Posts tagged ‘legislation’

Why Pimping Must Be Legal Too. by Cheryl Overs with special thanks to Marc of Frankfurt for giving this article a much better name.

Sex workers rights activists are living in exciting times. We now have a formal mechanism for inputting into UN policy, the NSWP UNAIDS Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work and the Commission on HIV and Law convened by UNDP is a golden opportunity for an authoritative recommendation that sex work be decriminalised. Substantial support for such a recommendation has already come from senior UN officials including the Secretary General and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.

When sex work began to be decriminalised in Australia more than 20 years ago I thought we were the first in a domino effect of collapsing sex work laws globally .   I knew hardly anything of the outside world then. I now understand much better why the opposite has happened and why, with a couple of exceptions, laws against sex work have worsened for sex workers globally.  Although those reasons are obviously varied and complex, I think the issue of removing laws against living off immoral earnings, brothel keeping etc has functioned as a ‘deal breaker’  that has impeded us forming the alliances we need to move the decriminalisation agenda forward globally.

Most of the agencies who support removing the offences that are used against women who sell sex ( and less often against men and transgenders) at the same time support retention  of the offenses that are used against people that operate or service  the sex industry. (pimps)

Why is this ? It’s the fashion in literature on sex work and law  to follow any mention  of  sex business operators with (pimps) in brackets.  At first I just thought the use of bracketed American slang to clarify who is being discussed was just another amusing folly fromAmerican friends. But perhaps by invoking this stigmatising term authors are providing a clue to better understanding  the disconnect between sex workers and the allies we need to support our demands  if we are to be successful.  That we don’t have that support is clear.  Of all the agencies and individuals calling for ‘removal of punitive laws against sex workers’ almost none are expressing support for removal of the laws against operating or servicing sex businesses ( pimping) . The ‘best’ we get is a call for better enforcement to ensure that innocent family members are not ‘wrongly’ charged with living off immoral  earnings ( pimping ) .

Like all movements the sex workers rights movement is diverse so there are few policy positions that everyone in the global sex workers rights movementfully  agrees on beyond the basic principles of the Network of Sex Work Projects.    ( http://www.NSWP.org).  However there is one proposition that stands out as  universal  – sex work is work.  It’s written on our placards, chanted at our demonstrations quoted on our websites and publications.  What this slogan means is that sex workers demand that labour law  not criminal law is used to govern the sex industry and protect the conditions of the workers in that industry.  For this to happen sex businesses  and brokering commercial sex must be legal.  To benefit from labour rights sex workers who are employees must have legal employers. To benefit from health and safety regulations self employed sex workers must have access to legal workplaces and the same legal structure around their work as other self employed workers. There is no point the sex workers role in commercial sex being legal while  her employers or people from whom she rents space or advertises are criminalised. In fact in many countries where sex work  highly criminalised in reality, the law on the books only contains brothel keeping, recruiting ( pimping) type offenses.(  See http://prostitution.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000772)

It’s not surprising that sex workers look to labour law.  Labour law and regulations and their important corollary, trade unions, are the  mechanisms that have actually delivered improved working conditions to hundreds of millions of workers as they have been introduced over the last two centuries.  Labour law is not  a magic bullet,  especially in poor countries,  and sex workers know that.  I remember I was fascinated when I first heard Cambodian sex workers passionately demanding ‘we must come under labour law’. They had learned a lot about workers rights issues from garment workers. ( in one of the most inspiring ‘civil society’ alliances I have ever seen)  They  knew that Cambodian garment factories  haven’t  transformed into perfect workplaces but equally they understood the role of labour law in garment workers’ journey from near slavery in dangerous sweatshops via the contemporary garment factory to their vision of the factory of the future. In this context the sex workers could very easily locate two primary differences between their struggle  and that of the  garment workers  – the stigma and the law that criminalises ‘sexual expolitation and trafficking’ .

So why can’t our allies among  academics, feminists and human rights agencies  accept this ?  Why do we so so many advocates argue for repeal of laws against soliciting and selling sex but not laws against brothel keeping and profiting from, organising or brokering commercial sex ? ( pimping) . Why do they make an argument for ‘decriminalisation’ of sex workers and  suport laws that prevent ‘economic exploitation of sex workers’  (pimping) ? ( eg Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Networkhttp://www.aidslaw.ca/publications/publicationsdocEN.php?ref=199)

I have been surprised to see human rights abuses associated with anti-trafficking/sexual exploitation law attributed to poor enforcement of otherwise sound laws against  people that operate sex businesses ( pimps)  ( e.g. Off the Streets by Human Rights Watchhttp://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/07/20/streets-0) Why do human rights advocates  dismiss  sex workers view that the trafficking paradigm itself is flawed and the demands to repeal laws that prohibit sex buinsiness  (pimps)  ?  I can’t understand support for banning sex work advertisements because the advertisers ( pimps) have failed to prevent the abuse of women.  ( see about 2 million internet posts about  Craigslist )

What do people want for sex workers ?  A cosy cottage industry of all female sex worker collectives in which no sex worker facilitates or profits from the prostitution of another ? ‘ (pimps) ( or ‘pimps herself’  – I have actually read people talking about women trafficking themselves !) Although some sex workers might agree that a cottage industry of worker collectives would be nice, there is no sex worker in the world who doesn’t know that if you work in a criminalised environment you are affected by that criminalisation even if  there is no specific law against what you are doing.

Of course I understand that people feel sorry for sex workers who work in horrible conditions and feel angry about the people that exploit them.  We all do.  I am sure the same well intentioned people feel sorry for garment workers too but the difference is they recognise their right to be employees and they don’t advocate criminalising the people that run garment factories .  It doesn’t help sex workers struggle for rights to work these sentiments into professional policy advocacy.  After all,  sex workers know (pimps) best and they are demanding a fully legalised sex industry. The DMSC in India, the well known sex worker rights group, challenged (pimping) laws in court.

So here is an open message to all  those who are  advocating around sex work law reform.    Please use precious advocacy opportunities to support sex workers position that sex work is work. This means that sex workers, like all other workers, need labour rights to reduce their vulnerability including to  unscrupulous and abusive service providers and employers. To reach our agreed goal of being governed by labour law not criminal law, organising sex work and employing sex workers  must  be legal. Please don’t give expression to understandable disdain for the stereotypical violent male pimp by supporting laws against organising commercial sex or providing services and workplaces to sex workers.

There are excellent laws against kidnapping, assault, robbery and rape.  Please use precious advocacy opportunities to press States to use them properly to address criminal abuse of sex workers, including by police who are the main perpetrators.

And please, please  stop using the term (pimp).


Advertisements

11/09/2010 at 06:04 7 comments

Sex work and the law in India: An AIDS INDIA e FORUM debate

A recent discussion about sex work from the AIDS INDIA e FORUM provides an insight into how the laws to control and regulate sex work in India are viewed by various stakeholders.

The AIDS INDIA e FORUM is a virtual organization responding to the HIV and AIDS crisis in India, by connecting the key stake holders together. This FORUM facilitates networking, communication and collaboration among those who are involved or interested in HIV and AIDS related issues in India. One of its main functions is a moderated email list through which members share information and mobilise around issues of common interest.  

The discussion was prompted by the defeat of a new law to regulate sex work – the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Amendment Bill. According to Tripti Tandon of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit the Bill:  

‘Intended to shift legislative policy on sex work from tolerance to prohibition. This was sought to be done through the introduction of a new offence of visiting a brothel, which would penalise clients. It also sought to broaden the meaning of prostitution to include all transactional sex, as opposed to acts involving exploitation on a commercial scale.

By inserting a definition of trafficking for prostitution, the bill attempted to criminalise poverty induced sex work. Other changes included lowering rank of Police authorized to arrest, search and raid brothels and extending detention of sex workers to seven years. Sex workers vehemently opposed these measures which, they believed, would offset any positive effect of decriminalizing soliciting.’ (more…)

05/04/2009 at 09:31 1 comment

Beyond Trafficking?

This is the transcript of a presentation given by Jo Doezema (Visiting Fellow) at last week’s lunchtime seminar at the Institute of Development Studies.

Introduction

The campaign against ‘trafficking in women’ has gained increasing momentum world-wide, but in particular among feminists in the last three decades. This current campaign is not the first time that the international community has become concerned with the fate of young women abroad. Modern concerns with prostitution and ‘trafficking in women’ have a historical precedent in the anti-white-slavery campaigns that occurred at the turn of the century. Feminist organisations played key roles in both past and present campaigns. Then as now, the paradigmatic image is that of a young and naive innocent lured or deceived by evil traffickers into a life of sordid horror from which escape is nearly impossible. (more…)

09/12/2008 at 12:32 Leave a comment


Archives

Tweet! Tweet! What are we up to?

RSS New on the PLRI website

  • Working Misunderstandings:Donors, Brokers and Villagers in Africa’s AIDS Industry
    off Why do development projects, and AIDS projects in particular, take the forms they do? In this essay we argue that it is because the conflicting interests and world views of the key actors involved—donors, brokers, and villagers—leave only a narrow range of themes and practices that can “work” on the ground. Year of publication:  2014 Theme:  Economics an […]
  • Proposal to European Parliament recommending the Swedish Model
    feature Mary Honeyball, Labour's Spokesperson on the European Parliament's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee, has been a vocal supporter of anti-sex work legislation and has written a report to the European Parliament recommending the Swedish Model, which criminalises the purchase of sex. In a blog leading up to the discussion Alex […]
  • Sex Work and Human Rights
    off A useful outline of sex workers rights including the right to health Year of publication:  2013 Theme:  Human Rights and Law Sex Workers And Human Rights.pdf Author:  Urban Justice Centre […]
  • Closing the bridge: Avahan's HIV prevention programs with clients of female sex workers in India.
    off This publication describes Avahan’s HIV prevention interventions with male clients of female sex workers, who are the primary bridge population in India. Year of publication:  2014 Theme:  Health and HIV closing-the-bridge.pdf Author:  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Relevant URL:  https://docs.gatesfoundation.org/documents/closing-the-bridge.pdf r […]
  • Vulnerability to HIV infection among female drug users in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal: a cross-sectional study
    off Women who use drugs are extremely vulnerable to HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but studies on risk behaviours and HIV infection among female drug users are limited in Nepal. Year of publication:  2014 Theme:  Health and HIV Author:  Bhagabati Ghimire Relevant URL:  http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/13/1238/abstract read more […]

%d bloggers like this: