McTaggart: Prostitution bill ‘rag-tag’


8:16 pm - January 25th 2009

by Laurie Penny    


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The Policing and Crime Bill 2008 is, as Fiona McTaggart MP admitted to me on Wednesday, ‘a rag-tag bill.’ Everyone has come to the table determined to force their own agenda through, and spurious amendments have been twatted onto every clause of the final document. There are some extremely dodgy new rules on kerbcrawling and police brothel closure in there. Somehow, though, the main bit of the new prostitution legislation has been pushed and pulled and wrangled into a shape that makes no one entirely happy but that somehow – maybe – just might bring us closer to social justice than any of the hard-liners would advocate.

The new law will make it a criminal offence – punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 and a criminal record – to pay to have sex with someone who is “controlled for another person’s gain”. This would target the market for abuse within prostitution – making it an offence to buy sex with a trafficked person or with a person who is forced into prostutition by pimps, drug-dealers or violent gang leaders.

Paying to sleep with a single mum who happens to have moved into prostitution because there’s no other way for her to see her kids and pay for her prescriptions at the same time would not be illegal under the terms of this law, if it works the way I’ve been told. Paying to sleep with a young girl coerced into drug-taking by her pusher pimp who forces her to sell herself for her next fix would be illegal – and I’ve been twisting this round in my head, talking to the MPs making the laws and the sex workers affected by it, and whichever angle I look at it from, I can’t see anything too terribly wrong there.

Do I think that all prostitution is rape? No. Do I think any prostitution might be rape? Well, let’s think about that one. Let’s think about the hundreds of young women being prostituted right now on the streets of our cities who don’t want to have sex tonight but are being forced to service strangers by their pimps, drug-dealers, traffickers or violent partners, who have sex not for personal pleasure, gain or fulfilment but out of fear – fear of violence, of withdrawal, of exposure or even murder. Is paying for sex with these women rape? Yes, I think so. Yes, I’d say it’s rape.

The abolitionist MPs backing these clauses prefer the Swedish Model, which draws no distinctions between paying for sex with a sex slave and paying for sex full stop. The compromise that has been reached, provided it stays in the bill in its current form, is a far more sensible solution. Not only does the ‘controlled for gain’ compromise set out to target abuse within the industry, rather than the industry itself – not only does it make it no less legal to have sex with a woman who is selling her body of her own free will – but this is the first piece of legislation ever, in over two hundred years of criminal legislation against hookers, which puts the blame for the ‘social ill’ of prostitution anywhere other than squarely between the legs of those who sell themselves.

McTaggart told me that part of the point of this law was to ‘make a statement’. Is that important? Yes it is, vitally so, although I’d argue whether a new criminal law is the best, first place to be making that statement. But someone, somewhere, finally, needs to stand up and put the blame for abuse within prostitution where it’s due: on the men who buy sex without a thought for the consequences. On the men who consume others’ bodies for their own pleasure, who don’t care where it comes from as long as they come. By making sex with women forced into prostitution a strict liability offence – one where it doesn’t matter if you thought or hoped she wasn’t a sex slave – this law might make prostitution what it so desperately needs to be: a seller’s market.

Is this bill, with all of its amendments, entirely sound? Absolutely not. Does this new piece of legislation go far enough in making life easier for prostitutes who choose their profession and harder for pimps and tricks who rape and abuse? No, it doesn’t. But it’s a step, a tiny step, in the right direction. If it were me, I’d make the selling of sex entirely legal to boot, and insitute a programme of advertising and a sex education curriculum whereby girls and boys can learn what life is like for women in the sex industry from an avenue other than misogynist hip-hop and misleading C4 mockumentaries. But hey, it’s a start. To help you sort out your thoughts on this one, I’ve compiled a handy checklist, in true LC style. Enjoy.

Prostitution – an end to whataboutery.
  • If you think that all women who work in the sex industry do so of their own free will, in full knowledge of the consequences and not coerced by anyone, you are wrong.
  • If you think that no women who work in the sex industry do so of their own free will, you are also wrong.
  • If you think that sexual slavery doesn’t exist – or if you think that it doesn’t matter – you’re an idiot.
  • If you think that no woman involved in the sex industry has any agency or autonomy – you’re fooling yourself.
  • If you think that your human right to a cheap, consequence-free fuck trumps a coerced woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body, you’re an arsehole.
  • If you think that the fact that IUSW union members might lose a bit of business or have to change their working practices trumps a coerced woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body, you may need a knife and fork – you’re going to choke on that party line.
  • If you think that making prostitution more illegal or totally illegal is going to stop it happening, you’re a fool.
  • If you’re worried that you might sleep with a sex slave by accident – you may want to look again at how and where and why you buy sex.
  • If you think that no significant part of the sex industry is currently a)unsafe or b) underground, you’re either lying, ignorant or extremely lucky.
  • If you think that the ultimate culpability for abuse within prostitution lies with the women who turn to vice and let themselves be abused, you’re a wanker.
  • If you want to be able to buy sex legally, but would be apalled if your own daughter/sister/friend sold it – you’re a hypocrite.
  • If you think that prostitution is universally easy, fun and profitable and that all the girls doing it have a great time, you’re so wrong.
  • If you think that all prostitution is rape, you’re also wrong.
  • If you think that prostutition prevents rape – that the more whores we have, the fewer sad lonely fuckers will attack and rape women – you’ve entirely missed the point.
  • If you think that prostitution should be a buyer’s market like any other – you’re a libertarian.
  • If you think that prostitutes should be locked up and that we’re living in a world of sexual slavery and should learn to like it – you’re the wanker I met in the pub last week, you still owe me a pound fifty, and rest assured, I know where you live.

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About the author
Laurie Penny is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a journalist, blogger and feminist activist. She is Features Assistant at the Morning Star, and blogs at Penny Red and for Red Pepper magazine.
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Reader comments


I feel like I’ve just been shouted at.

2. Fellow Traveller

How will the state go about proving that a woman has been controlled? How will they acquire this information in a form that they can use in a successful prosecution? The proponents of this bill state that these women, cowed by threats of violence, will not testify against the men who coerce them into sex acts with strangers. This bill will not change that reluctance as it offers no protection. The police will therefore have to rely, as far as I can tell, on either entrapment operations or secret surveillance of premises used by the sex trade. Courts and juries will have to examine evidence in the form of video and audio recordings. Evidence of money changing hands between the woman, her client and her controller will also be required to prove purchase of a sex act. As ever with much legislation proposed and passed by Parliament, the framers of this bill seem to have given little thought to its enforcement.

That its supporters assert that passage of the bill will make ‘a statement’ implies that successful prosecutions will occur rarely under its new law and that the government hopes simply to scare off the clientele by means of the law alone.

I like this. The idea that there could possibly be a middle ground between two extremes and that effective solutions to solve the problems are what’s needed instead of bickering and side taking seems beyond a lot of campaigners. One quibble:

If you think that prostitution should be a buyer’s market like any other – you’re a libertarian.

Anyone believing that most markets are buyers markets has misunderstood the meaning of the term. Anyone that thinks all markets should be buyers markets is an economic incompetent. But overall I’m not sure what the point you’re making with it is, as libertarian is not, and should not be, a pejorative, it’s a catch all term used to describe a broad swathe of opinions.

4. douglas clark

Is it entirely beyond the pale to suggest that it is the relationship between the pimp and the prostitute that is the real issue here? I really think the bastards in this situation are those who are forcing the woman to have sex against her will. Lets really penalise these people. Let’s set up entrapment for them. If the woman is doing it because she chooses to, then this is just a moral panic, with the usual caveats.

I wanted to mention something related. At the Progressive London conference yesterday, Harriet Harman was heckled quite strongly by a male sex worker, and some other sex workers at the back.

Seems quite there’s a lot of anger about this, and I get the feeling that a lot of the dissent against is being driven underground…

I pretty much agree with most of this. I’ve just got one quibble, and I’m genuinely not trying to be pedantic, it’s just that the sentence threw me a bit:

“Paying to sleep with a single mum who happens to have moved into prostitution because there’s no other way for her to see her kids and pay for their prescriptions at the same time”

Did you mean to say “and pay for her prescriptions at the same time”? ‘Cos prescriptions for kids are free.

What happened to safe advertised brothels and the unionisation of prostitution?

Rather than do something really progressive, this bill is going to just drive exploitative prostitution underground. Who really thinks a women that’s so abused as to be forced into sex work is going to feel safe enough to admit her pimp/partner/boss is actually forcing her into sex work?

Labour is going for low hanging fruit, just as they always do. Once all the foreign trafficked prostitutes are rounded up and expelled, our home grown exploited poor will be left to fend for themselves.

All this will do is reduced supply in the short term till the pimps and drug dealers can resupply from more local sources.

If you want to stop the gross exploitation of women. Open fully unionised brothels, who are legal, free to advertise (for clients as well as staff) and are severely regulated.

Cath – Oops, sorry – changed!

I’m glad you’re on board with this. There is a great deal of anger, here, on both sides, and both sides have compelling and contradictory statistics to back them up. What I think we need is some rational argument, something that tries its hardest not to froth and is entirely, practically feminist.

Douglas – it’s already illegal to be a pimp, but I take your point.

Akheloios – yes, what you’re describing would an ideal situation. However, setting up unionised brothels isn’t going to make sex slavery go away overnight – so this is a step in the right direction. There are things we need to do before we make that leap.

Also – exploitative prostitution is *already* underground. If you’re going to dodgy, underground places to pick up prostitutes, then you’re already taking a chance on the safety and autonomy of those women. What this bill might well do is increase the business for the more reputable agency workers that do exist – and force punters to perform their own checks on whether or not sex workers are autonomous. When I googled, today, for ‘how do you tell if a prostitute has been trafficked/ is a sex slave/ enjoys what she does…’ I got no hits telling me what I wanted to know. The reason for that is that nobody, at the moment, cares. This new law is going to force them to make that distinction – and I think that can only be a good thing.

‘Once all the foreign trafficked prostitutes are rounded up and expelled, our home grown exploited poor will be left to fend for themselves.’

Interestingly, this is one of the big debates around this particular piece of legislation: some want it changed to ‘paying for sex with a woman who has been trafficked’ – meaning that ‘our home grown exploited’ don’t come into the picture, and nor do foreign-born or immigrant women who happen to be abused within the industry.

Essentially, some people want to come clean that this is an immigration issue. It isn’t an immigration issue for every MP backing the bill. Some are doing it out of a genuine, however misguided, desire to protect women. And some are doing it not to protect the women involved in prostitution, but purely to send a message about whether or not women’s bodies are for sale. That’s where ‘rag-tag’ comes in, see?

x

I’m not sure if I’ve fully understood all this – is the following a fair assessment?:

The government hopes to frighten men into paying for sex through agencies rather than going to brothels or approaching prostitutes on the streets. But it is doing very little or nothing to protect or assist the self-organisation of the women who were most vulnerable in the first place. (In fact the kerb-crawling restrictions may make it more difficult for some women to work together?)

If that’s the case, I suppose the case for the bill having any positive impact at all rests on what proportion of men currently paying for sex (but making no effort to find out whether the women they’re having sex with are safe/exploited/autonomous) are easily scared and would be willing to change their modus operandi.

Also, is there a clear definition of “controlled for gain” anywhere? Because if not someone more cynical might suggest it means whatever the government or police authority of the day wanted it to mean.

11. Shatterface

Laurie, if your internet search couldn’t find any way of ensuring that the women working as prostitutes of are doing so of their own free will, doesn’t this indicate to you what a fucking stupid requirement it is?

This is the only law I know which discriminates against non-telepaths.

Should all voluntary prostitutes be registered online so that punters can check?

Hear, hear. A very reasonable analysis of an often clouded topic.

tim f

Also, is there a clear definition of “controlled for gain” anywhere?

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines it as:

52 Causing or inciting prostitution for gain

(1) A person commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally causes or incites another person to become a prostitute in any part of the world, and

(b) he does so for or in the expectation of gain for himself or a third person……

53 Controlling prostitution for gain

(1) A person commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally controls any of the activities of another person relating to that person’s prostitution in any part of the world, and

(b) he does so for or in the expectation of gain for himself or a third person…..

54 Sections 52 and 53: interpretation

(1) In sections 52 and 53, “gain” means—

(a) any financial advantage, including the discharge of an obligation to pay or the provision of goods or services (including sexual services) gratuitously or at a discount; or

(b) the goodwill of any person which is or appears likely, in time, to bring financial advantage.

The new legislation is an amendment/addition to the SOA 2003, and will form section 53A, so the interpretation outlined in section 54 is the one that will apply.

Good article Laurie – there are parts I would agree with and parts not, will hopefully scribble down some thoughts later on.

PS Sunny that’s an interesting point about dissent being driven underground.

What people seem to be missing is that yes, of course this law is unfair on the tricks. Legislation on prostitution is always going to be unfair on someone, and up until now it’s been unfair almost entirely to those who sell sex.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less if a couple of people who don’t care if their hooker is or isn’t a sex slave get a fine. No sir, I don’t care at all – I think it serves them damn right. If they can afford to fund sex slavery, they can afford to pay for their mistake.

And Shatterface – the point is that there isn’t any way to check because up until now, there hasn’t needed to be. You can bet your arse that if this law comes into force, self-regulation of that kind will follow.

You can bet your arse that if this law comes into force, self-regulation of that kind will follow.

What kind of self regulation would that be?

Local prostitutes guilds?

Some kind of voluntary kite mark that pimp-free prostitutes can sign up for?

Or perhaps local trading standards departments could maintain a list just like they do for plumbers and builders.

Sorry, Laurie, but you’ve been bullshitted here – this is the same old dishonest bait and switch routine that the government have pulling for years in order to sneak draconian legislation through with looking like they’re pursuing an outright prohibitionist agenda.

They leave what appears to be a loophole in law, but one that is nigh impossible to comply with with any degree of certainty, and then pretend they’re being magnanimous by not pursuing an outright ban, violating the basic principle of law-making, which is that the law should always be drafted in a clear enough fashion to enable a reasonable person to follow it.

What people seem to be missing is that yes, of course this law is unfair on the tricks. Legislation on prostitution is always going to be unfair on someone, and up until now it’s been unfair almost entirely to those who sell sex.

So two wrongs make a right?

Legislation on prostitution is only going to be ‘inevitably’ unfair on someone if its framed exclusively in terms of prohibition. It’s perfectly possible to legislate fairly as long as you legislate for an appropriately regulated legal market and criminalise all form of prostitution taking place outside that market.

If you’re going to dodgy, underground places to pick up prostitutes, then you’re already taking a chance on the safety and autonomy of those women.

Perhaps the government could advise as to places that aren’t dodgy and underground rather than writing an unrealistic expectation- asking men who pay women for sex to ask them whether they’re trafficked or not- into law? The problem with this legislation is that it makes prostitutes and the men who pick them up more paranoid, it makes pimps more abusive and practically it doesn’t really address any problems. I can’t see this clearing up an industry that is already socially frowned upon. Legislation against prostitution, no matter who it’s aimed at is inevitably legislation that will harm prostitutes and the moral arguments just don’t stand up. I don’t think any of the things you wrote above but I’ve tried to argue the case for this legislation from your point of view and it collapsed.

How is this going to get trafficked women away from traffickers? Even if the person buying sex discovers that a prostitute has been trafficked does anyone believe that they would go to the police? Well, that definitely won’t happen now they can accrue a fine and a criminal record.

There have been a number of comments about how difficult these changes will be to enforce and how effective they will be. And I agree on both points, it will be difficult and it may have only minimal effective…..

However, just because a particular law is difficult to enforce does not make it inherently unjust, law, particularly criminal law, should reflect the standards of behaviour that the population should expect of one another, and I for one think that expecting people to seek to avoid exploitation of the vulnerable is perfectly reasonable. Second, as Laurie said, this is not the total solution. In an ideal world sex workers would work in a safe environment and maybe one day they will. In the mean time though surely this has to be a step in the right direction?

However, just because a particular law is difficult to enforce does not make it inherently unjust, law, particularly criminal law, should reflect the standards of behaviour that the population should expect of one another, and I for one think that expecting people to seek to avoid exploitation of the vulnerable is perfectly reasonable.

You seem to be suggesting legislation should be used to “send a message”.

“You seem to be suggesting legislation should be used to “send a message”.”

That’s not what I meant at all, to do so would be to venture into a dangerous area indeed and I would join you in, I presume, opposing such a move.

What I would say that certain behaviour is either acceptable or it isn’t, or indeed may be a grey area. If though we agree that certain behaviour is not acceptable then the ease or otherwise of policing it is neither hear nor there.

It’s not the issue of how hard it is to police that is of concern Akela, it’s that through concern over the outcome of being caught more crime could be created. It’s a massive assumption to think that prostitution (specifically the worst kind) won’t go any more underground than it currently is when it is made more criminal for the parties involved.

Lee

My original comments were aimed more at those who seemed to be suggesting that difficulty in enforcement was on its own a reason not to legislate (if I have misunderstood what some have written in that respect my aplogies).

I happen to totally agree with you, if we force the worst kind of prostitution underground then the legislation would have made matters, for some, worse. It is for that reason though that I think things should go further. By bringing in open, legal regulated brothels we would hopefully see a fall in demand for those being badly exploited. Would it stop exploitation altogether? I doubt it. I don’t think there are any quick fix solutions that would totally knock it on the head.

Research suggests that many women in prostitution *choose* to work with a pimp, because that provides them with protection from abusive punters and they end up taking home more money despite the pimp taking his cut.

As far as I can see, under this law, sleeping with a prostitute who has voluntarily chosen to be under the protection of a pimp would be illegal, which doesn’t seem sensible.

John B…..just the paper I was about to mention. Rather than repeat myself (or John), try this.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/04/worstall_s3x_trafficking/

This is one of the more appalling, illiberal, pieces of legislation, even from the current bunch of tosspots in government.

A good post. Just on the point of agency and choice, it would seem to me that HMG could do an amount of good (in this area and others) by offering greater support for people who are running out of choices and are effectively being forced into prostitution.

@ Sunny @ 5 – that may well be true, but disrupting a meeting is rarely a good way to promote your PoV. I think that Harriet Harman gave a pretty good rebuttal of his points by saying that the creation of the market inherently leads to a preponderance of harms.

xD.

28. Laurie Penny

@Dave -‘offering greater support for people who are running out of choices and are effectively being forced into prostitution.’

Yup. Want to reduce prostitution? National living wage.

@ Laurie,

Absolutely, but not only. I would suspect that, were NLW brought in, it would be restricted to citizens, meaning that people who had PR or were undocumented would effectively fall through the gaps.

NLW is also not going to happen imminently, and so other measures would be needed in the meantime.

xD.

Laurie

Want to reduce prostitution? National living wage.

And heroin on prescription

It’s main flaw is that it ignores the problems of already illegal activity- illegal immigration (funny how it suddenly become “trafficking” when it involves women as if they have no agency) soliciting, pimping and possibly worse, not being enforced, – and introduces yet another law, aimed at controlling behaviour, rather than enforcing the law. Nothing will change as a result of it, even the prostitutes union didn’t support it.

I think that Harriet Harman gave a pretty good rebuttal of his points by saying that the creation of the market inherently leads to a preponderance of harms.

Sorry Dave, but you appear to be:

a) confusing a rebuttal with an opinion here, and

b) ignoring the fact that Harman, if she did talk specifically about ‘creating a market’ is talking out of her arse.

The market already exists; it’s a black market, which is what you get under conditions of prohibition. The argument for legalisation, which Harman refuses to engage with at any rational level, is that by creating a controlled and heavily regulated legal market it become possible to reduce and limit the harms associated with the unregulated black market.

Unity,

a – Didn’t realise you were there. The chap who made the point was essentially saying that not permitting sex work, even though it harmed some people, was illiberal. Harman responded by saying that the granting of that liberty implied a greater restriction of effective liberty for others. It’s a valid point.

b – Harman acknowledged its existence; I think her point is about the best way to minimise harms.

xD.

I would suspect that, were NLW brought in, it would be restricted to citizens

Hang on, isn’t NLW the campaign to raise the minimum wage to the level where people can actually afford to live on it? If so, restricting it to citizens would be the most insane move possible.

At the moment, it’s largely not true that immigrants steal British jobs – but if employers could legally pay immigrants £2ph less than native workers, then it would become true. Which would be both morally unacceptable and would lead to anti-immigrant riots that made the NF look like a walk in the park.

(not sure the NLW would have much impact on exploitation within prostitution, however – the most exploited prostitutes are the ones who – either because of their immigration status or drug addiction – can’t currently get paid work even at the minimum wage)

Are people maybe mixing up the proposal for a Citizen’s Income with a Living Wage?

Tim f – yes, we are 🙂

xD.

Laurie – good, interesting post, but I think you’re taking a lot on trust re. the government’s line on the legislation. Given that Smith doesn’t approve of prostitution on principle (a position shared by many abolitionists), it’s hard to see how the legislation will enable a working distinction between consensual commercial sex and effective criminalisation and prosecution of commercial sex where that consent is absent for whatever reason.

By making sex with women forced into prostitution a strict liability offence – one where it doesn’t matter if you thought or hoped she wasn’t a sex slave – this law might make prostitution what it so desperately needs to be: a seller’s market.

This, of course, will entirely depend on whether or not a court will accept that an individual took steps to ascertain both consent and the ‘untrafficked’ status of the prostitute as a legitimate defence, or whether he will be held liable because (for whatever reason) the woman lied. (Your statement ‘If you’re worried that you might sleep with a sex slave by accident – you may want to look again at how and where and why you buy sex’ addresses this, but only in conceding that either the legislation was deliberately – and badly? – worded to ‘send a message’, rather than be effective, or that ‘vetting’ sex workers will become part of the commercial exchange.)

PS – you missed out two other examples of ‘whataboutery’:

– If you think the only reason men pay for sex is because they’re sad, ugly losers who hate women and want to abuse them, kill them, chop them up into pieces, and stuff them into Lidl shopping bags…then you have a very narrow view of heterosexual male desire (or you watch too much Lynda La Plante)

– If you think men always behave like perfect gentlemen when they pay for sex, and that men who are fucked up, misogynist, violent, or who like to pick on someone vulnerable to vent their hatred or their frustrations don’t visit prostitutes…I’d call you naive.

There is no single figure of ‘The Prostitute’, – and no single universal type of ‘punter’ either: it’s good that (most of) your list made that clear.

well said.

“on the men who buy sex without a thought for the consequences. On the men who consume others’ bodies for their own pleasure, who don’t care where it comes from as long as they come.”

well i’ve been asking this for a long time because i can’t see what pleasure anyone [normal] would get from having sex [read mechanical to-ing and fro-ing ] when you know they don’t fancy you and they’re doing it cos they have to. Clearly its not doing your ego any favours – so what is it? I don’t think we’ll get to the bottom of all this till we understand the demand. i’ve always thought [unless you’re a total weirdo freakout] and perhaps even then, it’s not that hard to get someone to sleep with you for free, i mean they might be drunk or something, and not really fancy you in the daylight, but hey…

is it just knowing you’re forcing someone to do something they don’t want to?

Can anyone enlighten me?

anyway its not just men and women is it, there’s a men taking advantage of men.

“it’s not that hard to get someone to sleep with you for free,”

It’s not all that long ago that it was indeed very difficult to do that if you were not married to the person in question. A couple of generations or so. And I think it’s true that prostitution has fallen since those days.

So that is part, but not all of the explanation for prostitution’s existence. That it still persists when it isn’t that hard means to me that there’s is indeed some other explanation necessary.

obviously legislation isn’t going to make much difference on the ground – until you choose to legalise the industry!

but yes, its about time something was done about the ridiculous disparity in ‘the prostitute is doing something illegal, but the other person isn’t’.

and overall, the ‘market’ isn’t going anywhere till we understand it better.

Yes tim, that’s my point. i can understand the ‘market’ in the ‘older days’ and also in countries where men/young boys feel they can’t get anywhere with the girls because they are all ‘good’ and the only ones who aren’t are the ‘soiled’ ones. the old distinction between good women and bad women.

given that’s changed a hell of a lot – certainly in this country anyway – hence my question. i’m trying to understand the drivers – a lot of people claim its purely ‘biological’ but we know what drives us about sex, is rarely just ‘biological’ – it ain’t that simple. what psychological aspects are involved in sex with someone for money – given that (i’m assuming) most people can prob. have sex for free, with a certain amount of effort. Of course it could be something like, well i haven’t the time and effort and i want it NOW. but that’s what i’m asking. seeing as most people DO NOT admit paying for sex, i actually have no idea.

and there’s another thing – ok now people might not be wanting to admit it – but before, when they were in the clear – it was hardly the au fait thing to do to admit paying for sex? Why not?

Well team,

I disagree strongly – have said it before but might as well carp on.

Making any aspect of the sex trade illegal will push it even further underground. Do you really think this puts the most vulnerable women in a position to utilise the law? How exactly do you see this working – will johns only choose women who show them an ‘I ain’t being pimped?’ badge? Good Lord. Why not put women in a position where they are protected by the law and comfortable in accessing all aspects of it?

And to think that Labour has done this not to protect women, but to try and scrap up a few more middle of the road voters. I really like your work, Laurie, but I kind of wonder where the feminism is going on this one. Step back from the Labor party for God’s sake, and see them for the prissy, give-me-a-conservative-voter regulators that they are – didn’t you used to take the pro-legalising view on this topic?

Blah.

meant to add the link to the argument i’ve made before re: the labour party’s conservative approach to legislation pertaining to women (and women who have sex in particular):

http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/01/11/the-misogyny-of-new-labour/

you really gotta see these clowns in context.

45. Shatterface

Does anyone really imagine that a punter contact the police if he discovers that a prostitute he has been seeing is being coerced, knowing that he will be prosecuted?

If you really want to see a reduction in prostitution bring back an economy where people actually make things, pay them a decent wage and decriminalise drugs.

… altho I didn’t mean to sound shrewish in the earlier remark. just exasperated.

“Does anyone really imagine that a punter contact the police if he discovers that a prostitute he has been seeing is being coerced,”

Punters do, currently, contact the police in such situations because they know that there are criminals but they aren’t them…..

“Punters do, currently, contact the police in such situations because they know that there are criminals but they aren’t them…..”

Yup the police are alerted to roughly 2% of trafficked women by punters.

After they’ve raped them, of course…

“Paying to sleep with a young girl coerced into drug-taking by her pusher pimp who forces her to sell herself for her next fix would be illegal – and I’ve been twisting this round in my head, talking to the MPs making the laws and the sex workers affected by it, and whichever angle I look at it from, I can’t see anything too terribly wrong there.”

Really? You think that someone else should potentially have their life ruined for paying for sex with someone with whom they’ve no idea might be “controlled”? This law is, as Unity has argued, one of the worst and potentially most destructive which Labour have come up with, and which unlike the “extreme pornography” law which came in today more likely to have significant police resources allocated to it.

Whoever said the bit about it not being too difficult to get someone to sleep with you also perhaps needs to look a little deeper into it; those who can’t get laid probably aren’t going to use sex workers, either though.

“that part of the point of this law was to ‘make a statement’. Is that important? Yes it is, vitally so”

Laws should not be used for sodding statement making. If you wish to make a statement then get up and talk, don’t go debasing the legal system with idiotic legislation.

It is a good rule of thumb that if the offence being brought into law is one of strict liability then it’s a very bad idea that will lead to injustice. There should at least be a defence that the purchaser of the sex, (not always a bloke although far more usual to be), had an honest and reasonable belief that the vendor was acting from their own volition.

Finally, prostitution is one of those very difficult problems where there probably isn’t an ideal solution to find. I can’t see that a legalised regulated environment would cause more damage and it does offer some hope of improving the lives of those working as prostitutes. Further legislation against prostitutes or their clients is likely to make things even worse.

Anyone with a magical solution speak now etc.

Laws should not be used for sodding statement making.

Agreed, however it doesn’t always work out as clearcut as you think, especially if you know someone in the CPS or the police who have to bring forward the charges or make a case for prosecuting. I’m not passing judgement on the merits of this case, however I know from long conversations with someone at the CPS that many times the laws against forced marriage (well, there wasn’t an actual law but there was existing legislation around it) was sometimes a bit ambiguous, so even if the police wanted to prosecute, the CPS might decide that the law wasn’t clear enough and they’d reject the case. This happens with a lot of domestic violence stuff. Which is why I came back with the view that much as we think laws are tightly understood instruments, they’re actually very ambiguous and fuzzy in reality – so sometimes symbolic laws have an impact because they send a clear signal to prosecutors.

52. Shatterface

The regrading of cannabis to grade B is a symbolic act – but it hardly sends a clear message to prosecutors.

Symbols should be left to the arts world where ambiguity and paradox are a plus, not the law courts, which demand clarity, precision and consistancy.

Sex slavery and pimping are already against the law. Offenders are rarely brought to justice because it is difficult to investigate such activity and almost impossible to get convictions. The only police unit specifically set up to target this area has been closed by the Met blaming lack of funding.

So, against a background of unenforceable legislation, the government introduce new legislation that will potentially criminalise millions who will be entirely unable to determine if and when they are breaking the law. This is quite impossible to enforce and is therefore bad law.

It’s only purpose is to placate frustrated social engineers.

52 & 53, quite.

Kate’s right – and like her I’ve said this before.

The perceived rights and wrongs (morally) of the sex trade are neither here nor there. The question is how best to get help and assistance to the most vulnerable street sex workers. I really can’t see how people fail to grasp that you can’t help people you can’t see, and that any criminalisation of the sex trade – whether the letter of the law applies to “seller” or “buyer” of sex – will only serve to drive the street sex workers themselves further underground.

It may leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths, but legalisation really is the only way to help.

Sunny, there was a letter to the Telegraph in November 08 that read,

SIR – I am a young barrister based in Nottingham. This week, I received my brand new 2009 edition of Archbold, the leading criminal law text, used by nearly all advocates and judges in English and Welsh court rooms.
Having taken my new barrister’s bible out of its box, I cast an eye over the preface to this year’s edition: “It has been a recurring theme of the preface to this work that there is far too much criminal legislation. The willingness of the Labour Government to continue its practice of legislating by trial and error has shown no signs of abating even in its eleventh year in office… The state of the criminal statute book is a disgrace. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 is the usual hotchpotch of measures, with no theme, with much of the detail tucked away from close scrutiny in the schedules, and consisting in large part of textual amendment to earlier legislation. Much of the amendment is by way of undoing this Government’s earlier legislation.”

Coincidentally in the same paper there was this letter:

Sir – In a letter to Lord Laming, asking him to review child protection measures following the death of Baby P, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, wrote obscurely: “What are the key barriers, including in the legal process, that may impede efficient and effective work with children and families and that may be preventing good safeguarding practice from becoming standard practice everywhere?”
I also found this heading on a flowchart produced by Mr Balls’s department: “LSCB [Local Safeguarding Children Boards] objectives pursued through LSCB functions help produce outputs that contribute to overall outcomes.”
In contrast to this turgid jargon, the clear prose of Lord Laming’s report into the death in 2000 of Victoria Climbié stated: “The problem is less about the ability of staff to read and understand guidelines, and more about the huge and dense nature of the material provided for them. The test is simply one of ensuring the material actually helps staff do their job.”
I would urge anyone interested to study the torrent of government guidelines since Victoria’s tragic death. If the material was “huge and dense” then, it is immeasurably more so now.

If the experts cannot understand it, what hope for the layman?

The law must be clear, precise, consistent, and unambiguous. It should not be used to “send a message”.

“they’re actually very ambiguous and fuzzy in reality – so sometimes symbolic laws have an impact because they send a clear signal to prosecutors.”

Sunny that is not a decent argument for “symbolic laws”, it’s an argument for clear drafting of the laws that we do want. A significant part of the problem has been Our Beloved Masters legislating for headlines so much that there is either insufficient time to properly draft and debate legislation that is needed, or passing laws that were never mean’t to have any significant effect beyond giving a minister a boost in the papers.

The point of having laws is to define what is illegal and to do so very precisely, it has no other purpose. Using the legal system for “messge sending” is like using a toque wrench as a hammer. Once or twice it has an effect, though not as much as using the proper kit and in the end you have a precision tool that is now only useful as a blunt object.

58. Pagans in search of Toast

“Symbols should be left to the arts world where ambiguity and paradox are a plus, not the law courts, which demand clarity, precision and consistancy.”

The Brits pass laws they haven’t the slightest intention of enforcing,

the FBI for example know the violent pornography laws in the UK come out of their budget, the Brits will take a VP case from the CP referrals.

The VP will be from CP referrals as a rule I expect, and as Britain, doesn’t do to good, with CP, it is down to the FBI.

59. Jimmy the Frap

“The law must be clear, precise, consistent, and unambiguous. It should not be used to “send a message”.”

With child protection, it is a mountain of nonsense. For example the killer from Soham would not be barred by the legislation adopted following the review on his murders and employment.

NASUWT says sex offenders can’t be banned.

So a jeep load of guidance, endless prevarication, and never-ending paper-work, and the sex offenders do not get banned from schools.

Let the NASUWT run the country, they’re already in charge.

The NASUWT came up about once every 15 minutes in relation to prostitution reform.

It was decided legal brothels would only encourage teachers to throw restraint to the four winds.

Let the NASUWT run the country, they’re already in charge.

Their campaign to reform ( abuse of trust) the SOA 2003, no crime, no police, no search warrant, no child pornography.

Is there any sex crime they don’t want a veto on, no? Thought not.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    New blog post: Prostitution legislation: an end to hyperbole http://tinyurl.com/cee5jo

  2. Shatterface

    @NoelClarke http://tinyurl.com/cee5jo Caught having sex in girlfriend's parents' bed. V bad. gf away on holiday at the time.





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