex trade.
The EVA Center’s mission is to provide comprehensive exit services for women who are experiencing commercial sexual exploitation, (prostitution/trafficking).
We are committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation by changing women’s lives, addressing the social and economic conditions that enable the sex trade to thrive. We advocate for what is called the Nordic Model, calling for the complete decriminalization of those exploited in prostitution and criminalizing the buying which fuels the demand.
The EVA Center, formerly Kims Project, has almost ten years of direct service experience. Founded in 2006 by Cherie Jimenez, a survivor of the sex trade, this project was created in response to the overwhelming need to assist women in the often complex process of exiting out of commercial sexual exploitation. It started as Kims Project, a project created and implemented by and for women that had direct experience in the sex trade, understanding the importance of peer support. It was created through Finex House, a domestic violence shelter. Since 2006 we have provided comrehensive services and long term support for hundreds of women while simultanously working to create needed emergency and long term housing options, providing awareness-raising campaigns to educate the public about the violence associated with the sex trafficking and the role of the demand in driving this trade. In 2012, we incorporated as The Josephine Butler EVA Center to fullfill the need to create a more sustainable emergency and long term housing program for the number of women wanting out of this harmful industry. The EVA Center, standing for Education, Vision and Advocacy, better represented what we do, acknowledging this program as a center, a compassionate and caring space for women.
After almost ten years we are currently in the process of collaborating with new partners to create a sustainable and needed emergency housing program and increase our staff.
We assist women in creating their own exit plans, providing information and resources to the appropriate services, acknowledging that each woman has her own experiences, needs and cultural beliefs that can vary tremendously. This might include immediate access to safety since many prostituted and trafficked women find themselves caught in relational violence. For many women the Center represents the beginniing of a new kind of connection and sense of community.
We offer financial assistance as well as long term consistent support in accessing health services, safe permanent housing, educational and employment opportunities; recognizing that education is a key component to economic security. The lack of meaningful employment that provides a living wage is a huge obstacle facing young women struggling to support themselves.
We partner with a number of community organizations to help women develop their own educational plans, getting reconnected back into school and work, GED, ESOL, life, job skills, and/or work readiness programs.
The Center is a caring space for women, all services are free and all women are welcome. The door to resources is always open; there is no cut off of support.
We provide court advocacy, support for women arrested on prostitution related charges, working with Boston area district courts. Our goal is to offer women who have been arrested on prostitution related offenses an opportunity to access services in lieu of jail time. We also offer pre-court diversion which enables law enforcement to intervene, breaking the cycle of court involvement, diverting them to community based programs.
The EVA Center provides a free legal clinic to assist women in navigating the court system. This clinic is a unique partnership with the Boston University School of Law and the EVA Center. Clinic students provide a variety of legal services – including direct representation of non citizens eligible for T Visas, as well as a variety of other legal services.
Rhode Island chapter of Amnesty International has broken with Amnesty International and Amnesty International USA, on the issue of sex trafficking
Group 49 of Amnesty International paused in its petitioning on behalf of political prisoners to talk about sex trafficking Sunday.
Group 49, the Rhode Island chapter, has broken with its parent organizations, Amnesty International and Amnesty International USA, on the issue of sex trafficking. The parent organizations in 2015 adopted a policy, in the words of Rhode Island coordinator Marcia Lieberman, “to decriminalize all aspects of prostitution.”
As guest speaker Cherie Jimenez put it at a Group 49 gathering Sunday, “If we want equality between men and women, we have to end this” organized prostitution. Although legalization is a fashionable “neo-liberal” approach, prostitution is “not an empowering experience” for girls and women, she said.
“It’s made me a little crazy and a little angry,” she confided to her audience. “Because it’s been around forever is not a basis for its continuance.” Jimenez said she has never met a sex-trade practitioner who wanted to stick with it.
Jimenez, who is in her 50s and used to be a prostitute herself, is founder and director of the EVA Center in Boston – as in Education, Vision and Advocacy – which offers peer counseling, housing and other support for women seeking to leave the commercial sex industry.
She said women who go into prostitution believe they do not have options because, in the United States, they usually are products of a public social-services system that does not do enough for them.
“We have so many flawed … systems,” she said, such as indifferent group homes that take in children from dysfunctional domestic situations but cannot overcome their behavioral problems.
“Why isn’t this a human rights violation?” she demanded to know.
After digressing to discuss sex trafficking, the 29th annual Write-a-thon resumed in the parish house of the First Unitarian Church on College Hill, with about 35 volunteers sitting at long tables hand-writing letters on behalf of at least 10 selected prisoners of conscience around the world. The letters were deposited in a glass container, to display the writers’ progress.
As usual, participants lit a large candle draped in barbed wire – the symbolic “candle of hope.”
Regarding sex trafficking, Group 49 officer Merritt Meyer, of Bristol, said decriminalization increases trafficking because it increases the market.
“It’s not just a job,” Lieberman protested.
She said various members of the group have communicated their disagreement to the parent organizations.
A second speaker, Providence police Capt. Michael E. Correia, commanding officer of the detective bureau, summarized how his department underwent a pronounced change and now goes after prostitution by treating prostitutes as victims rather than perpetrators of crime.
“The victim isn’t just someone who signs a witness statement,” Correia said, but is someone deserving of help. The police do not handcuff suspected prostitutes and they introduce them to advocates like Jimenez, hoping the suspects will cooperate later in prosecutions of their pimps.
As part of the change, the police dropped the use of the word “john” as a euphemism for a prostitute’s customer.
“They’re not johns,” he declared. “That’s an antiseptic name. They’re sex buyers.”
Correia acknowledged that the revised approach is difficult to justify to higher-ups in the department because resources are often used in cases with no accompanying arrests to “clear” the cases statistically.