Category Archives: Trafficking still not a myth

Ninotchka Rosca: If your intersectionality isnt women-centered then it is not feminism

Following on from this previous post (and the original blogger does cite the source, I just missed it in the tags), here is the quote and its source:

Ninotchka Rosca was interviewd by Feminist Current last year, and the podcast is available here.

In this episode, I speak with Ninotchka Rosca, an incredibly accomplished activist and writer from the Phillippines. She is the author of six books, including two bestselling novels — The State of War and Twice Blessed (which won the 1993 American Book Award for Excellence in Literature) — a two-time recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and has written for numerous magazines and websites. She was a political prisoner under the dictatorial government of Ferdinand Marcos and went on to work with Amnesty International and the PEN American Center, drafting statements on women and human rights at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and the UN’s World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. A powerful anti-prostitution advocate, Ninotchka was press secretary of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery which convicted Japan’s wartime era leadership for enslaving and exploiting Asian “comfort women.”

Ninotchka founded and was the first chairperson of Gabriela Network, a US-based organization of women and women’s rights advocates supporting the Philippine women’s movement, which eventually became AF3IRM, a transnational feminist organization. AF3IRM’s national summit will be held on October 21st in New York City, and will look at the foundational ideas of American feminism — concepts and wisdom drawn from the tribal societies of this continent, particularly the Iroquois, with whom pioneers of the American women’s movement were in touch.

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QotD: “We must stop abuse by criminalising punters”

A court in Lancashire last month jailed six men and one woman for their part in a sex trafficking ring. The group had been bringing women from Romania, and sexually exploiting them in a network of brothels around the UK. The court heard the key to this gang’s operation was the use of a classified ads website – Vivastreet – on which they advertised women to sex buyers.

The group didn’t have to worry about disguising the prostitution adverts they were placing; Vivastreet openly hosts and charges for “escorts” listings. During the investigation, one of the suspects was found to have spent more than £25,000 on advertising victims on the site. Yet Detective Sergeant Stuart Peall, who led the investigation, discovered that, astonishingly, when one man placed what amounted to more than £25,000-worth of prostitution adverts – for multiple women – the web company did not respond by calling the police, or even by refusing his requests. Instead, Peall says, they gave the suspect “his own account manager”.

Vivastreet is one of the “prostitution procurement websites” identified in a recent inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group on prostitution as enabling industrial-scale sexual exploitation. Along with its competitor, Adultwork, the site allows users to shop for sexual access to women’s bodies. It is free to use for the sex buyer, who can search profiles according to his location and contact the person being advertised (or the person selling them) via a mobile number listed in the profile. The profits come from fees charged to those placing the adverts.

Vivastreet’s French business was interrupted on 4 June when the Paris prosecutor opened an investigation into Vivastreet France for aggravated pimping. Last week, Vivastreet France shut down its prostitution adverts. This comes in the wake of Adultwork and similar sites dropping prostitution adverts in the US after a new law holding web companies criminally and civilly liable for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking came into force in April. In Britain, prostitution advertising websites continue to operate, the UK’s patchy and inadequate laws against commercial sexual exploitation leaving sufficient leeway for them to profiteer openly.

France has led the way by taking action on prostitution websites under comprehensive anti-pimping laws and, crucially, tackling the demand underpinning them – by criminalising paying for sex, and decriminalising selling sex. It is time the British government did the same and finally woke up to the sexual abuse scandal playing out in brothels across the country.

Kat Banyard

QotD: “Outlaw prostitution websites to protect enslaved and trafficked women, say MPs”

Ministers will come under intense pressure from a cross-party group of MPs this week to follow the US by banning so-called “prostitution websites” amid mounting evidence that they are enabling a huge growth in sexual exploitation and the trafficking of women to the UK for profit.

Members of the all-party group on prostitution have secured a parliamentary debate during which they will demand that the Home Office acts to make websites such as Vivastreet and Adultwork accountable under law for encouraging and profiting from sexual exploitation.

The websites make money by placing advertisements on behalf of gangs and individuals running networks of women, many of whom are trafficked from abroad. Vivastreet operates in 19 countries and is owned by an offshore holding company based in Jersey. Adultwork is registered in Panama.

A recent inquiry by the all-party group heard evidence from the Joint Slavery and Trafficking Analysis Centre – a multi-agency intelligence unit set up by the police, the government, and the National Crime Agency – which concluded that “adult services websites represent the most significant enabler of sexual exploitation in the UK”.

This was because the sites are at the heart of a money-spinning online industry that allows running networks of women to connect with men who want to buy sex. Investigators believe much of the profit made by those managing the women is then used to fund a wider network under which vulnerable women are sought out abroad and systematically trafficked to the UK.

Amid rising outrage about the use of such websites, US President Donald Trump signed a bill earlier this year that gives federal and state prosecutors greater power to act against platforms that make money out of such advertisements. The bill also enables victims and state attorneys general to file lawsuits against the sites.

The MPs say it is now crucial that the Home Office follows the US and changes the law in the UK to make such websites directly accountable under law for encouraging exploitation and trafficking. They will demand swift action from Theresa May, who made action to stamp out modern slavery a top priority of her time at the Home Office and reiterated the same commitment on entering Downing Street.

Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham and a member of the all-party group, said she would attend the debate and press whichever Home Office minister represents the government to follow America’s swift action. “UK legislation needs to be radically overhauled to keep pace with the changing face of prostitution,” Champion said. “We need to update our laws to make websites legally accountable for facilitating and profiting from sexual exploitation. The idea that commercial prostitution sites make it safer for women is not true.”

Diane Martin, who was awarded a CBE for services to vulnerable women and survived trafficking and prostitution in her late teens, now supports exploited women. “As a survivor, my perspective means firsthand experience of the realities of prostitution,” she said. “My years of supporting hundreds women to exit prostitution has also only strengthened my fervent belief that we are failing some of the most vulnerable women in society unless we address the demand of the buyers and the greed of the pimps.

“Currently, UK legislation is inadequate to deal with this. I want to call on MPs, and all with the power to make positive change, to see the reality of prostitution, to be on the side of the most vulnerable and to adopt an approach where pimps, brothel owners and third-party exploiters are not tolerated.”

This article was published in the Observer, which is editorially independent from the Guardian, but shares its website.

It’s almost laughable how much the Guardian is dedicated to the ideology of ‘sex work’, and calling commercially raped women and children ‘sex workers’: the Observer places the article under the category ‘prostitution’, while on the front page of the Guardian, it is under the category ‘sex workers’, and the word ‘prostitution’ has been taken out of the headline.

QotD: “‘Voodoo’ nurse Josephine Iyamu guilty of sex trafficking”

A London-based nurse has been convicted of trafficking five Nigerian women into Germany to work as prostitutes after subjecting them to “voodoo” rituals.

Josephine Iyamu forced the women to swear oaths to hand over money to her during “juju” ceremonies.

Iyamu, 51, formerly of Bermondsey, was convicted of five counts of arranging or facilitating travel for sexual exploitation at Birmingham Crown Court.

Jurors also found her guilty of perverting the course of justice.

The rituals saw the women forced to eat chicken hearts, drink blood containing worms, and have powder rubbed into cuts, the court heard.

Iyamu is the first person to be convicted under Modern Slavery Act laws passed in 2015, allowing prosecutions of British citizens for overseas sexual trafficking.

She was born in Liberia, but became a British citizen in 2009 having been allowed to stay in the UK due to her nursing qualifications.

Her husband, 60-year-old Efe Ali-Imaghodor, was acquitted of doing acts intending to pervert the course of justice.

Iyamu declared a modest income of around £14,500 in 2016/17 from her work as an NHS agency nurse, the court heard.

But after her arrest last year investigators found she was able to afford to spend thousands on air travel and a large home in Benin City, Nigeria.

Prosecutor Simon Davis said by performing rituals Iyamu gained psychological control over the women.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said Iyamu had “enlisted the help of a voodoo priest” to put the women through a “juju” ceremony which was “designed to exert control” over them.

The victims and their families were threatened with serious harm if they broke their oath to Iyamu, according to the NCA.

The court heard Iyamu was “willing to put the women at risk of serious injury and or death as they made their journey from Nigeria to Europe”.

They were too afraid to challenge her or fail to pay her back tens of thousands of Euros she charged them to be trafficked into Germany, the court was told.

Opening the case, Mr Davis said: “The debts incurred by the women were enforced through fear.

“Each of the women were put through what is known to some as a voodoo ceremony.”

From the BBC

QotD: “Let’s criminalise the men buying sex, and spare the women they exploit”

“You know when you buy something and it doesn’t work properly, the first thing you will do is pick it up and shake it. The same principle applies to prostitution. If your mouth isn’t open wide enough or your throat isn’t deep enough. So you are always at risk of being raped or abused if the buyer feels he is not getting what he paid for.”

Mia de Faoite spent six years in prostitution. During those years she was raped numerous times, including a vicious gang rape, and physical assaults were a common occurrence. She is one of many survivors and activists working to smash the myth of the happy hooker, the smiling professional escort offering “sex work” to grateful, respectful men. It’s a powerful image that is promoted relentlessly by the vastly wealthy sex industry to normalise prostitution. But an important report published on Monday makes clear that this violence and coercion is not an unintended and manageable consequence of an otherwise empowering profession. It is the whole modus operandi.

Behind Closed Doors, an inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on prostitution and the global sex trade, shows the real scale and story of sexual exploitation of women across the UK. It shows that organised crime groups dominate the off-street sex trade; that the women exploited in British brothels are mainly foreign national women; and that traffickers and other third-party exploiters are moving vulnerable women around “pop-up” brothels in residential properties in a bid to avoid police detection and maintain control over the women – while obtaining as much money as possible from sex buyers. And it shows that all of this is facilitated by commercial websites, where women are advertised to potential “buyers”, so that the one in 10 men who purchase sex can “click and collect” from their iPhone.

The Women’s Equality party is currently the only UK political party that wants to end demand by criminalising the purchase of sex and to help women leave the industry by decriminalising the selling of sex. The WEP is very pleased therefore to see these recommendations at the top of this APPG report, and we pledge to work with MPs from all parties to make this a reality.

The APPG report also makes other important points that I, as leader of the WEP, have argued time and time again: the sex trade is overwhelmingly driven by men for men, and the vast majority of women do not work in it of their free will. In 2017 there were 1,185 referrals of potential victims of sexual exploitation to the national referral mechanism; 94% were female. Those women, the report says, have often experienced childhood and adult trauma including abuse and known homelessness, and have learning disabilities. Those women are not choosing this as a job. The report found organised crime groups recruit those women using coercive control – deception, debt bondage, sexual and physical violence, threats, surveillance and isolation. The same tactics stop women from telling anyone what is happening to them.

As Detective Sergeant Stuart Peall, Lancashire police, said: “From what we can evidence there nearly always appears to be a man or some sort of control involved. The females we encounter very rarely pay for their own advertisements. They also don’t pay for their own flights into the UK. There is clear organisation from what have seen on our large covert operations.”

Prostitution hurts us all. Every one of us. It happens because women are not equal to men. Because women are more likely to be poor as a result of the structures that deny us equal opportunities, which include a cycle of violence encompassing prostitution. Not one woman can be free and equal to men so long as any woman is sold by and to them. As long as we normalise the idea that “some” women can be ordered and thrown about like a product from Amazon, then all women live in a world where the threat of violence keeps us in our place.

The APPG’s report is a heartbreaking wake-up call. It cites a conversation between two traffickers discussing how they plan to sexually exploit the girlfriend of one of these men. It features the words of a woman trafficked from eastern Europe to be abused by men in the UK. And it quotes a police offer whose team was told by a sex buyer that some of the women in a brothel he had visited appeared visibly frightened – but that he had paid for sex anyway.

Why do men pay for sex? “Society says they can and the law says they can,” says Mia. “You must ask yourself, what are they buying? It’s power. It’s a very powerful thing to have control of somebody’s body in that way. It’s a power fix and they know it.”

The WEP believes we must change the law with immediate effect so that women never risk being prosecuted for selling sex. The WEP wants a national conversation about the realities of the sex trade and the inseparable link between prostitution, trafficking and coercion. The WEP wants to establish and fund support for survivors of the sex industry, including exit services for women involved in it. The WEP wants to criminalise the purchase of sex, in order to curb demand. And the WEP wishes to ensure that trafficked women have a legal right to remain in the UK and access to tailored support services. Because the WEP wants a world that is equal. Because an equal world is better for everybody.

Sophie Walker

QotD: “Sexual exploitation of women in ‘pop-up brothels’ is widespread, report says”

Vulnerable women are being sexually exploited on an industrial scale in “pop-up brothels” run by trafficking gangs, according to a report.

The brothels, often set up in residential properties using short-term leases, allow gangs to keep a step ahead of police and retain control over the women, the all-party parliamentary group on prostitution and the global sex trade said.

The APPG [All-Party Parliamentary Group] called for the UK to follow the lead of other European countries by criminalising people who pay for sex, but decriminalising the selling of sex, in an attempt to cut demand.

It also said the government should stop websites advertising and profiting from [prostitution].

Gavin Shuker, the Labour MP for Luton South and APPG chairman, said: “A revolving door of vulnerable women, predominantly from eastern Europe, are being supplied by trafficking gangs into residential properties and hotels in order to be sexually exploited by UK men.

“Commercial websites that advertise prostitution enable this trade, making sizeable profits and directly benefiting from the exploitation of others.

“But it is the minority of men in the UK who pay to sexually access women’s bodies who are funding sex trafficking and driving this form of modern-day slavery.

“Right now, the traffickers are winning. The UK is currently a low-risk destination for organised crime groups seeking to sexually exploit vulnerable women.”

The report, Behind Closed Doors: Organised Sexual Exploitation in England and Wales, found sexual exploitation of women by organised crime was “widespread”.

It said there were at least 212 active police operations in the UK into modern slavery cases featuring sexual exploitation, “overwhelmingly” involving foreign nationals working in brothels.

About 85% of the victims were foreign, with Romanians making up the biggest proportion.

Romanians were also the largest nationality group among suspects, with Britons the second-biggest.

The report also suggested a national register of landlords and new guidance for the short-term letting sector to help prevent sexual exploitation.

It noted: “A handful of explicit prostitution procurement websites enable this trade, making sizeable profits, directly benefiting from the exploitation of others.

“But rental landlords, online booking companies and hotel sites all indirectly profit from the practice, as exploiters take advantage of poor safeguards to hire new sites for pop-ups.”

(source)

QotD: “Cyntoia Brown, Trafficking Victim Serving Life Sentence for Murder, Will Get Clemency Hearing”

Cyntoia Brown, a Nashville woman who is serving a life sentence for killing a man who picked her up for sex while she was being trafficked as a teenager, will receive a hearing that could lead to her release, officials said on Thursday.

The clemency hearing, set for May 23, will be the first for Ms. Brown, 30, since she was sentenced nearly 13 years ago, said Melissa McDonald, a spokeswoman for the state Board of Probation and Parole.

The board, appointed by the governor, will hear Ms. Brown’s petition and decide whether to recommend that she be released from the Tennessee Prison for Women, where she is serving a life sentence for fatally shooting Johnny Allen, 43, in 2004. “It is up to the governor to decide the process after we make our recommendation,” Ms. McDonald said. “The governor may act on it or choose not to act.”

When she was 16, Ms. Brown, who had run away from her adopted family, lived in a motel with a pimp known as “Kut Throat” who raped and abused her while forcing her to become a prostitute, Charles Bone, her lawyer, said last year.

“While Cyntoia’s clemency application is still in process, we will not be making any further public comments,” Mr. Bone said on Thursday.

Mr. Allen picked her up and drove her to his home, where Ms. Brown shot him. She said she saw him reaching under his bed and thought he was getting a gun, according to court documents. She took money and two guns and fled.

Ms. Brown was tried as an adult in 2006. A jury rejected her claim of self-defense, finding her guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. Her case has attracted the public support of celebrities including Rihanna, LeBron James, Snoop Dogg, and Kim Kardashian West.

The announcement of the clemency hearing was first reported by The Tennessean. It comes two days after an appeals court agreed to hear oral arguments in the case on June 14.

Ms. Brown’s supporters have described her as a model inmate. While in prison, she took classes from Lipscomb University, a private Christian college in Nashville, and earned an associate degree.

But Jeff Burks, who prosecuted Ms. Brown and is now an assistant district attorney in Madison, Ga., has contended that she shouldn’t be considered a victim of trafficking, and that she tried to recruit someone to return to Mr. Allen’s apartment after killing him to steal from it.

“What should the law be as to a 16-year-old who does this? I don’t weigh in on that,” he said. “But the facts of the case, I have a strong position on.”

State Representative Jeremy Faison, a Republican from Nashville who has been pushing for Ms. Brown’s release, said Thursday that it would have been more difficult for her to be tried as an adult under the trafficking laws and laws governing juvenile offenders that are now in place in Tennessee.

Mr. Faison, who introduced a failed bill in 2016 that would have required reviews of life sentences for juveniles after they serve 15 years in prison, said he regularly speaks with Ms. Brown.

“Did she kill the guy? Absolutely. Did we have proof of why she killed him? No, we don’t,” he said. “She was the victim of a man who picked her up when she was 16.”

Tennessee’s governor, Bill Haslam, a Republican, is in his final year in office. He has not yet granted any clemency petitions, The Tennessean reported.

“The governor thoughtfully reviews any clemency application and recommendation from the Board of Parole,” said Jennifer Donnals, a spokeswoman for Governor Haslam.

Mr. Faison said he has also asked the governor to consider a pardon.

“I would like to tell you that I think the odds are good,” he said. But “it is hard to get government to admit they are wrong.”

New York Times

QotD: “Nevada’s legal brothels often just ‘prisons in doublewide trailers’”

At least two women from pimp Dennis Hof’s legal brothels have made credible accusations of sexual assault. In the process of studying the sex trade for the past 20 years, including two years in Nevada, I have learned that many of Nevada’s legal pimps are control-obsessed thugs who regularly assault women.

Clarifying what the sex trade is all about, a sex buyer explained, “prostitution is renting an organ for 10 minutes.” Some pimps view prostitution as a time-share business, with women occupied for a brief time rather than owned outright. The attitude “I paid for you, so I own you, so I can do whatever I want to you” is common among pimps and sex buyers, who together are the most frequent assaulters of women in the legal brothels. The warning signs are the same behaviors you see in pimps and men who buy sex: an attitude of sexual entitlement, unwanted touching, persistence and social isolation of their target.

A woman who prostituted in a Nevada legal brothel said that the experience was like being the pimp’s property for two weeks. “You have sex when they want, with whom they want, and it doesn’t matter how you feel or anything,” she said. “You’re locked in a box for two weeks and guys come in and out.”

Other women describe the Nevada legal brothels as “little prisons in double-wide trailers.” When we interviewed 45 women in Nevada’s legal brothels, 81 percent told us they wanted to escape prostitution. They most often had pimps or boyfriends coercing them from outside the brothel. Many faced poverty or homelessness (47 percent of the women in Nevada’s legal brothels had been homeless). A Nevada legal pimp reported that he saw pimps from out of state drop off the most beaten-down, injured women for what amounted to incarceration as they were coerced under slave-like conditions to make more money by selling sex.

Although it has improved conditions for pimps, legal prostitution does not make it safer for women in the brothels. We all somehow hope — against the evidence — that there’s something we can do to make prostitution better for the women. That we can magically make the women safer from everything we know that happens to them, but that few can even stand to think about. But there is much evidence that legal prostitution is physically dangerous.

In the brothels, there is pressure on women to accept any sex buyer who chooses her, regardless of how drunk, foul-smelling, verbally abusive or threatening he seems. If a woman rejects more than one or two johns, she can be fired. Some women were afraid that if they reported violence from sex buyers, they themselves might be blamed for it or even fired.

A former brothel manager (who feared for her life if her identity were revealed) stated that only a small percentage of brothel violence is reported and that the women are so accustomed to violence in their lives that an assault seemed “almost insignificant” to them. As one woman explained, “What is rape to others is normal for us.” Sexual harassment is the job of prostitution, yet somehow we don’t think of women in prostitution as part of #MeToo. She has the right to exist without sexual harassment, without prostitution, just like the rest of us.

There is no evidence that legal prostitution will eliminate illegal prostitution. In fact, a 2013 study of 150 countries showed that wherever prostitution was legal, sex trafficking increased. Legal prostitution is about 10 percent of the sex trade in Nevada. The other 90 percent is illegal. Why is that? Legal prostitution is a legal welcome to pimps — it creates a prostitution culture in the state, normalizing prostitution and attracting sex buyers and pimps from all over the world.

Having discovered that almost all legal prostitution is controlled by organized crime, the Dutch have shut down more than half of the legal brothels in Amsterdam. Dutch politicians are working on changing the country’s prostitution law.

It’s essential to end the laws that place Nevada’s counties themselves in the role of pimps. Lyon and Nye County advocates are currently gathering signatures to reject legal pimping. The fewer pimps in Nevada — legal or illegal — the better.

Melissa Farley

QotD: “Once upon a time there was the naive belief that legalized prostitution would improve life for prostitutes, eliminate prostitution in areas where it remained illegal and remove organized crime from the business”

“Once upon a time,” wrote Carolyn Maloney (2007:xiii) founder and Co-Chair of the U.S. Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus, “there was the naive belief that legalized prostitution would improve life for prostitutes, eliminate prostitution in areas where it remained illegal and remove organized crime from the business. … Like all fairy tales, this turns out to be sheer fantasy.”

There is now a large body of evidence regarding the effects of legal and decriminalized prostitution. Some of that has been described in the foregoing paragraphs. Nonetheless several of the authors of these four articles quote inaccurate theories about legal prostitution’s relation to trafficking. Segrave for example, expresses the belief that legalization of prostitution will “combat trafficking” (p 5⁎) and Limoncelli (p 3⁎) suggests that the linkage between legal prostitution and trafficking might not in actuality exist.

Evidence supports the theory that legal prostitution is associated with increased trafficking. Traffickers and pimps can easily operate with impunity when prostitution is legal. A Nevada legal pimp told me in 2005 that a Russian trafficker offered to purchase his brothel. Wherever prostitution is legalized, trafficking to sex industry marketplaces in that region increases (for example to strip clubs, massage brothels, escort agencies, pornography stores, and bars). After prostitution was legalized in Germany and the Netherlands, the numbers of trafficked women increased dramatically. Today, 80% of all women in German and Dutch prostitution are trafficked.

Segrave cites Australia as a trafficking destination country. This is probably a consequence of the country’s legal prostitution which in effect functions as a legal welcome to pimps and traffickers (Sullivan, 2007). Supporting evidence also comes from Sweden. When men who buy sex are criminalized (this might be the opposite of legalization) then trafficking significantly decreases (Ekberg, 2004:1199).

Melissa Farley, 2009, Theory versus reality: Commentary on four articles about trafficking for prostitution

QotD: “Which UK political party cares more about women?”

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.

Julie Bindel (18th April 2018), full article here