Posts tagged ‘statistics’

Lies, damn lies and statistics

One of the main tasks of PLRI is to improve the evidence base on sex work. We spend a lot of time grappling with existing research to try and understand its validity and the ethics of its manufacture. Understanding research and communicating it honestly and appropriately is not always easy. Sometimes research findings can be misunderstood and sometimes they are wilfully misrepresented to support a normative position.

A lively exchange yesterday on the message boards of the Guardian, a UK newspaper, has brought some of these tensions out into the open. The article that attracted all the interest, The truth of trafficking, was featured in the print edition of the newspaper. Articles on this topic appear in the Guardian on an almost weekly basis stimulated, in part, by proposed law reform that would criminalise the clients of sex workers who are ‘controlled for another person’s gain’.

It is not unusual for online media coverage of sex work related issues to set the message boards alight. Often they attract a strange breed of commentator. It is not unusual to find legitimate comment crowded out by remarks that are irrelevant, ill informed and at worst abusive.

What is striking about the interventions made by readers in response to this article – beyond how relevant and well argued their points are – is how they centre on the use/misuse of evidence. Specifically the assertion made by the author that, ‘In Britain, it is estimated that 80% of the 80,000 women in prostitution are foreign nationals, most of whom have been trafficked.’ (more…)

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03/04/2009 at 16:54 1 comment


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