Sex Worker Statement on Passing of Clause 6

The following statement on the passing of Clause 6 has been written by sex workers who work in NI. UglyMugs.ie has been asked to publish it, especially as there isn’t a NI sex workers organisation to do so.

“We, as sex workers are devastated to hear about the news that the purchase of sex will be criminalised in Northern Ireland under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. This new bill will only drive sex work further underground and make it more dangerous for the most marginalised sex workers.

The Northern Ireland Assembly are not listening to current sex workers who will be affected by this new legislation and the evidence released by the Department of Justice on Friday backs this up. 98% of sex workers surveyed are against this new law and 85% working in the industry said it would not reduce trafficking.

We ask the Northern Ireland Assembly to reconsider this law and look at the evidence. This law will not reduce trafficking and will make working conditions more unsafe.”

Protest at Stormont – Monday 20th October

STOP CRIMINALISATION: SAFETY FIRST

Sex workers and allies

PROTEST AGAINST THE CRIMINALISATION OF THE PURCHASE OF SEX.

Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Monday 20 October, 4pm-5pm.

On Monday 20th October the Northern Ireland Assembly will vote on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill. This Bill includes a clause which will criminalise the purchase of sex.

This Bill has been put forward by the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) backed by CARE (Christian Action Research and Education). Sinn Féin, the second largest party, is believed to have now decided not to not oppose it. Thus it will pass.

The Department of Justice published independent research into prostitution in Northern Ireland on Friday 17th October clearly showing that criminalising the purchase of sex will not achieve the stated aims but will harm sex workers. However Northern Ireland’s politicians are ignoring the evidence and throwing sex workers under the bus.

Sex worker rights campaigner Laura Lee has called for a protest.

Red umbrellas and sex worker rights banners are encouraged. Sex workers are highly stigmatised in Northern Ireland and thus masks are welcome. Masks will also be made available on the day.

Some of the findings of the recently published Northern Ireland research are:

Only 2% of sex workers support criminalising the purchase of sex.

Sex workers worry that criminalisation of clients will lead to a potential decrease in security, worsen working conditions and increase risks of violence and other abuse. Another common concern is that criminalisation of clients will lead to the increased involvement of organised crime groups and ‘pimps’ in the sex industry;

61% of NI-based sex workers feel criminalising the purchase of sex will make them less safe.

There is likely to be significant difficulties with enforcement of the law. PSNI officers who took part in the research noted that, in their opinion, a sex purchase ban would be difficult to enforce and would be largely ineffective in reducing the level of trafficking in sexual exploitation.

85% of sex workers believe the law will not reduce sex trafficking.

Only 8% of respondents to the client survey said it would make them stop paying for sex altogether.

Stigmatisation and the related fear of exposure constitutes a very significant issue for the sex workers who took part in the study, it ranked above all other concerns.

The full research report is available here:
http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/media-centre/independent-research-into-prostitution-in-northern-ireland-published.htm

The facebook page for the event is here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1566297883590643/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Laura’s blog post about the protest is here:
http://lauraslifeandthoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/protest-at-stormont-monday-20th-october.html

Selling Sex: politics, activism & lived experience

Public Seminar and Q&A

4pm, Thursday 16th October 2014, Foundation Building, Room F1030, University of Limerick

Laura Lee, an Irish sex worker and activist based in Glasgow will discuss the realities of
working as a sex worker in Ireland. As an Irish sex worker with 20 years’ experience, Laura
will reflect on some of the common myths and perceptions around the world of sex work, and
discuss the changes that she has seen in the industry over that time. Finally, Laura will point
to possible policy changes that might help ensure safer working conditions for those who sell
sex.

Lucy Smith will give a short presentation on the work of Ugly Mugs. Ugly Mugs is a scheme
that aims to improve the safety of sex workers in Ireland and reduce crimes committed
against them, by bringing sex workers together to share information about potential dangers.
Lucy will discuss the scheme, and the political difficulties encountered in attempting to
secure safer working environments for those working in the sex industry.

All welcome. Official flyer is here: http://uglymugs.ie/wp-content/uploads/Seminar-Laura-Lee.pdf

Letter to the Garda Commissioner

Immigrant Council of Ireland Mothers and Daughters Lunch FlyerUglyMugs.ie sent the following letter to the Garda Commissioner today:

Dear Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan,

CC Garda Press Office

We are writing to express our disappointment at the news that you will be guest speaker at the Immigrant Council of Ireland’s Mothers and Daughters Lunch on 26 September 2014.

This news was announced by the Immigrant Council of Ireland via their Twitter account @immigrationIRL at 16:51 on 5 September 2014 with the tweet: “Delighted Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan is guest speaker at our Mothers and Daughters lunch to support victims of sex trafficking RT”

We would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Immigrant Council of Ireland is running the “Turn Off the Red Light” (TORL) campaign, a lobby of approximately 70 organisations led by the Immigrant Council of Ireland created for the purpose of lobbying the Government to bring in new laws to ‘end prostitution and sex trafficking’ in their own words, most notably a new law to criminalise the purchase of sex between consenting adults.

For the Garda Commissioner to be guest speaker at this €100 a ticket fundraising event suggests she supports the TORL campaign. We feel this is an entirely inappropriate political position for Garda Commissioner to have taken and would ask her to pull out of this event.

We would also like to highlight that the Immigrant Council of Ireland has repeatedly advertised this Mothers and Daughters Lunch as being an event to fundraise for “women and girls who are victims of sex trafficking and prostitution”. Attached is an official flyer for the event to demonstrate this.

We have been unable to confirm that the money raised will indeed be going to such ‘victims’. We suspect the money will actually be going towards the TORL political campaign to further criminalise sex work. Under the Statement of Guiding Principles of Fundraising, fundraisers are required to spend money for the purpose for which it was raised and answer any reasonable questions about their fundraising. The Immigrant Council of Ireland has not responded to our questions re their fundraising here. As guest speaker at this event is the Garda Commissioner able to comment on the fundraising issue, will the money raised be going to ‘victims’ as advertised or will it actually, as we suspect, be going to the Immigrant Council of Ireland and used to further their political lobbying?

We write this letter as an organisation that has recorded 5,565 incidents of abuse or crime against sex workers in Ireland since 2009. Sex worker victims of crime are generally accustomed to receiving no support from An Garda Síochána and it strikes us as markedly inappropriate that the Gardaí’s disinterest in crime against sex workers is matched with such keen support of a political campaign to further criminalise sex work.

Yours sincerely,

UglyMugs.ie

Broken Promises to Sex Workers: The Second Commission on the Status of Women

Second Commission on the Status of Women CoverIn 1993 the Second Commission on the Status of Women recommended that sex workers be included in decision-making regarding the type and level of services and support they require. More than twenty years later this promise to sex workers of inclusion has been firmly broken.

The two services funded to support sex workers in Ireland, the HSE Women’s Health Service and Ruhama, totally exclude sex workers and instead of providing any support to sex workers operate as anti sex work organisations.

The Second Commission on the Status of Women was set up in 1990. Its main task was to “consider and make recommendations on the means, administrative and legislative, by which women will be able to participate on equal terms and conditions with men in economic, social, political and cultural life and, to this end, to consider the efficacy and feasibility of positive action measures.” The Commission reported in early 1993, making an extensive list of recommendations covering a wide range of issues including sex work.

The excerpts of this report relating to sex work are reproduced below.

Page 51

1.8 PROSTITUTION

1.8.1 Prostitution as a potential public nuisance

The Commission addresses the issue of the health and safety of women engaged in prostitution and possible alternatives available to them in Chapter 5. This section concerns the aspect of public nuisance connected with prostitution.

The laws covering loitering and soliciting, Section 14(ii) of the Dublin Police Act, 1842 and section 16(i) Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935, have become inoperative in recent years due to Court decisions. In particular, the term “common prostitute” has given rise to difficulty because it has been held that the use of that term to so describe any person charged with an offence introduces them to the Court from the start with an antecedent presumption of guilt. However, the Garda Siochana suggest that the prosecution or non-prosecution of prostitutes for loitering seems to make little difference to its incidence.

In certain areas of our cities, any woman may be approached on the erroneous assumption that she may be a prostitute. This gives rise to considerable distress and fear on the part of women so approached. It may also be a nuisance to local residents, especially those with young children. In addressing the public nuisance problem caused by soliciting there should be an even-handed policy in line with that set out in the Law Reform Commission Report on Vagrancy and Related Offences (LRC-11-1985), so that the person soliciting and the client are open to the same sanctions.

The Commission recommends that the same sanctions should be applied to persons soliciting and to their clients, regardless of sex.

Pages 181-4

5.9 WOMEN INVOLVED IN PROSTITUTION

(See also Chapter 1.)

5.9.1 Incidence of prostitution

Because prostitution in Ireland is largely undocumented, it is very difficult to form a reliable estimate of the numbers of women involved. However, it is clear from the testimonies which do exist and from research carried out elsewhere, that the lives of prostitutes are characterised by a sense of powerlessness, few opportunities, no voice in society, no choices in life and very little hope.

The Commission received one submission on the situation of women involved in prostitution in the Dublin area from an order of religious sisters who provide support in a low-key, practical way over a long time horizon to women involved in prostitution. This submission urged the adoption of strategies which recognise the dignity of all women irrespective of their condition, based on women’s right to choice, self-determination, non-stigmatisation and non-victimisation.

Case studies of over 200 women involved in prostitution in Dublin suggest that women often suffer sexual and physical abuse, resulting not only in physical injury but also in emotional pain and low self-esteem. In some cases, this impression is reinforced by Court evidence. Financial pressures, unemployment, a lack of education and poor housing were also shared common experiences. A quotation from Lyn: A Story of Prostitution, which deals with the lives of Dublin prostitutes conveys the isolation and risk of casual violence graphically:

“My jaws would clench and I would take a deep breath as I took up my position on the path. Then I’d look to my left, then my right, across the road: ‘Is that someone hiding in the garden over there? Who’s that in the parked car? Are there two or three men in it?’ Then I’d turn and peer into the bushes along the banks of the Canal. ‘Looks OK. No, did that bush move? What’s that noise? Coulda swore I saw someone lurking behind that tree or was it an optical illusion?’

Getting into a car was even more scary. Your heart raced as you assessed the client. And as you got in the car, you check that it had a door handle on the inside and a window catch, in case you had to get out in a hurry. The silent ones were the worst. ‘Why doesn’t he speak?’ So you small-talked, and I mean small-talk. And if your client was the silent type your palms were sweating with fear and you heard yourself asking inane things in an effort to get him to say something so you could hear the tone of his voice. Was there any kindness in it? If he made any sudden moves you jumped out of your skin even though he was only reaching for his wallet.”

(Levine, June and Madden, Lyn, Lyn: A Story of Prostitution, Attic Press, Dublin, 1987.)

5.9.2 A strategy to tackle problems

We make the point in Chapter 1 that any prosecution which might be taken for prostitution should be even-handed, as between the prostitute and the man. In this section, we are concerned with health and social supports for the women involved. This strategy must be based on recognition of the dignity of the women concerned. That the term “common prostitute” has fallen into disuse is a welcome development. Fundamentally, a strategy devised to assist women involved in prostitution must be based on practical assistance measures, support and initiatives geared to reintegration into society, e.g. through training for work. This is not easy to do. Whilst it is possible to train women in skills with which they might earn a living it cannot be easy for them to find work when most of their past must, in effect, remain a closed book. The most useful approach might be development of a cooperative or cooperatives and training for legitimate forms of self-employment. It would make sense in developing an intervention strategy to build on the goodwill, experience and resources of voluntary bodies already active in providing assistance, and on the experiences of the women themselves and on their sense of solidarity.

We do not underestimate the scope of the problem. Prostitutes can have very complex problems deriving from a mix of socio-economic disadvantages exacerbated by violence and drug-taking. The question we have to ask ourselves as a society is whether we are content to see women remain as part of this underclass without opportunities either to leave it or to improve their existence.

5.9.3 Recommendations on prostitutes

The Commission recommends that:
(a) an integrated approach involving the Departments of Health, Education, Social Welfare, and Justice and interested voluntary organisations should be adopted in order to provide health and welfare services and information to women involved in prostitution. Every effort should be made to encourage women involved in prostitution to participate in decision-making regarding the type and level of service they require and in designing “social rehabilitation” programmes;
(b) as a first step in this strategy the setting up of a drop-in centre or centres should be funded. The services provided would include short-term accommodation as well as opportunities for self-help and building self-esteem, along with relief from isolation, informal education and advice, medical and social assistance; these services could usefully be provided in association with voluntary bodies already engaged in helping women in prostitution;
(c) A rehabilitation centre should he established for women who want to get out of prostitution. The development and operation of this centre should draw on the experiences derived from the implementation of recommendations (a) and (b) above and the Centre should provide counselling and training for future employment.

COSTINGS

(1) Reorientation of expenditure or no additional cost (2) Existing commitment entailing expenditure (3) Commission recommendation entailing expenditure (4) Non-exchequer expenditure
9. Recommendations on prostitutes (paragraph 5.9.3) (a) ✓*
(c) not possible to cost
(b) 60,000

* The costing at recommendation (b) is estimated as the minimum running costs of a drop-in centre incorporating a non-resident rehabilitation programme. A rehabilitation centre would give rise to greater costs but it should be possible to look for European Social Fund support for re-training.

(The only order of religious sisters listed as having made a submission to the Commission is the Good Shepherd Provincialate, who now use the name ‘Ruhama’ in relation to their anti sex work campaigning.)

Public Lecture, Queen’s University Belfast, 1st September, All Welcome

The following event is taking place at Queen’s University Belfast on Monday 1st September 2014 at 4pm. The venue is QUB School of Law, 27 University Square, Room 27.101. All welcome.

No (Commercial) Sex Please, They’re Suburbanites: Regulating the (Sub)Urban Sexscape

Dr Paul Maginn
University of Western Australia

Transactional forms of sex (sex work/prostitution and stripping/lap-dancing) and commercial sex venues such as sex shops, adult theatres, strip clubs, BDSM dungeons, and brothels tend to be associated with the ‘inner-city’; what Parksian human ecologists referred to as the ‘zone of transition’. In many respects, this marginalized space was indeed the ‘natural area’ for commercial sex to take place as it was arguably the only space such activities could take root in the emerging modern metropolis. Relatedly, the zone of transition and commercial sex venues and spaces were generally located adjacent to male dominated spaces–the CBD and industrial areas—thereby offering a ready supply of customers and clients. This geography was no accident. History shows that efforts to regulate the ‘sex industry’ range from spatial containment to prohibition and eradication. In short, political and bureaucratic regulators have sought to prevent commercialized forms of sex invading the suburbs and subsequently contaminating suburbanites. A major reason for this is that the suburbs hold a special place in the heteronormative hearts and minds of politicians and bureaucrats. Suburbia has been framed not only in political but also popular cultural discourses as a heterosexual space, a space of domesticity and monogamy and a safe haven for women and children.

This presentation traces the broad historical, sociological, geographical and regulatory contours surrounding the ‘sex industry’ in western liberal democracies by drawing on examples in my forthcoming co-edited book, (Sub)Urban Sexscapes: Geographies and Regulation of the Sex Industry. It is contended that contemporary efforts to eradicate sex work/prostitution by ending demand and over-regulating other forms of commercial sex (e.g. pornography, lap-dancing) are misplaced and doomed to fail in their primary objectives. Policymakers can achieve greater regulatory success if they adopt a pragmatic approach and base their decisions on evidence as opposed to moral panics and involvement of the sex industry in decision-making processes.

(Upcoming book, (Sub)Urban Sexscapes, Geographies and Regulation of the Sex Industry.)

The 2nd International Conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health

Lucy Smith, UglyMugs.ie, will be speaking on Sex workers & police: working together against abuses at The 2nd International Conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health as part of the Sex work and Mega-events session. This session takes place on Wednesday 8 October 2014 from 14:00 to 15.30 at Building 1, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam. The session will be chaired by Marieke Ridder, Soa AIDS, Nederlands and the other speakers are Janine Ewen and representatives from the Prostitution Observatory of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Davida Prostitutes Rights Network.

RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

Lucy Smith, UglyMugs.ie, will be speaking on Modern sex work: Understanding and utilising the technology at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014 as part of the session Researching Sexed Spaces: (Re)Imagining the Researcher and (Re)Discovering the ‘Other’ in Understanding Experiences of Exclusion (2).  This session takes place on Thursday 28 August 2014 from 16:50 to 18:30 at Room 060a, Skempton Building, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2AZ. Prior to this session Researching Sexed Spaces: (Re)Imagining the Researcher and (Re)Discovering the ‘Other’ in Understanding Experiences of Exclusion (1) takes place from 14:40 to 16:20 at the same location.