Who Pays the Piper?

February 18, 2013

media fems intersect

It is common for the British to look at the American system of lobbying government and smile disdainfully. Money influencing policy is something others do, not the Mother of Parliaments. It is of course as inaccurate as believing paying MPs will lead to better applicants for the job or that Nick Clegg really wears a onesie.

There are a number of lobbying parliamentary groups in Westminster. All-party groups (APGs) made up of MPs and members of the House of Lords, can be found covering diverse areas from Rugby League to lighting. At times it seems more like a fresher’s fair than a serious way for people to declare an interest in a particular issue.

I am a sex worker and a sex worker’s rights activist, so when I discovered there was an All-party group on Prostitution I was of course interested. But when I read what they had to say, my heart sank. This is from their ‘about’ statement:

The purpose of the group is to raise awareness of the impact of the sale of sexual services on those involved and to develop proposals for government action to tackle individuals who create demand for sexual services as well as those who control prostitutes; to protect prostituted women by helping them to exit prostitution and to prevent girls from entering prostitution.(sic)”

This group, rather than wishing to explore the issue of sex work, wants to lobby for an approach known as the ‘End Demand Model’ sometimes called the ‘Nordic Model’. It is based on the idea that sex work is morally wrong and an act of violence against women. In the End Demand [ED] Model, and the APG’s statement, there is no mention of male sex workers.

ED works under the baffling assumption that the most vulnerable sex workers – those with substance abuse issues, who are underage, and those who have dangerous clients – can be legally protected from people whose respect for the law is often already minimal. People who abuse sex workers are already breaking a whole host of laws, but apparently, this new one will work! Logic does not seem to exist in ED land. Research from Norway has shown that criminalisation of clients leads to increased violence towards sex workers. Of course, plenty of people said this before the law was passed, but ‘dirty whores’ are apparently not to be listened to when it comes to their own rights.

You may support ED, many do, choosing to prioritise a moral belief that sex work is wrong, over the lives of sex worker – it’s ‘a price worth paying.’ Unfortunately, there is another aspect to this group that deserves wider attention. APGs can receive funding. The APG for prostitution is funded by Care. Care is a right wing Christian group currently spearheading the campaign against equal marriage. They are also opposed to abortion rights.  Pick an issue and you will find them firmly on the side of bigotry and oppression.  Here for example is what they have to say on same sex parenting:

“One study found that many children living with homosexual couples avoid involvement in group activities or out-of-school activities and are considered by teachers to be “loners” or “introverts”. The study reported that experiences in their personal and family life were thought to have motivated them to avoid working with and relying on others, and to mistrust other children – in the case of children of lesbians, males in particular.”

Look at their website: If you are not heterosexual, married and Christian, you are doing it wrong.  Care are also funding MPs, MPs who are happy to take their money.

When it comes to sex work, Care is not the only religious organisation trying to dictate policy according to their narrow version of Christianity. Currently, in Scotland, Rhoda Grant is trying to introduce the ED model, against the wishes of sex workers groups, National Ugly Mugs and the police. One of the major supporters of her campaign is Abolition Scotland. I could write for hours on the racist nature of their film, Nefarious, or the false conflation of sex work and human trafficking. Instead, I will direct you to the page of their supporters. Groups like Care for Scotland, the Evangelical Alliance, believe that equal marriage is wrong, that women should not have autonomy over their bodies, and that abortion is a sin and should be criminalised. It is no surprise that they morally oppose sex work, but is this who should be setting policy in the UK?

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that the Biblical commandment of not bearing false witness does not seem to extend to their own declarations about sex work. They quote invalid statistics, lie about the Swedish experience, and try to deny my very existence as a sex worker.

This is not just about rehashing the problems with the End Demand Model, this is about the pernicious and growing influence of extreme Christian groups in British political life. Whatever your views on sex work surely this is something we all can agree is wrong?

By Jemima Hobby (@itsjustahobby)


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