A thoughtful and balanced blog from my boss, Frances Crook, the Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform. She comments on the recent media coverage of the trial of Stephen Griffiths, accused of mudering three women in Bradford, in particular the choice of language. She hypotheses that it is not the fact that the victims were sex workers that caused them to be targets, but the fact that sex workers are more vulnerable to such attacks. I would recommend you read it.
The debate around sex work is perhaps the only area of feminist debate that I honestly do not know where I stand on. I do, however, know the following:
1. No little girl dreams of growing up to work in the sex industry.
2. Sex work is one of the oldest professions in the world, indeed some concubines at Chinese courts were held in esteem.
3. The relationship between the women who enter sex work and social deprivation has been well proven.
4. The relationship between sex work and drug and/or alcohol dependency is also well proven.
5. There are some women who choose to enter sex work and control the relationships and power. I can't for a second imagine that they constitute more than a tiny majority of those in the industry.
6. There are supply side factors which influence the number of women recruited to work. The number of women and girls who are recruited against their will far outnumbers those who have made a choice. Shifts towards criminalising those who pay for sex is something that have worked in other countries, particularly in Scandinavia.
7. The buying and selling of human beings is an abomination, and the fact we allow it to continue is a blight on our collective conscience. Concerns about the rise in human trafficking around the World Cup and Olympics have sparked campaigns - make sure you have a look.
8. If buying and selling human beings is deplorable, isn't there an argument that exchanging the most personal connection you can make with another human, for a sum of money is equally as deplorable?
9. The promotion of the PlayBoy brand to children encourages little girls to aspire to material and shallow perceptions of adulthood. Why aren't we encouraging our daughters to be astronauts or writers or politicians?
10. We have to find a way to help those women who want to leave the sex industry to do so, without judging or criminalising them. This has to include drug and alcohol treatment, education and training, both medical and pschological treatment, free childcare, a feeling of safety. These have to be our starting point. We have to regulate and make it safe for the women who do want to work in the industry. We have to insist on contraception and regular testing. We have to be better at preventing the sale of young girls from around the world and allowing them to be repeatedly raped, introduced to smack and held against their will.