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Regulating Prostitution: in whose interest? Sexuality and Society 2008-9 Week 7.

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Presentation on theme: "Regulating Prostitution: in whose interest? Sexuality and Society 2008-9 Week 7."— Presentation transcript:

1 Regulating Prostitution: in whose interest? Sexuality and Society Week 7

2 Outline The perceived crisis in the legal treatment of prostitution Discursive constructions of ‘prostitution’ and ‘the prostitute’ and their implications for public policy prostitution= danger or nuisance to the community prostitution=victimises women and children prostitution=legitimate form of employment (sex work) prostitution=? Proposed changes to law Whose interests are prioritised, and why?

3 Recent Home Office documents and bills proposing/ bringing about changes in prostitution policy Paying the Price 2004 The Coordinated Strategy (2006) Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 (clauses on prostitution withdrawn, but due to be resubmitted to Parliament in a new bill) Criminal Justice Bill 2008 to be introduced shortly.

4 Government interest is a response to Decline in prosecutions for loitering and soliciting in the 1990s (Phoenix 2004) ‘Community’ complaints about the effects of prostitution on neighbourhoods Worries about trafficking (illegal immigration) Worries of child protection charities Feminist interpretations of prostitution Knowledge base of those groups working with prostitutes Concerns over safety of sex workers (even pre-Ipswich) Challenge of law reform in other EC countries =‘The laws aren’t working’

5 Discourses constructing the prostitution and prostitutes Prostitution is a nuisance to the public/ danger to community safety. Prostitution victimises women and children Prostitution is a legitimate form of work Prostitution is ?

6 (1) Prostitute as a nuisance to others and a danger to the community In Britain this has long been the dominant discourse: Vagrancy Act 1824, CD Acts (danger to health). Wolfenden Report Its deliberations result in the Street Offenses Act 1959 aiming to sweep prostitutes off the street through draconian measures which worsens the position of women working as prostitutes. (It covers only ‘common prostitutes’, by definition women.). Enforces much harsher penalties for soliciting, and loitering with the intent to solicit, including fines and imprisonment. Imprisonment for soliciting only removed in 1982, but could still be imprisoned for non-payment of fines. Implication is that we should control prostitution by punishing prostitutes for what they do. Women can obtain a criminal record as a ‘common prostitute’ which is known by magistrate and police when they come to court for any offence.

7 These harsh penalties continue all through the more liberal climate of the 60s, 70s and onward. Also harsh penalties for living off immoral earnings (because is immoral). Men’s behaviour as clients not challenged until 1980s. 1980s onwards. Community campaigns to rid streets of prostitutes who are seen to attract crime, drugs and kerb- crawlers who harass ‘ordinary women’.

8 Privileges the interests of community (which is not seen to include women working as prostitutes). Prostitution is a ‘blight’ on neighbourhoods, attracts crime and other signs of dirt, spreads disease. May be justified by moralism, I.e.prostitutes threaten the community because they threaten community morality. Prostitute women have put themselves outside the community through their actions which deviate from the high moral standards women should maintain, tempting men into debauchery and commercialising a use of the body that should be confined to holy matrimony. Danger to families, including leading to the breakup of families. To what extent is the problem still framed in moralistic terms? Or is it framed in terms of prostitution attracting crime, drugs, etc (Smart 1985, Wolkowitz 2006)

9 Possible solutions to perceived nuisance Abolish or limit street prostitution through ‘ Get tough’ agenda: punish streetworkers through criminal law punish clients (punish kerb-crawlers) Both seen to make it difficult for street prostitutes and punters to meet (rather than ‘easy’) Indoor prostitution not seen as an important issue if doesn’t cause a nuisance.

10 Penalise the clients? Instead of just punishing streetworkers and blaming them for prostitution, also punish the clients- even up the blame? Kerb-crawling legislation 1985 (Calvert, in Trouble and Strife) Law strengthened 2001 to include power of immediate arrest 2001 law and ideas about strengthening measures still further inspired partly by debates in Scandinavian countries (new laws in Sweden and Finland) Included in both 2007 Bill and legislation to be introduced this year. For contrary arguments see especially J. O’Connell Davidson (2003)

11 ‘ Softly, softly’ programmes (1) pushing prostitutes out of prostitution through ‘benign’ measures (e.g. compulsory drug treatment programmes; re-educating ‘Johns’) (2) Many issues, e.g. What counts as benign, e.g. Asbos? Can compulsory drug treatment work? What view of people do such programmes entail? Will this be seen as soft on prostitution by those moralists or feminists who seek its abolition? (3) Identify ‘tolerance zones’ or ‘managed zones’ where prostitutes permitted to work (e.g. industrial zones deserted in the evening, where prostitutes would not cause a nuisance to ‘communities’ Whether hard or soft, do these proposals continue to be based on/ reproduce the social exclusion of women selling sex?

12 (2) Prostitution victimises women and children Builds on radical feminist perception of prostitution as = sexual domination (or sexual exploitation) of women by men. Women ‘pay the price’ for men’s lusts. Prostitution as an institution legitimates male sexual access to women, whether indoor or street prostitution Women earning living as prostitutes ‘wounded’ in body and soul, lose ability to know own interests (compounded by drugs, ill-health, pimps; threats) Difference between prostituting by force or choice neither clear nor appropriate criterion for regulation (how could anyone prostitute by choice?) Coercion may take the form of force, economic constraint, abuse and lack of self-esteem, addiction. Jeffreys uses term ‘prostituted women’ rather than prostitutes to indicate that women are turned into prostitutes by men. (See summary by Wolkowitz, writings of Barry, Jeffreys, more recent (and more rigourous) philosophical essays. Whole industries now built around legitimating male access to women’s bodies (pornography, lap dancing, etc) are as problematic as street prostitution

13 Policy recommendations Prostitutes need help rather than punishment (‘rescue’, in parlance of nineteenth century, ‘support’ for exiting prostitution in twenty-first century). State should not legitimate exploitation of women by men through any policy which appears to accept prostitution as inevitable, such as tolerance zones (male sexual lusts are socially constructed). Male clients should be targeted and punished. E.g. ‘The separation of good prostitution and bad prostitution; an evil rapist and just a regular guy who’s looking for a good time, must not be allowed to stand.’ Josh Berthoud (2008) ‘There is no such thing as “good” prostitution’ Accessed 10/11/08 Recognise that women need time to exit, not a straight-forward decision. Compulsory programmes won’t work. Trafficking of women into Western countries has shown the ‘true face’ of prostitution, and led to wider support for this feminist case.

14 Questions: Is this case convenient for those who see prostitute as a nuisance, gain support for harsh measures on progressive grounds? For instance, may aim mainly to stop illegal migration, or discipline disruption, but talk of victims of trafficking. Is there an unjustified leap here from the belief that prostitution oppresses women, should not be celebrated, to the assumption that the way to deal with it is to adopt an abolitionist programme, making it harder to for women to work or men to access prostitutes? How will this affect women’s safety? Will it send prostitution even further underground? Will it make it harder for organisations working with streetworkers to stay in contact with them?

15 Children as victims of abuse through prostitution See children as victims of abuse, leading to prostitution and continuing in it. ‘Safeguard’ children instead of using the criminal law to punish. This has been policy since 2000, but safeguards needs to be strengthened. Degenders victimhood, as compared to (radical) feminist case. Tendency to talk about vulnerable ‘women and children’ arguably infantalises women my putting them the same way as the law treats children? Talks about vulnerability (to drugs, childhood abuse, etc) rather than economic needs, gender relations and exploitation See especially Kantola and Squires (2004) ‘Prostitution Policies in Britian’ in J. Outshoorn, The Politics of Prostitution, Cambridge University Press Phoenix, J. (20040 ‘Regulating Sex: Young People, Prostitution and Policy Reform’ in B.Brooks-Gordon, et al (eds) Sexuality Repositioned, Oxford: Hart Publishing.

16 (3) Prostitution as legitimate work (sex work) Stress that most sex workers enter trade by choice, so not ‘victims’ Sex workers make rational decision reflecting individual values and individual freedom to choose life style (exploit men’s sexual lusts, celebrate because prostitute challenges outmoded sexual morality, represents independent sexuality, transgressive of wider norms) (liberal US version, also some places in Europe) Sex workers make a rational decision/ choice in economic terms (in the face of poor opportunities, lack of education, low wages, inadequate benefits, no benefit) (UK version, especially English Collective of Prostitutes. ‘No bad women, just bad laws’ is their slogan. Proportion of prostitutes (street or brothel) who have been trafficked exaggerated by recent estimates. Also many smuggled rather than trafficked, knowing they will be working in the sex industry. Nothing intrinsically wrong with prostitution or prostitutes’ way of life. Their problems caused mainly by legal harassment, absence of social respect, difficulties in accessing services, housing, etc.

17 Policy perspectives Struggle to make prostitution socially acceptable, so sex workers seen to deserve same rights as others Legalisation of some or all forms of prostitution through the regulation of sex markets Decriminalisation of sex work and sex markets Improve safety through all means possible as priority (which often conflicts with attempts to limit trade) Organise trades unions and other forms of group solidarity and representation None of this accepted by Home Office reports.

18 Alternative approaches Rejection of both radical feminist abolitionist and individualistic sex worker arguments Stress variety of forms of prostitution and sex markets which give sex workers a very variable degree of control over aspects of their work and existence. Therefore do not attempt to generalise in ways other commentators do, Pragmatic attempts to reduce harm to sex workers caused by bad law, ‘funny punters’, lack of access to services Adoption of harm-reduction strategies including tolerance zones, access to health care and support, decriminalisation. Support in leaving the trade. Post –Ipswich saw formation of Safety First Campaign. Human rights of sex worker as human being sometimes seen as a priority- including right to choose to continue in sex work. Build on sex workers’ survival skills rather than see as passive victims Male clients can be divided between the violent/ abusive and others, and it is important to offer sex workers protection from the first category. (See Sanders studies of clients). Evaluate policies in terms of whether empowers sex workers to reduce their ‘unfreedom’ (O’Connell Davidson) See especially work of J.O’Connell Davidson, J. Phoenix, M. O’Neill, J. West,T. Sanders, and sex worker organisations and projects.

19 Paying the Price (July 2004) Identify the harm caused by prostitution to communities and those involved. Make good use of information garnered by some sex worker support groups working with street prostitutes Little mention of economic situation of sex workers or failure of case system Recommendations do not allow for support for sex workers who want to stay in the trade. Home Office later acknowledges the report did not do justice to issues regarding indoor prostitution, nor did it recognise opinion in favour of decriminalisation.

20 The Coordinated Strategy (2006) says it aims to Challenge the view that street prostitution is inevitable and here to stay (i.e. avoid legitimating street prostitution in any way) Achieve an overall reduction in street prostitution Improve the safety and quality of life of communities affected by prostitution, including those directly involved in street sex markets Reduce all forms of commercial street exploitation

21 Main components of the strategy prevention – awareness raising, prevention and early intervention measures to stop individuals, particularly children and young people, from becoming involved in prostitution tackling demand – responding to community concerns by deterring those who create the demand and removing the opportunity for street prostitution to take place developing routes out – proactively engaging with those involved in prostitution to provide a range of support and advocacy services to help them leave prostitution ensuring justice – bringing to justice those who exploit individuals through prostitution, and those who commit violent and sexual offences against those involved in prostitution tackling off street prostitution – targeting commercial sexual exploitation, in particular where victims are young or have been trafficked

22 Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 Contains a (very) few amendments to the Sexual Offences Act 1959) The measures the press had previously said Government was considering were ignored (e.g. tolerance zones; exempting 2 or 3 women working together from laws against brothel-keeping, further criminalising clients) Removal of stigmatising term ‘common prostitute’ from statute book Allow courts to jail prostitutes arrested for soliciting if they fail to attend three meetings with a court-appointed expert to discuss ending their involvement in prostitution. Measures to make it easier to arrest and charge kerb- crawlers.

23 New legislation to be submitted to Parliament by Government this year N. Watt (2008) ‘Prostitution: Red Light Crackdown Promised’ erence.labour1 erence.labour1 Home Secretary Jacquie Smith announces crackdown on the ‘blight’ of prostitution at Labour Party conference: kerb-crawlers can be prosecuted for even a first offence (rather than for persistent kerb-crawling) Councils’ powers to close brothels strengthened Men can be prosecuted for paying for sex with a woman ‘who is being exploited’, which Smith is reported to define as ‘controlled for another person’s gain’.

24 Response to these initiatives English Collective of Prostitutes 8 October

25 Conclusions Woman prostitutes seen as the problem in nineteenth century (and still by many moralists and communities) who see prostitute as a nuisance, a danger to health and community safety and want street prostitution (or, for some, all prostitution) eradicated. These measures make it harder for sex workers to work, and therefore less safe and less dignified as human beings. What are the possible progressive alternatives? Prostitute still seen as nuisance but deal with through non-punitive means Criminalise the behaviour of men who exploit wome (pimps, traffickers, clients). This has merits of being more even-handed but doesn’t make it safer for women who continue to work. Prostitution is a response to social and economic conditions and sexual ideologies. Criminalising prostitution makes things worse for women, not better. But implications for trafficked women and children very complicated, because the conditions which impel women and children into migrating into sex work are complicated (and can’t necessarily be dealt with within the UK). (We can make it easier for them to escape trapped condition, but will be seen as favouring sex workers over other deserving cases.).

26 Useful documents and organisations International Collective of Prostitutes (Includes English Collective of Prostitutes and USProstitues UKNSWP (UK Network of Sex Worker Projects) NSWP (International Network of Sex Worker Projects) including its research journal, Research for Sex Work, at The Poppy Project International Union of Sex Workers Can also access the GMB union branch for sex workers through this site.http://www.iusw.org

27 Additional academic reading responding to the Government’s Co-ordinated Strategy (2006) M. O’Neill (2007) ‘Community Safety, Rights and Recognition: Towards a Coordianted Prostitution Strategy?’ Community Safety Journal Vol 6. Issue 1. pp Available at Csj%20article%203.doc Keith Soothill and Teela Sanders (2005)’The Geographical Mobility, Preferences and Pleasures of Prolific Punters: a Demonstration Study of the Activities of Prostitutes' Clients’ Sociological Research Online, Volume 10, Issue 1,.Keith Soothill and Teela Sanders Teela Sanders and Rosie Campbell (2007) ‘Designing out vulnerability, building in respect: violence, safety and sex work policy’ British Journal of Sociology 58 (1): 1-19.

28 Background on radical feminist approaches Summarised in Wolkowitz (2006) Bodies at Work, pp 125 ff. Jeffreys, P. (1997) The Idea of Prostitution Melbourne: Spiniflex Barry, K (1995) The Prostitution of Sexuality New York University Press Barry, K. (1985) Female Sexual Slavery, New York University Press

29 Alternative approaches O’Connell Davidson, J. (2002) ‘The Rights and Wrongs of Prostitution’ Hypatia 17 (2): O’Connell Davidson, J. (1998) Prostitution, Power and Freedom Cambridge: Polity (see also discussion in Wolkowitz, Chapter 6, et passim) And J. West, on reading list.


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