When I first heard about the tragic case of Cyntoia Brown, sentenced in 2006 to 51 years for killing a man who was paying to use her for sex when she was 16-years-old, I immediately thought of Emma Humphreys. In 1985, Emma also killed a man in very similar circumstances.
Both girls killed as a result of severe provocation and mental ill health, caused by the extreme abuse they had endured in prostitution.
Brown shot Johnny Allen in 2004. On the night she killed him, Allen picked up Cyntoia and took her to his home. Brown said in her statement she thought he was reaching for a gun during sex, so she shot him with a handgun and fled with his money.
The defence claimed Cyntoia was a victim of sex trafficking who feared for her life and was afraid of coming back to her pimp, “Cut Throat”, who used to beat and terrorise her, with no money. The prosecution said she was a greedy opportunist. Cyntoia was convicted of murder.
Like Cyntoia, Emma had grown up with appalling abuse, and was pimped into prostitution as a runaway child. Having met Trevor Armitage on the streets of Nottingham, Emma – who had been prostituted on the streets aged 13 – moved in with him, desperate for a home.
Armitage began beating, raping and pimping Emma, and her life was sheer hell. She killed him after he threatened her with a “gang-bang”. Like Cyntoia, she was just 16 years old, and yet was convicted a few months later of his murder. The jury failed to understand how child abuse and neglect is a training ground for prostitution, and how pimps and other predators target girls such as Emma.
Following a relentless three-year campaign to overturn Emma’s conviction, she finally walked free in July 1995. Emma had served a decade in prison for the “crime” of defending herself. But the lifetime of abuse, and her decade in prison took its toll on her mental and physical health, and Emma died three years later.
Cyntoia had been in prison for over a decade when campaigners brought her case to the public’s attention, and soon the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown trended on Twitter. Celebrities including Kim Kardashian, and even Snoop Dogg, himself a former pimp, called for her release.
Cyontia says that “My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.” Emma said much the same when she was released. What Emma needed, and what all the girls caught up in prostitution need from us is to call it what it is – child abuse.
We need to challenge those that claim that when the Cyntoias and Emmas of this world reach 18 they are merely exercising a “choice”. One pro-prostitution organisation recently referred to Cyntoia as “a survival sex worker” as opposed to a victim of sexual exploitation, and called for changes to attitudes so that such young women can hang on to their “agency”.
A child in the sex trade has no “agency”. She is a victim of sexual abuse and violence. Girls such as Cyntoia and Emma usually never come to our attention. They often take their own lives, die from HIV, are murdered by pimps and punters, or end up in prison. We owe them a duty of care, and that begins by calling prostitution what it is: one of the worst forms of sexual exploitation and brutality on the planet.
It is midday in Bhairchawa, one of the 23 official border checkpoints between Nepal and India. Each day, up to 100,000 people cross under the stone arch separating the two countries. Some are on foot, others in trucks or on bikes, mopeds and rickshaws. Amid the chaos – the people, the dust, the noise of traffic and honking of horns – are the guardians: women who, having survived the horrors of human trafficking, now spend every day trying to spot potential victims and their exploiters among the crowds.
One of the women on duty today is Pema. While we talk, her eyes remain fixed on the crowds, scanning the throngs of people moving slowly across the checkpoint.
She is right to be vigilant. The 1,750km open and porous border between the two countries is a dream for traffickers and a nightmare for those trying to stop them. It has helped this crossing become one of the busiest human trafficking routes in the world.
More than 23,000 women and girls were victims of trafficking in 2016 according to the annual report published by the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal. However, numbers could rise to 40,000 Nepalese victims a year, according to NGOs in the field. Last year, a study conducted by Sashastra Seema Bal, the Indian armed border force, said detected cases of trafficking from Nepal to India had risen by 500% since 2013.
Pema says she knows how to spot potential victims because she was herself trafficked across this border when she was 11 years old. Born in a remote village in the north of Nepal, she was taken by a friend of her parents, drugged and sold into a brothel in India. Years of rape and torture followed until she was rescued by Maiti Nepal, an anti-trafficking charity, following a raid on the brothel.
Pema lived at a Maiti Nepal shelter and has since trained to become one of 39 trafficking survivors working for the organisation as border guardians. The group work at nine checkpoints between the two countries, in collaboration with border police.
Pema spots a man trying to cross the border, holding the arm of a girl wearing a red leather jacket. She is wearing high heels, and is stumbling, unable to walk properly. “She is dressed too elegantly … One of the things traffickers do is buy women new clothes, to gain their trust,” says Pema as she approaches them and asks for their IDs. The girl does not have any, and the man says he is a businessman working in India and that she is his girlfriend. They are taken aside; Pema and the border police start to question the man.
It turns out their fears are well-founded. The man is a classic “lover boy” fraudster, a man who has seduced a young girl on Facebook and convinced her to leave her family and run away together.
“He has a record,” says Pema. “He was trying to get her out of the country to sell her to a brothel. This happens every single day.”
When the girl learns the truth, she collapses in tears. She is taken to one of Maiti Nepal’s transit homes, where she will receive help and emergency accommodation until she can be taken back to her family.
“It is hard for them to take in the fact that their boyfriend is a trafficker who just wants to sell them,” says Sirta, another of the guardians. “The same thing happened to me. My boyfriend sold one of my kidneys and then he sold me. I am only alive today because I was rescued.”
I worked for a decade under decrim. But before that, for a little, I was a stripper so we’ll start there.
One night, let’s call her Stacy, came in for opening and was extremely distraught because she’d been raped a few hours earlier, she came in to talk to me because she didn’t have anyone else. Our manager told her she could either work her shift or be fired. The only reason she was allowed to leave was because I said I’d leave too and I was making them too much money at that point for him not to cop it from the owner if that happened. She didn’t go to the police because she knew they wouldn’t care.
Then when I was nineteen I switched to working in brothels. People like to think drugs come before that but usually they don’t. Most of the time that comes after you start, to cope with it.
I routinely worked with trafficked women in legal brothels because under that system, it’s actually way easier to traffic them in. Most of them were South East Asian and I know at least three of them are dead, I’m fairly certain a lot more of them are now.
I’ve seen men come in and leave because they wanted ‘younger’ girls, despite there being girls working that were 18 and looked 15.
The night a john tried to choke me, I slammed his head into the mirror. I was warned by police after that next time I would be charged with assault.
I don’t feel the statistics accurately portray the history of abuse most if not all of us have experienced. I met maybe five women who said they hadn’t been abused in some way during childhood, whether it be sexually, physically or emotionally. In ten years.
Literally no one was there because they wanted to be. It was because if not, you starved or worse. I’ve never met any of us who was in the girl’s room between “”“clients”“” preaching about how great it was. We talked about what we would do if we had a choice and what we hated about johns and management, and every level of horror you can imagine that we’d experienced in our lives.
Decriminalization is just a different shaped cage. It’s still designed to trap and commodify women and girls as sex toys for men. I’ve seen women raped and beaten, I’ve known women who have been killed or who have ended up killing themselves.
The reason it’s not okay to people to exchange money to kill someone but it’s okay to exchange money to rape someone, is because the world we live in perpetuates that women and girls are lesser, and that our worth is based in fuckability to men.
And you could ask anyone who is exited the same and their stories don’t vary from ones like mine. But we’re called liars by people who have never set foot in a brothel in their goddamn lives, for challenging the bullshit notion that there is a class of women it is okay to exploit.
Which UK political party cares more about women: Labour or the Conservatives? If I’d been told five years ago that I would even be thinking of asking that question, I’d have thought it was a joke.
As a lifelong Labour voter and supporter, who has found herself disillusioned and dismayed with the party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, I have been hopeful that socialist men will finally recognise the dire need to tackle sexual and domestic violence towards women and girls as a major priority. I have been bitterly disappointed.
I will never vote Conservative, because as a feminist campaigner I believe that for all women to be liberated it is necessary to understand and work to dismantle the endemic inequality that exists within every facet of society. The Tories have a terrible track record in terms of funding services for women escaping violent relationships and giving a damn about women at the bottom of the pile, preferring to focus on the “glass ceiling”, which affects about 5 per cent of the most privileged women.
Despite having failed to elect a female leader in 118 years, probably most would still say Labour is the party that cares most about women, and understandably. It is not for nothing that Labour feels like a more comfortable place if you are female.
Under Tony Blair, some female-friendly (as opposed to hard-hitting feminist) policies were introduced, such as national minimum wage, tax credits, childcare strategy, increased child benefit, increased public sector spending, same sex adoption rights, and Sure Start children’s centres.
The criminal justice system also was given a shakedown during this period: for example, the provocation defence for domestic homicide was scrapped, which had previously allowed some men who killed female partners to claim they had been “provoked” into killing as a result of her alleged infidelity, or “nagging”.
These are hard-won changes. So it is with a heavy heart that I have watched Labour concede whole swathes of feminist ground to the Tories over the last few years. If anyone at Labour HQ has noticed, no one seems to care. Some of it undoubtedly has more than a hint of virtue signalling. But something much more profound is going on.
Under Blair, women-only shortlists were introduced in order to address some of the massive imbalances in the House of Commons, but Corbyn has decided that the only criteria for being included on such shortlists is self-identification. In my view, this renders the initiative null and void.
Labour is supposed to be the party of socialism, and to recognise structural inequality. What better example of desperation, poverty, and indignity is there than the sex trade? And yet in 2016, Jeremy Corbyn said, during a talk at Goldsmiths University, that he is in favour of blanket decriminalisation of the sex trade. “Let’s do things a bit differently and in a more civilised way,” he said.
While I would hope that anyone with any sense would support the decriminalisation of the women (and men) selling sex, socialists, both male and female, should recognise that the global sex trade is a dumping ground for care leavers, childhood sexual abuse victims, girls and women of colour and from indigenous communities, and women subjected to domestic violence.
The last thing we should be doing is removing all criminal penalties from brothel owners, pimps and punters, as Corbyn and many other men on the left are in favour of doing.
In 2015, John McDonnell sponsored a laughably ideological report from a group that would like to see prostitution completely decriminalised. Decriminalisation is another way of saying: open season on women’s bodies. Like the Netherlands, where women suffer the indignity of standing in window brothels so men can select which ones they consider worthy to buy. Only a small number of courageous Labour Party women speak out against this crazy position, such as Thangam Debbonaire and Naz Shah.
On the other hand, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission is currently carrying out an inquiry into prostitution and the law. This is a fairly mainstream Tory group with MPs from all wings of the party. As part of this inquiry, I today spoke in a debate in parliament on the motion: “Should men have the right to buy sex?”, moderated by Baroness Fiona Hodgson.
This inquiry is streets ahead of anything else that has happened in parliament for ages.
The Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry last year effectively collapsed after its chair was found to be paying for sex himself. Other previous efforts have all got stuck trying to sift the contradictory evidence from other jurisdictions.
My opponent, Dr Belinda Brooks Gordon, argued that “disabled men, and returning war heroes, should be allowed to buy sex”, the implication being that these men, “can’t get a real date”. I argued that there is no such thing as a “right” to sex, and that it is a classic neoliberal argument.
This inquiry is asking crucial questions. In a previous hearing, sex trade survivors were asked: “What does it mean to freely enter prostitution?”, and “When does prostitution become exploitative?” Yes, yes, yes.
When women’s bodies are being rented for orgasm, when women are routinely abused, even killed. When women in poor countries are being told to sell themselves out of poverty, we need to ask ourselves if the decision to advertise their flesh as consumable is a just one.
Sex Trade Survivors, Women’s Rights Advocates, Anti-Trafficking Organizations Globally Urge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Uphold and Implement Canada’s Prostitution Law
New York, April 20, 2018 – Within 24 hours 2,280 sex trade survivors, women’s rights advocates, anti-trafficking organizations and concerned individuals, including Canadian citizens, from all over the world signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on him to uphold and ensure full implementation of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA). Feminist author and activist Gloria Steinem was among the signatories. The call to action came in response to the Young Liberals of Canada’s proposed resolution, “Decriminalization of Consensual Sex Work and Sex Trade,” scheduled to be tabled at the National Liberal Convention this week.
PCEPA, which passed in Canada in 2014, decriminalizes prostituted individuals, who are mostly women, offering them services, and targets sex buyers, who are overwhelmingly men, for the harm they cause in prostitution. This legal framework, which was originally known as the Swedish Model, has been adopted by Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Northern Ireland, Ireland and France. While PCEPA still criminalizes prostituted women in certain circumstances, something Canadian activists are working to amend, the law’s goal is to end the commercial sexual exploitation of individuals and protect human rights, especially those of women and girls, while recognizing that sex buyers fuel the global multi-billion dollar sex trade. Despite these laudable aims and evidence from other countries of the efficacy of this legal model, Canada has not comprehensively implemented PCEPA throughout its provinces but those that are using it are finding the law an excellent tool.
“Every day I witness the unspeakable violence and devastation that prostitution inflicts on women and children,” said Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre in Ontario, who advocated for the enactment of PCEPA. “If we have to re-debate whether the best Canada can do for our vulnerable is facilitating their commodification and sexual exploitation by decriminalizing prostitution, then we have failed in our promises for equality and protection of human rights for all.”
The open letter also calls on Prime Minister Trudeau, as the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party to reject the Young Liberals’ proposal to overturn PCEPA and to decriminalize all aspects of the sex trade in Canada, including pimping and sex buying.
“When Canada and its leaders speak about ending gender-based violence and violence against women, but support a pro “sex work” motion, which would decriminalize pimping and sex buying, Canada is being hypocritical,” said Alaya McIvor, an Indigenous sex trade survivor working with Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Manitoba. “We should be embarrassed about these efforts trying to reverse the great work that’s been done and a law for which we fought so hard to protect victims of sexual exploitation.”
While Indigenous Peoples in Canada only comprise 4.8 percent of its population, evidence shows that Indigenous women and girls are disproportionately represented in the sex trade. In one report, a network of front-line service organizations across Canada estimated that of the women and girls they serve who have been sexually exploited in prostitution, 50 percent of girls and 51 percent of women were Indigenous. Evidence has also shown that full decriminalization or legalization of the sex trade would spark an increase in sex trafficking, including of minors, to meet the consequent demand for prostitution.
Back in March I made two complaints to the BBC over the way commercial sexual exploitation was reported on the BBC’s news website; in April, the BBC replied to my concerns, and altered the web pages.
I am absolutely certain that, in relation to the BBC’s reporting of Fiona Broadfoot’s victory in the High Court, I am far from the only person to have complained to the BBC, so cannot claim this as my own, sole, work.
The BBC originally used the headline “Former sex worker ‘vindicated’ after High Court win”, it now reads “Sex abuse victim ‘vindicated’ after High Court win”
This is my original complaint:
The use of the term ‘sex work’ in a piece relating to the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. Fiona Broadfoot was 15 when she was first commercially sexually exploited, 15 is below the age of consent so this was statutory rape, rape is not ‘work’. Broadfoot has said clearly on twitter that she was never a ‘sex worker’. ‘Sex work’ is a partisan term and should be used with caution, and should never be used to describe the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
To which I received this reply:
Thanks for contacting us regarding use of the phrase “former sex worker” in the headline to the following BBC News article:
The use of this phrase in the headline reflects the fact that the “three women, who say they were groomed into prostitution as teenagers, have won a High Court battle” and “successfully argued that the disclosure of convictions for working in the sex trade many years ago was disproportionate and a breach of their Article 8 Human Rights – the right to a private life.”
Thanks again for your feedback. Complaints are sent to senior management and news teams every morning via our overnight reports.
So I complained again:
I contacted the BBC two weeks ago to complain about the use of the term ‘sex work’ in an article about the commercial sexual exploitation of a fifteen-year-old girl, the reply I received was an insultingly lazy, circular, cut-and-paste (effectively: we used the term ‘sex work’ because it was an article about ‘sex work’). ‘Sex work’ is a partisan term, the debate over whether the sex industry is a form of exploitation, or freely chosen work is far from over. The term ‘sex work’ itself is begging the question (‘sex work is work’, ‘this bad thing is bad’). Under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but when money is exchanged, coerced sex gets called ‘work’. Fifteen is below the statutory age of consent, therefore any sexual activity below the age of consent is rape. Fiona Broadfoot has contacted the BBC via twitter to say that she was never a ‘sex worker’, and that she objects to the use of the term in the article about her. I would like someone at the BBC to explain to me why it was considered appropriate to call a commercially raped child a ‘sex worker’
And received this reply:
Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that three women have won a High Court battle which means they will not have to tell future employers about their soliciting (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43261021) and we’re sorry that you were dissatisfied with the initial response from our central complaints team.
Having reviewed your complaint I think you raise a fair point.
While we wouldn’t refer to statutory rape in the absence of actual charges or convictions for that offence in connection with the story, we have since amended the headline to now refer to how:
Sex abuse victim ‘vindicated’ after High Court win
We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and we’re sorry once again that you’ve had to write to us twice to make this point.
I also complained about the reporting of trafficking into the sex industry in Spain. This is the complaint I sent:
I am writing to complain about the use of the term ‘sex work’ in an article about sex trafficking, sex slavery, and the commercial sexual exploitation of children (‘Spanish police break up Nigerian sex trafficking gang’ published online 23 March 2018).
‘Sex work’ is a partisan term, it is not a neutral descriptor; under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but when the rapist hands money over to a third party controlling the rape victim, some people try to call this ‘work’. The term ‘sex work’ takes a sexual abuse and sexual exploitation issue, and reduces it to a mere labour issue.
The article in question clearly says that one of the victims of sex trafficking was an under-age girl, which means she was incapable of consenting to sex, and it is therefore entirely inappropriate to describe her rape as ‘work’.
Language matters, the meaning of words matters, the BBC is supposed to be impartial and trust-worthy; by using a contested term like ‘sex work’ in this context (the Europol report uses the terms ‘prostitution’ and ‘sexual exploitation’ only), the BBC is failing to be either of these things.
I received this reply:
Thank you for getting in touch with your comments on a recent article headed, ‘Spanish police break up Nigerian sex trafficking gang.’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-43514125)
On review we agree that use of the term ‘sex work’ may be ambiguous in relation to the 39 women and girls trafficked into forced sex by a notorious Nigerian gang.
We have updated the article to clarify that while they were paid for sex, they were not employed in ‘sex work’ in the traditional sense of a person legitimately employed in the sex industry.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention and we hope this addresses your concerns.
The line in the article “Gang members forced the women into sex work in order to pay off a 30,000 euro ($37,000; £26,000) debt.” Has been changed to “Gang members forced the women into paid sex in order to pay off a 30,000 euro ($37,000; £26,000) debt.”
It’s not ideal, since ‘paid sex’ doesn’t really communicate fully the reality of being held captive and raped so someone else can receive money, but it’s better than ‘sex work’. I also don’t agree that the sex industry is ever ‘legitimate’ even when it’s legal, but that is a political stance, and I can only ask the BBC to be impartial!
The moral of this story is, it’s always worth complaining to the BBC, they are a publicly funded body, and they are therefore answerable to the British public.
One of the most persuasive myths about prostitution is that it is “the oldest profession”. Feminist abolitionists, who wish to see an end to the sex trade, call it “the oldest oppression” and resist the notion that prostitution is merely “a job like any other”.
Now it would appear that the New Zealand immigration service has added “sex work” (as prostitution is increasingly described) to the list of “employment skills” for those wishing to migrate. According to information on Immigration NZ’s (INZ) website, prostitution appears on the “skilled employment” list, but not the “skill shortage” list. My research on the sex trade has taken me to a number of countries around the world, including New Zealand. Its sex trade was decriminalised in 2003, and has since been hailed by pro-prostitution campaigners as the gold standard model in regulating prostitution.
The promises from the government – that decriminalisation would result in less violence, regular inspections of brothels and no increase of the sex trade – have not materialised. The opposite has happened. Trafficking of women into New Zealand into legal and illegal brothels is a serious problem, and for every licensed brothel there are, on average, four times the number that operate illegally. Violent attacks on women in the brothels are as common as ever. “The men feel even more entitled when the law tells them it is OK to buy us,” says Sabrinna Valisce, who was prostituted in New Zealand brothels both before and after decriminalisation. Under legalisation, women are still murdered by pimps and punters.
When prostituted women become “employees”, and part of the “labour market”, pimps become “managers” and “business entrepreneurs”, and the punters are merely clients. Services helping people to exit are irrelevant because who needs support to get out of a regular job? Effectively, governments wash their hands of women under legalisation because, according to the mantra, “It is better than working at McDonald’s.” As one sex-trade survivor told me, “At least when you work at McDonald’s you’re not the meat.”
The decision to include prostitution as an “employment skill” is a green light for pimps to populate brothels to meet the increased male demand for the prostitution of the most vulnerable women.
The practice of using human bodies as a marketplace has been normalised under the neoliberal economic system. Supporting the notion that prostitution is “labour” is not a progressive or female-friendly point of view. I have investigated the breast milk trade in Cambodia, where wealthy American businessmen recruit pregnant women and pay them a pittance for their milk. I have seen desperately hungry men outside hospital blood banks in India, offering to sell their blood in exchange for food. Girls in the Ukraine sell “virgin” blonde hair for use as extensions in western salons. It is increasingly common to “rent a womb” from women in the global south to carry a baby on behalf of privileged westerners.
In the Netherlands, which legalised its sex trade in 2000, it is perfectly legal for driving instructors to offer lessons in return for sex, as long as the learner drivers are over the age of 18.
Under legalisation in Germany, one government-funded NGO, described on its website as a “counselling centre for sex workers”, offers training for women to become “sexual assistant surrogate partnerships” when they decide to leave prostitution. The training focuses on how “sex workers” can help disabled people to explore their sexuality. Providing prostitution services, which is what it is, to men who are ill or disabled is a bit like the “meals on wheels” service, and clearly considered to be a public service. In other legalised regimes, such as Denmark and Australia, prostitution is available for men on the public health system. Perhaps an inevitable conclusion is that carers working with physically disabled couples, where there is a medium to severe level of mobility impairment, are asked to facilitate sex between them – for example, the carer may be expected to insert the penis of one into an orifice of the other.
Any government that allows the decriminalisation of pimping and sex-buying sends a message to its citizens that women are vessels for male sexual consumption. If prostitution is “work”, will states create training programmes for girls to perform the “best oral sex” for sex buyers? Instead of including prostitution as a so-called option in its immigration policies, New Zealand should investigate the harms, including sexual violence, that women in prostitution endure.
If prostitution is “sex work”, then by its own logic, rape is merely theft. The inside of a woman’s body should never be viewed as a workplace.
This is who Colm O’Gorman is:
The High Court today handed down judgment in a ground breaking judicial review brought by three women formerly involved in prostitution, challenging the Government’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Regulations. They argued successfully that the disclosure of their convictions for soliciting is disproportionate and a breach of the right to respect for private life.
The women, who had all been groomed into prostitution as teenagers presented evidence of the far-reaching impact of prostitution-specific records on all aspects of their lives. The DBS scheme requires mandatory disclosure of ‘spent’ criminal records when applying for jobs or volunteer activity in prescribed areas, primarily involving contact with the vulnerable. Following previous legal challenges, there is a filtering mechanism but it only applies to single convictions. As the women had shown in evidence, soliciting by its nature almost invariably results in multiple convictions. Their evidence showed that the disclosure of such records was deeply stigmatising, impacted on the ability of women to exit from prostitution and adversely impacted on employment opportunities, volunteering, education and training opportunities.
The Judges provided a strong judgement recognising the disproportionate nature of disclosure and the significant violation of their right to private life. It should result in the women being able to have their DBS records filtered to remove the soliciting offences – though the mechanism for this is not yet clear.
Fiona Broadfoot, one of the claimants, who waived her anonymity in this case and has been fighting this battle for over 20 years said, “Finally, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders – it’s a vindication. I have carried these convictions around – 8 pages of them – all my life and it’s a disgrace. Not one of those men who bought and used and abused me – even the ones who knew fine well I was a child when first put on the streets – has ever had to face the consequences of his actions. It has been a long fight but worth it.”
Harriet Wistrich the Lawyer for the women said, “This is an important judgment – although there were only three claimants in this case, the judgment will benefit all women in these circumstances and has the potential to bring about real change for a sex trade survivors who should never have been criminalised in the first place. Unfortunately, the court were not persuaded by our argument that the practice discriminates against women or is in breach of duties with regard to trafficked women. We will be seeking permission to appeal in relation to those broader points. It is not easy for women with a history of prostitution to come forward and advocate for themselves and others – so much stigma attends them – so the courage and determination of these women is to be applauded.”
Karen Ingala Smith (CEO for nia a women’s charity supporting the women) said, “We feel strongly that these women should never have been convicted in the first place prostitution is symptomatic of women’s continued inequality and discrimination and a form of violence against women. These women were exploited and coerced and yet it is their lives, not those of their buyers and pimps, that were blighted with convictions. They should not have had to take up this fight, but they did and it is to the benefit of all those exploited in prostitution”.
The BBC has reported on this with the headline “Former sex worker ‘vindicated’ after High Court win”:
But the front page of the BBC UK news page yesterday said “Ex-prostitute ‘vindicated’ in court win”:
Fiona Broadfoot, and others, have protested this on twitter:
It is very easy to complain to the BBC, you can do so online here (and they are a publically funded company, so they have to reply):
This is the complaint I left, feel free to copy or use as a template:
“The use of the term ‘sex work’ in a piece relating to the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. Fiona Broadfoot was 15 when she was first commercially sexually exploited, 15 is below the age of consent so this was statutory rape, rape in not ‘work’. Broadfoot has said clearly on twitter that she was never a ‘sex worker’. ‘Sex work’ is a partisan term and should be used with caution, and should never be used to describe the commercial sexual exploitation of children.”
Buzzfeed has also reported on this, and managed to do so without calling a commercially raped child a ‘worker’, so a website I associate primarily with listicles has done better than the British Broadcasting Corporation:
“I met a pimp aged 15, and two weeks later I was thrown into the violent and abusive world of prostitution,” Broadfoot, 48, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, told BuzzFeed News. “Rape became an occupational hazard but I was arrested, charged, and criminalised for loitering for the purposes of being a common prostitute.
“After more than 20 years out of prostitution, I am still having to explain my criminal record to any prospective employer. It feels like explaining my history of abuse.”
She told BuzzFeed News that she sobbed when she heard that her legal challenge had been successful after the judge’s decision was handed down today.
“Finally, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders – it’s a vindication,” she said. “I have carried these convictions around – eight pages of them – all my life and it’s a disgrace. Not one of those men who bought and used and abused me – even the ones who knew fine well I was a child when first put on the streets – has ever had to face the consequences of his actions. It has been a long fight but worth it.”
She added: “I’m absolutely delighted about the decision. A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I can now live my life with dignity and not in the shadow and stigma of abuse.”
Broadfoot said she was also pleased to have won the case “for the hundreds of other women who have been convicted” under similar circumstances.
“It’s about time that the powers that be take a look at the legislation surrounding the sex trade,” she said, “and put the criminal focus right where it belongs: on the sex buyers and pimps and traffickers.”
The evidence presented by the women showed that the disclosure of their records was deeply stigmatising, impacted their ability to exit prostitution, and had adversely affected employment, volunteering, education and training opportunities.
In August, Broadfoot told BuzzFeed News: “I couldn’t get on a university degree, a social work degree, I couldn’t get into child development at college. They said I could get on to the course but I wouldn’t be able to find a placement because of my criminal record.
“I’ve been discriminated against in my workplace – I wouldn’t even apply for some jobs. I wanted to be on the PTA at my son’s school and I had to tell the headteacher. It was really embarrassing.”
Each time she has to disclose her criminal record it’s “humiliating”, she said. “I feel so exposed. They say it’s about safeguarding – safeguarding who? After all the hell I’ve been through.
“When I was pregnant with my beautiful son I was watching over my shoulder. I was petrified they’d take him off me. I’ve had ‘prostitute’ daubed on my house. It’s horrible being treated like that.
“What that does to me is make me feel like I deserved that abuse – it messes with your head in terms of your recovery.”
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.