Sunday, 28 December 2008

Pimps, Parsons, Police & Prostitution

A press release from the ECP (English Collective of Prostitutes) on the MOJUK (Miscarriage of Justice UK) news service has finally made my mind up.
I must post something on the cretinous, faith-biased proposals to change the laws on prostitution in January. It’s been proposed by UK Home Secretary Jaqui Smith and advertised by Stop The Traffik and other religious pimps as ‘protecting’ women, but to be blunt it’s absolute bollocks which works by appealing to racist and sexist myth dating back to White Slave Trade fairy stories.
The ECP release mentions a raid on a Soho premises in December, just the latest in a series of similar swoops. This one will lead to a grandmother and registered carer for a man with Alzheimers facing a charge of "controlling prostitution for gain". This though no underage or trafficked women or any evidence of force or coercion was found at the premises, and none had been found during the weekly visits by the police during the whole month of September.
The ECP say it is only the latest in a series, all targetting women at small premises where women are working in safety and by mutual consent, well away from street violence and organised crime rings. As the ECP note: "Many are mothers supporting children; at least three have children with disabilities. One woman started working after the Inland Revenue sent her a £6,000 bill for overpayments of child tax credit. Others are struggling to keep bailiffs at bay following threats of repossession on their home or suffer from ill health.”
These raids and prosecutions are preparing the ground for the new legislation to be announced on 19 January which would force women into "rehabilitation", make it easier for the police to close brothels and arrest kerb-crawlers, and make an offence of "paying for sex with a person who is controlled for another person's gain". Receptionists such as the one arrested in the December raid face up to 7 years in jail, and immigrant women would be automatically deported.
Yet as the ECP also point out,” The figures the government is using to justify raids are based on blatantly discredited research which claims that 80% of women working in the sex industry in the UK have been trafficked. Convictions for trafficking are distorted because the UK definition of trafficking for prostitution, unlike trafficking for any other industry, does not mention force or coercion. This enables every woman with a foreign accent to be labelled a victim of trafficking!”
There is not only the on-the-ground anecdotal evidence of the ECP for such a claim. One of the few serious academic studies of the topic, Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry by Laura Maria Agustin, pretty emphatically trashes the entire argument, pointing out that these figures are arrived at by such a loose definition of ‘traffiking’ that pretty much any migrant seeking work in another country is cast as a ‘victim’ brought there against their will, not as an intelligent decision to better their lot.
I’ve been following this issue for some time, and not just because the involvement of Rev Steve Chalke and his twattish Stop The Traffik outfit alerts me there’s likely to be a scam the religious hope to profit from. By the way, considering the number of ‘business interest/charities/government initiatives’ he and his cohorts are involved in (e.g. Stop The Traffik, Faithworks, Parentalk, Oasis), and the not uncommon use of evangelical networks to provide cheap labour here in the UK (including the Isle of Man), you might wonder who the real pimps and gangmasters are here!
Also note that under the Proceeds of Crime Act the police get to keep 25% of assets seized, and also have a habit of keeping all cash found, trading on the reluctance of sex workers to go public and demand it back. Nice little earner which resembles stories I’ve heard from when the fishing and tourist trade were still profitable here on the island.
Yes, this is a difficult and controversial issue. But if anyone is serious about cutting down on exploitation, rather than religionists trading on sexist and racist myth for a quick buck and more public subsidy, we should have the honesty to look closer and to speak out.
As I recall, I first noted an item by Natalie Rothschild on the ‘Spiked’ website on the misuse of the term ‘traffiking’. You’ll find that at I’d then recommend Brendan O’Neill highlighting the reintroduction of ‘white slave trade’ mythology on the same site at To bring things up to date check out Natalie Rothschild again in a November update at
My old friends at Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine are also on the case. See, for example,a reprinted article, Sex Workers of the World United, by Cherry Bennet at, and also the link from the G&LH site to the International Union of Sex Workers site at

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