Interview with Equality Now

Heartbreakingly Honest … Rebecca Mott in Interview with Equality Now

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A Systemic Problem With Internet Organizing

There Are So Many Things Wrong With This

Back in the days when there were small, stable communities, people who had more or less stayed together in one place for generations, people got into it with each other just as much as they do today. But there were a couple of big differences.

One is that they had more investment in dispute resolution, because they were all of a tribe. To fail to resolve disputes would mean, ultimately, the demise of the community.

The other is that since everybody knew each other, it was relatively easy to determine who the arbiters were. They were not people who got themselves into positions of power by force or trickery, not in a healthy community. They would be the elders who were known to be fair, who had known everybody all their lives, who had a good insight into human foibles, people who had a knack for seeing through misrepresentations. People…

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Brothel Raids and Graffiti Grandstanding: A Call for Conversation

We are at a crucial time in history regarding prostitution policy and legislation. As survivor voices have become more outspoken, backing up invaluable research by our equally invaluable abolitionist allies, we have experienced internationally and locally a validation of decades of feminist activism targeting male violence against women. It is a sometimes tenuous or fraught relationship between abolitionist allies and survivor/victims of the sex-trade. As with any collaboration or relationship, there can be personality clashes, differing opinions in approach to abolition and all of the normal responses in human interactions. In the main, however, we all are seeking the same ends and I don’t believe we can ever truly be separated from each other in our goal to end the exploitation of women and girls, and all the prostituted.

So it is with genuine respect to my feminist sisters and their brilliant work for women that I bring up my concerns about some sections of activism that I do not see as helpful. I’d like to open a dialogue about our various approaches.

To begin I want to express my deep misgivings at some abolitionists advocating the police targeting of illegal brothels without an informed understanding of the mechanisms of law around police raids.

Those who have experienced police raids know that these interventions are often violent. Prostituted women are often terrorised and sexually assaulted by police before being given criminal records. Also, these raids are often ineffective. The pimp/trafficker is rarely even on the premises and is not caught. It is the women harmed in this situation. The illegal brothel just stops business briefly before springing up somewhere else.

Also, frequently in brothels, prostituted women ‘jump the desk’ when a receptionist is away, so she can then be charged on that count too. We did this often when I was in legal and illegal brothels- taking turns to ‘man’ the reception desk.

Victims have described the range of what happens in these raids stating they :

ranged from scary for what could potentially happen through to extremely traumatic: multiple rapes, being hit, kicked, dragged, bitten, slapped, humiliated, made to stand naked in front of the cops and turn around, bend over, finger yourself; emptying your wallet and having lockers and clothing searched for any remaining cash. Sometimes put in a holding cell and released without charges but 5 days have passed without food or showers, having to toilet in front of others even when menstruating and having no sanitary products and of course you can’t complain. One complaint and the charges get laid. I’ve never seen a brothel shut down from a police raid. I’ve only once seen a receptionist arrested. She was just replaced and the brothel continued as per usual. I’ve never seen a pimp receive a phone call let alone be arrested, charged and face court.”

Even the police will confirm that they are putting out fires instead of getting to the root of the problem.

Another concern I have is targeting brothels , strip clubs etc with stickers/graffiti. While I am completely supportive of this fantastic grass-roots activism and encourage it wholeheartedly, when it is done at sites of prostitution, it does little to change behaviour of sex-buyers and leads only to shaming of and defensiveness of the prostituted in these premises. What woman would feel inclined to embrace support from or for feminists doing this work when she bares the brunt of such activism? Speaking from experience, while this grass-roots stickering is useful and inspiring elsewhere, it fails on the premises where the violence plays out.

Stickering and feminist graffiti is an effective  and bold action and I am all for that, just please, not on the premises where the violence of prostitution itself is already being committed.

Here is an example of why it isn’t always the best move in all situations:

Security guards at strip clubs also take action like that to mean ‘be on high alert’. They can be more aggressive than usual. This is often towards both the girls and the punters who then take it out on the girls. Even the girls can take out frustration on each other. It also pisses off pimps whose job it is to remove graffiti, stickers etc They too take it out on the girls. The girls are at the bottom of the chain and wear the consequences every time. It also sets up abolitionists/radical feminists as ‘the enemy’ so when women try to exit and they need to turn to someone for help, they can’t come to us. They turn to the red umbrellas who funnel them straight back into the trade. We can’t afford to be the enemy.”

In my experience it can also set up and/or reinforce trauma-bonding of the victim to the pimp, something pimps regularly exploit. It sets up an “us against the world” mentality which is very difficult to break free from.

I am cognizant of the fact that prostitution impacts on all women whether (or not) they are prostituted themselves. I believe this is important. What happens to prostituted women happens, on some level, to all women. Therefore what individual women do to express their activism needs to be understood in that context. It is not only victims/survivors of the sex-trade who are important in this debate.

However, if we do not have a conversation about strategic activism and whether it is beneficial or harmful I think we are going to see survivors and currently prostituted women involved in abolition ‘disappear’.

In fact, some survivors and the currently prostituted have ‘disappeared’. There have been some recent hostilities in groups on facebook for example, where survivors and currently prostituted women stop commenting and drop out from being involved.

Incredibly,  even as sex-trade survivors, we have been accused by these graffiti activists, of blaming prostituted women, or blaming the women doing the stickering/graffiti themselves, for the violence the johns and pimps inflict when we question these activists on what they hope to achieve in  stickering and putting graffiti on sites of sexual violence.

We did not say the men are not responsible, we asked you to please at least consider what impact such activism does to the women at these locations!

Why are we being accused of appeasing men  simply for saying:  ‘Hang on a minute, think before you act here. Think before you graffiti that strip joint/car/brothel. Ask yourself , is this action helpful? Will the women in that brothel face retribution?’

Survivors are being silenced or kicked out of these groups for asking to be heard on this issue!

When faced with such hostility I see that for some, this graffiti activism is nothing more than egotistical grandstanding and it is not centering prostituted women at all.  In fact, it shows a lack of concern for the prostituted women altogether.

We’ve also had friends and allies drop out of groups due to hostility being shown to them for simply stating they agree with us.

I’m sure no one finds this acceptable and we would all aim to avoid this happening.

Some may disagree with me about these issues. For example on brothel raids. How do police crack down on illegal brothels if they don’t raid? How do we get the message to johns that they are (paying) rapists without targeting them at the sale?

These are important questions. So I’d really appreciate your input as survivors/allies/currently prostituted women. All our voices are important

What comes to mind for me is that we could demand at least two things be incorporated into law.

  1. That the prostituted persons be treated as victims, not criminals. That the police undergo training on how she is to be treated and a process which holds police accountable for their behaviour. 
  2. That trafficked persons are given exiting support without condition and with immunity from deportation regardless of if they testify against the trafficker or not. (Many women can’t do this as it is dangerous for themselves, their families/children/loved ones). That local women be given the same treatment and status under law as internationally or ‘differently’ trafficked women. That is, even those who “choose” to be in the brothel incur a victim status.

As abolitionists altogether we need to make a stand for support of women who are currently prostituted and also those who are fighting for the Nordic Model, but due to lack of exiting support, periodically go back into prostitution (legal or otherwise) in order to survive while they fight.

Targeting illegal brothels therefore sets up a fear of losing income, and women are understandably alarmed by the consequences of further poverty. Again, they are unlikely to appreciate our abolitionist efforts if they have no income support. I am not sure how we can rectify this without the Nordic Model but we can at least object to the trauma of brothel raids.

I believe we can continue forging the bonds and joint activism between prostituted women and our wonderful abolitionist allies if we endeavour to think before we act. This will remain difficult when some are insisting illegal brothels be targeted without legislation to decriminalise the women in those brothels first.

We need to know the policies of what the police are capable of enacting under law.

Do we have this information from the police in fully decriminalised and legal states? What are their policies on busting illegal brothels and do they keep records of bad police behaviour? Do we have records from other states where prostitution is illegal and what happens to women who are charged?

As we do not have the Nordic Model yet, we perhaps need to work in the meantime on fighting for legislation to ensure that any raids on illegal brothels ensure the prostituted person’s status as victim, not criminal, before we make a targeted attack on these brothels.

The journey is long, and it is frustrating for all of us. It is important to get back to the reality of the facts we have. I understand we are often burnt out and so perhaps need a timely reminder to go back to the roots of what we know, although due to urgency and stress, I understand how we can forget the basics in the gruelling day to day reality of fighting for the end of the sex-trade.

What is helpful for non-survivor abolitionists to remember is to take it from theory into reality. For survivors this is reality. For example, many abolitionists know that 68% of prostituted women suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This means that every campaign needs to ask, ‘Can this potentially trigger ptsd symptoms?’ It also means that when you interact with us there is a 68% chance that you are also interacting with ptsd. It’s unavoidable. Another way to look at it is, ‘Would you say that to a rape survivor?’ If not, don’t say it to an exited survivor either. We are strong. We’ve lived through much we barely speak of, but we are not indestructible and do need some sensitivity shown.”

Most abolitionist allies are indeed sensitive to this, however in the case of some activists (who are of course operating with the best of intentions), these concerns are not being addressed. I have heard too many people discussing busting these illegal brothels and using graffiti and stickers which, as I mentioned before, only inflames an already violent situation for the prostituted when used on the premises. I am not alone in my deep concerns about this, although I appreciate not everyone agrees with me.

I am certain these valuable and vital bonds between allies and survivor/victims are still happening and possible. I am also certain we can overcome these strategic differences and interpersonal obstacles on the way to abolition.

Thank you so much for taking the time to consider and hopefully engage in the conversation.

 

Simone Watson and Sabrinna Valisce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solidarity!

Testimony: Select Committee Decriminalisation of ‘Sex Work’ South Australia 2016

Testimony to the Select Committee on the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015

Parliament House, Adelaide, South Australia

31st August, 2016

 

From Simone Watson

National Director Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NorMAC)

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My name is Simone Watson , I am the National Director of the Nordic Model Australia Coalition, a Survivor of prostitution.  I would like to thank you for listening to my testimony here today. My story is in the book Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade along with those of 20 other Survivors – victims of the brutality of the sex trade.

 

NorMAC was established in 2012 and is a secular organisation that seeks to end harmful cultural practices of sexual exploitation in Australia.

SURVIVORS ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE TELLING US THAT DECRIMINALSIATION DRAMATICALLY INCREASES THE DEMAND FOR, AND HARMS TO PEOPLE IN THE PROSTITUTION MARKET

Survivors voices are constantly being dismissed as we are told that if we are not currently in the sex trade, we have no right to comment on it.

Do we put such a declaration on our war veterans, those who have suffered and have lived the experience of war and say to us, “Never again”? Are there a group of current combat soldiers lining up to tell them they are wrong and ‘war-phobic’ because they say there should never be another war? I haven’t seen any.

Survivors voices must be given the same acknowledgement and respect as Survivor voices have been given in the domestic violence campaign. But, to be heard we must first of all respond to the misleading information and discrediting of us by people claiming to be ‘sex workers’.

Most recently a domestic violence service in Townsville, QLD offered it’s conference room, as it does to many groups, to a group of sex-trade Survivors for the launch of our book Prostitution Narratives.  Pro sex-trade activists (ironically named RESPECT) were welcome to attend the launch but asked to remove pro sex trade posters they had posted out of respect for the survivors. They were also told that no heckling would be tolerated from any group at the book launch.  However, they would have none of it, and told the Domestic Violence service, quote: ” we will not be responsible for the actions of our members”.  As a result the event was moved at short notice to a cafe, where the sex trade lobbyists duly arrived and harassed and heckled the survivors and other speakers. One of these was a former president and long time affiliate of the Scarlet Alliance, who approached the youngest survivor, a woman who had been pimped out at the age of four, to try and recruit her back into the sex-trade in New South Wales.

This young woman felt threatened and sickened by this approach. And to me, the idea that survivor voices are not only stigmatised but disrupted at every turn, and that a sex-industry lobby group would threaten a domestic violence service, speaks volumes about the mentality of the sex-trade and these so-called ‘sex-worker’ organisations.

We must take care not to blame the perniciousness and insidiousness of such a powerful trade on those whose mentality has turned not only to vilifying survivors of torture, trying to recruit torture survivors back into the sex-trade, intimidate domestic violence services and claim that men have a right to paid sexual access to girls and women. But I would suggest, that even had my time in prostitution been innocuous to me, I would be in such a minority as to never inflict it’s inevitability and expansion on the majority who want to get out.

Much emphasis is placed on the apparent ‘right’ of an individual to be bought for sex if they ‘choose’ and very little on the men who buy individuals for sex. Much emphasis is placed on individuals altogether, as if individual choices happen in a vacuum and do not influence anybody else. Well, legislation does impact on everybody, and this is why I am not alone in expecting that legislation be designed to fit the needs of the majority, and the fact is, over 89% of those being bought in the sex-trade, whether on the street or in the brothel, want to get out.

The sloganistic cry “Sex worker Rights are Human Rights’ may sit well with Amnesty International, johns and pimps alike, but makes little sense. I hope also that you can see through ‘sex worker’ claims of being silenced or ignored, for what they are. All human beings have rights under various laws and under the declaration of human rights. I suggest it is possible to protect all human rights, including those who call themselves ‘sex workers’, without dispensing with the basic human rights of the majority in the sex-trade.

I’m familiar with probably every argument for the sex-trade being a ‘service industry’, ‘job like any other’, like working in MacDonald’s, and more recently, like being a coal miner. And it is true that these industries or businesses, as with prostitution, exist because of demand.

What neither MacDonalds or the coal industry, nor any other industry or service job I can think of, has within it’s remit for a job, is the sexual penetration, ejaculation on and into, fetishisation and dehumanisation of it’s employees. Sexual abuse can and does happen in any other job, but it is not the expectation of any other job. No person in a regular job has to apply skin analgesic to themselves, to the vagina for instance, to withstand the pain of ‘working ‘ let alone with another person.

As another sex-trade survivor said, “In MacDonalds, you might be flipping burgers, but you are not the meat.”

The attempts by the sex trade to normalise and sanitise prostitution within the remit of ‘any other job’ are spurious.

While an individual may be able to distort reality in their head, the reality remains what it is, outside of that distortion,

and within the sex-trade, the facts speak for themselves – prostitution has become the global humanitarian disaster and crisis of the 21 century.

I look to Syria and see the immediacy for aid – but I look at the sex-trade knowing how man-made crises such as the one happening in Syria, and natural disasters, such as the devastating earthquake in Nepal, or floods in Bangladesh, are prime opportunities for men who buy women and children for sex, do not care where these women and children have come from, and the pimps who profit from the demand.

Just think about that for a moment – and think again when you vote on this legislation – men will increase their demand to buy girls and women for sex without any care as to their being trafficked or coerced into this trade. 26,000 girls alone are trafficked out of the Sundabans every year into India, 15,000 women and girls from Nepal into India Cambodia and South Africa – into the prostituion market.

This is perhaps the most simple, least complex fact about prostitution to grasp, yet it is the very one the ‘Sex Worker Rights are Human Rights” sloganeering fails to recognise, that Amnesty International, the public, and indeed those with legislative responsibility, often fail to premise in drafting and implementing legislation and policy.

But surely you are talking about trafficking?! I hear ad nauseum.

One of the claims we hear from sex trade advocates, Amnesty International and others, including SIN here in Adelaide, is “We must not conflate sex work with sex-trafficking.” – “No one is suggesting we condone trafficking!”.

What makes this argument so ridiculous is that there is no different PROSTITUION MARKET for those who choose and those who do not. Supply and demand is what the sex-trade is all about.

While it is true that there are a tiny minority who claim to have agency, it is perhaps the single most important thing I can hope to impress on those of you who have taken the time to listen to me today – most have no choice and without demand the prostitution market collapses.

DECRIMINALISATION IN NEW ZEALAND, GERMANY, AND OTHER AUSTRALIAN STATES HAS LED TO DRAMATIC INCREASES IN THE DEMAND FOR, AND HARMS TO PEOPLE IN THE PROSTITUTION MARKET – WHY DID AMNESTY CHOOSE TO IGNORE THIS?

You have heard, and have at hand, submissions from my colleagues which show the recognised facts about prostitution.

Where ever prostitution is fully decriminalised, there is an inevitable expansion of the sex-trade. That is to say, it immediately increases demand. We know what happens in any profit-driven industry when demand increases, more of the ‘product’ is required, which in this case happens not to be fair-trade coffee or a hybrid type of apple, but mainly women and children. Where do these women come from? Are they being plucked from a free-range orchard of a special variety of sexually empowered women in the Barossa? No, I don’t think so.

You know, or have at hand information, that the full decriminalisation of prostitution in New Zealand has led to an explosion in prostitution, including international trafficking and the internal trafficking of particularly Maori and Pacific Islander girls. That a woman who was a member of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, who fought to have this very model implemented in 2003, ostensibly to protect ‘sex workers’ from harassment by the police and control of the pimps, has come out publicly to say it has failed.

She has come out to tell us, as have other women, some of whom are currently in the fully decriminalised sex-trade, that there is now less room for negotiation with johns, that full-service is given at the discretion of his wallet and the brothel- owner (whom Amnesty International now call ‘managers’.) and where women do not get to decide which sexual acts they must perform, nor which johns they see.

You have the data on Germany, and have heard it has become known as the Bordello of Europe- that over 80% in the sex trade are trafficked, that despite it being decriminalised, only 44 of the some 400,000-450,000 people in the sex-trade are registered. You have the evidence that where ever prostitution is fully decriminalised demand increases.

Amnesty International’s policy on “sex work’ has been heralded as having the rights of those being bought in prostitution as it’s premise. In a policy which began with input from a UK based brothel owner, drug and prostitution cartel funder George Soros and others, some of whom have sex-trafficking convictions, the sex-trade lobby and some in the public, cry out in agreement. Pimps, procurers and profiteers are categorised under “the operational aspects of sex-work.” Apparently, having these operators in our lives is a woman’s human right and fuels our ‘agency’. How is that for weasel words? Amnesty documents have revealed that their sex work policy only passed at the International Council Meeting in Dublin last year as a result of that very undemocratic act of branch stacking. Over 50% of Amnesty sections did not support their policy and over 200 civil society organisations opposed it in Europe alone opposed it.

NORDIC MODEL LAWS HAVE DECREASED TRAFFICKING AND DEMAND IN THE PROSTITUION MARKET HAS ALSO REDUCED ALONG WITH THE HARMS

 

I hope you understand, that the Nordic Model does not criminalise any person who chooses to sell sex. Rather it decreases the demand for an exponential trade in those who do not choose.

As the Nordic Model continues to gain momentum in countries, some of which rate most highly on sex-equality in the world, the mutli-billion dollar sex-trade has it’s spin-doctor wheels set at 100 miles an hour; it is apparent that they are concerned about their profits, and organised crime and trafficking lose traction in countries where the demand for prostitution decreases. Is this not telling? They insist that holistic approaches like the Nordic Model drive prostitution under ground. In fact, it’s increasing ubiquity in fully decriminalised models and behind the doors of legal brothels in decriminalised countries and states, is pushing the reality of prostitution so far under ground – that in it’s supposed ‘normality’, we no longer truly see it.

The Nordic Model is a legislative approach which affirms the right of women to be protected from sexual violence within the sex-trade without fear of harassment and discrimination, provides much needed holistic exit programmes, and is monitored for the efficacy of this legal approach.

Further, it is creating a cultural shift in the attitudes of boys and men who previously bought into the myth of the ‘happy (or necessary) hooker’. When I use the word ‘necessary’ , I am referring to the malignant idea that somehow there needs to be a class of people for men to buy for sex or else they will rape other, ‘more important’ people. An ironic concept, considering the act of buying a human being for sex with impunity, feeds the very belief that enables rape culture to flourish in the first place.

There is an alternative, it is called the Nordic Model, and we must never underestimate how threatening this model is to pimps, traffickers and organised crime. Nor dismiss the increasingly positive outcomes of the Nordic Model in the places it has been implemented. This is a validation of it’s effectiveness.

WE HAVE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE REFUGES WHY DON’T WE HAVE EXIT PROGRAMS

You may also know that there is currently no impetus on governments anywhere in Australia to implement holistic exit programs for the majority who want to leave prostitution. The double standards operating between how we treat victims of domestic violence and those who are desperate to escape the sex trade is astonishing. Even the self-proclaimed ‘peak body’ for ‘sex workers’ dismiss those who want to leave.

The only ‘support’ one receives from these so-called ‘sex worker’ organisations (government funded by the way)- is to remain in the sex-ttrade, a trade which has a rate of PTSD the same as combat veterans, victims of torture and rape victims.

If you leave, you keep your mouth shut, if you don’t you are vilified and disrupted at every turn if you speak out about the reality of prostitution- we only need look at the behaviour from sex-industry lobbyists at the book launch of prostitution survivor’s testimonies happening now around the country.

Any new legislation in South Australia designed to prevent the violence and harms especially to women in the sex trade must have a whopping budgetary allocation to fund effective and fully resourced Exit Programs.

MY OWN EXPERIENCES SHOW THAT DECRIMINALISATION WILL ONLY INCREASE THE DEMAND FOR, AND HARMS TO PEOPLE IN THE PROSTITUTION MARKET

I entered the legal and illegal sex trade in Victoria at the age of 23 and left it after about one year. A limited amount of time to some, but a life-altering event for me. I was in the so-called ‘ higher-end’ of the industry. I have also had experience as a receptionist in a brothel that specialised in Asian women in NSW, a state which boasts , to it’s shame, a fully decriminalised model of prostitution.

I’ve had limited experience in street-prostitution, but can state unequivocally that whether on the street, as an escort, or behind the doors of a regulated, nicely turned out, tax-paying brothel, the men who buy women for sex are all varieties of the same man. No matter how special they think they are. It makes absolutely no difference where the location of the prostitution takes place, johns are johns, men who buy women for sex disrespect women.

I needed prescription medication from the first day I entered prostitution, and began to abuse alcohol after my shifts. This was the only way to dissociate from the daily horrors of this so-called “work”. I became plagued by panic attacks, as do many survivors of rape and sexual abuse. I managed to show up most days with a smile on my face, I told everyone who asked me how I could stand doing this, that it was all fine, and just another job, really. As a number of other sex-trade survivors have said to me, “I think if someone had come up to me when I was in prostitution and asked if I wanted to exit, I would have been afraid they meant to take away my livelihood, or that they were judging me.” Perhaps some of them were judging me, but the majority who asked, were not judgemental, only curious or caring. And as the sex industry was starting to be normalised and heralded as “A woman’s right to choose!”, many began towing the line of the left, that anything a woman does is empowering if she says so . Most of us had already drunk the kool-aid.

The stance seemed to me some kind of rebellion against the conservative right wing. An ‘in your face’ to those who wanted to control my body, say with threatening abortion rights. I was very naive, because of course, the men on the left certainly weren’t going to question their right to pay women for sex. And it was even better if they could believe that we like it. (The number of johns who believe they are doing women and even children a good deed by sexually exploiting us is at once so ubiquitous as to be banal and malignantly self-serving.) And the men on the Right whom I thought I was being so politically provocative towards, also bought me for sex, feeling equally entitled to use and sexually abuse me, while arguing against women’s bodily autonomy elsewhere.

When I speak to the dismal failure of legalised and fully decriminalised prostitution to protect me, some may imagine that if a few alterations to these models, without redrafting from the premise up, would perhaps have protected me, and will thus protect others now. However, when a model fails as badly as full decriminalisation of prostitution does, when it’s basis is so flawed , I argue that that model needs to be scrapped, and that a model be put in place which does not expand the trade, in what is mainly, though not exclusively, women and girls.

SUPPORT THIS LAW AND YOU WILL INCREASE THE HARMS AND THE DEMAND FOR THE PROSTITUTION MARKET

The proposed bill to decriminalise prostitution in South Australia is an open invitation to the ongoing human rights abuses of the sex-trade. It would be regressive and unconscionable to accept it. Research from Holland has found that the legalised prostitution market has resulted in mafia style racketeering. Do you really want to enact legislation that will add any extra burden to an already overstretched police force. South Australia was one of the first states to give women the right to vote, it would truly be a historical shame to be on the wrong side of history while the world moves ahead towards the abolition of systemic, sexual servitude and slavery alike.

I am asking you to think very carefully before imposing any new legislation which will entrench even greater normalisation of violence to women in Australian culture and impose this on future generations of women and children in the state of South Australia, or anywhere else.

Thank you for having me here today and for listening to my testimony.

Surprise! Prostituted Women STILL Don’t matter in Australia: A Follow Up Piece

Recently I wrote a piece about my experience giving testimony against the decriminalisation of sex-buyers and pimps. https://sim345.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/slap-the-pimps-on-the-back-prostituted-women-dont-matter-in-australia/ .   On August 2nd, CEO of YWCA Liz Forsyth wrote an ill-informed opinion piece which had all the hallmarks of the committee members who shut me down when I gave that testimony. Here is my response:

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http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/liz-forsyth-south-australia-has-some-of-the-countrys-most-outdated-and-strictest-laws-around-sex-work/news-story/de09e78f7bdd079b1c3fc1ed5b120288

 

There are so many falsehoods in Liz Forsyths article it is difficult to know where to begin. Like  many others (including journalists) who weigh in on the ‘sex work’ bandwagon Forsyth has taken half-baked notions of women’s freedom and health and swallowed wholesale the dubious claims about both decriminalisation and the Nordic Model. The costs to the majority in the sex-trade are dismissed with misinformation and an out-dated mode of sexual liberation and misplaced worker’s rights sloganeering.

Is Forsyth unaware of the history of the ‘sex worker rights’ movement? It began with good intentions here in Australia much as it did elsewhere, such as in the ILO in Europe. In late seventies Australia, the plight of women in prostitution was evident and instead of looking to the men buying these women for sex, the women were considered the vectors of disease,social problems,violence, drug abuse and lowering the market prices of ‘decent people’s’ homes. As a result, socialist groups and women’s rights groups countered with demanding protections- never endorsing prostitution, never claiming that it is a ‘job like any other’ nor indeed ‘inevitable’- but with  the goal to curb violence and stigma around these women while addressing the poverty and social factors which left these women vulnerable to male violence.

To sum it up briefly, as these things were tricky to mandate under existing legislation, the rights of prostituted women were put under the right to work and access to usual occupational health and safety laws that were already in place for other workers, in order to offer some bare minimum safety for these women.

The term ‘sex work’ itself was coined by two women who had never been in prostitution themselves but with the cynical attitude of so many globally that prostitution is ‘ the oldest profession’ the legislative framework of worker’s rights was used, ( again,first used by socialist feminists in good faith), to normalise it as meaningful work rather than oppression and an inherently abusive system of male domination over females. What began as a measure to protect women, became the noose of ‘harm minimisation’ and sex-trade expansion that we have today.

Forsyth’s take on the Nordic Model has flipped reality on it’s head. She doesn’t seem to have a basic understanding of economics and what supply and demand mean in a free market economy.

As a woman in a brothel in New Zealand told me “You’d think all of us would want the Nordic Model just because it limits competition alone. With fewer women you can set the prices and set the terms more easily”.

This woman in NZ goes on to say that the market is flooded with more and more ‘girls’ in both brothel and street, therefore it is the sex-buyers and brothel owners who set the rates and  enforce dress-codes, late fees, sick -day penalties and dish out black marks against women who call the police against violent sex-buyers or men who rob them. They get away with this because of increased demand. It isn’t rocket science.

You can read more about the failure of decriminalisation in NZ here.

https://reneejg.net/2017/06/06/six-survivors-speak-out-about-new-zealands-punishing-sex-industry/

Contrary to Forsyth’s claim that in 2016 the NSW Government thought everything was going swimmingly, a committee recommended setting up a special task force to deal with sex-trafficking alone.

 There has also been a push for licensing in NSW ( quite a doomed premise considering it does not hinder demand) but the reality of sex-trafficking cannot be ignored. 

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/push-for-sex-work-licence-to-cut-human-trafficking/news-story/600798c8d10d63fde8c09aa51a3db273

The failure of the licensing regime is evident in Germany where out of an estimated 450,000 people in the legal sex trade, the majority of whom are trafficked, only 44 are registered. 

It seems the South Australian based chapter of Soroptomist International Forsyth mentions have not read the Soroptomist International White Paper which clearly posits that ending demand, not decriminalising sex-buyers and third party profiteers is the best practice method. 

http://www.soroptimist.org/whitepapers/women-trafficking-sex-slavery.html

Forsyth uses Amnesty International as a one of the pinnacles to endorse decriminalisation, seemingly unaware of the fact that their policy was drafted by known pimp Douglas Fox in the UK with input from convicted sex traffickers. She also fails to take into account the flawed and pre-decided consultation process Amnesty International used in order to push through their policy. Amnesty Dosier

Forsyth also claims Zonta endorses the decriminalisation of sex-buyers and pimps, but that was not my experience when they welcomed both myself and anti-pornography activist and author professor Robert Jensen to speak at an event here in Australia. They purchased copies of a book I am featured in supporting Nordic Model laws in fact.

Forsyth doesn’t need to take my word for it that decriminalising sex-buyers and pimps is dangerous, misogynist and anathema to women’s human rights, but she may want to listen to a voice of reason from sex-trade survivor of both New Zealand and the UK, Rae Story, when she responded to a man who said legalisation  made prostitution safer

She wrote out the exchange here:

 

Man: “We should legalise prostitution, regulate it and make it safer.”

RAE: “Oh well you see, that does not work because prostitutes are too intermittent and vulnerable a social group, and so the idea that post legalisation they will effectively collectivise in order to ensure the ‘best standards’ – which is not really saying much – is theoretically implausible and has been demonstrated to not have a precedent.

It is an existential problem with the industry because we know that prostitution causes poor mental health, and/or is a result of it, because we know that only very vulnerable women – made vulnerable often by a conglomeration of factors such as poverty, poor health, previous experience of violence and rape, being from the care system or a diasporic or marginalized ethinic group…tend to be the prostitutional resource…and because post legalisation or decrim it will be in the interest of the new business pimps, who will leverage their prior wealth, in order to maintain the vulnerability of the group in order to make the most profits.

We also know that the longer a woman is trapped in prostitution & the younger she begins in prostitution the more likely she is to develop post traumatic stress, but the industry is tilted to preference young women and because they are a transient resource, especially in areas of high levels of migration, such as Europe, women from poorer countries will be catalogued in to service the growing needs of the market, an inevitability as growth is basic trajectory of free market capitalism. Which is a negative in food and clothing production but is even more so in prostitution, because, as I say, the vulnerability of the group is fundamental.

Indeed, keeping women vulnerable is a necessity of the industry and would be more so if a free market model is bought in. Its a Catch 22 , if you will. What makes all this more depressing as an idea is that the concomitant violences in prostitution such as battery and murder do not deplete. “

Man:”We should legalise prostitution, regulate it and make it safer.”

Rae: “Err, do you ever listen and respond to specific arguments?”

Man: “We should legalise prostitution, regulate it and make it safer.”

Rae: “Shit man. And you people run the world…”

 

When she said “And you people run the world ” Rae could just as easily been saying it to politicians and members of the legislative assemblies who insist this restrictive and out-dated proposal to decriminalise and legitimise the rights of sex-buyers, pimps and other third party profiteers is somehow better for ‘sex workers’.

As a sex-trade survivor I gave testimony to the Select Committee in South Australian parliament and was met with astonishing hostility not to mention illogicality.

https://sim345.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/slap-the-pimps-on-the-back-prostituted-women-dont-matter-in-australia/

 

People such as Forsyth, Franks, Lensink and Key who took this zealous push to decriminalise the sex-trade have become so dogmatic they put their highly irresponsible ideology above the facts and using confirmation bias to appease their dodgy ethical compass take groups such as SIN at face value. They do not consult with peak bodies for those in the sex-trade, they consult with government funded minorities who are not representative of ‘sex workers’, but are front groups for pimps.

 

Just because the sex-trade doesn’t impact on Forsyth personally, like Franks, Lensink and Key,she can still swill around in a cloud of delusion and believe she has been accurately informed.

 

It is an understandable oversight given the amount of propaganda she and so many of us are inundated with,but perhaps not a forgivable one considering her position in the community.  Her stance fits with the profile of tolerance for sexual exploitation which should be condemned given the position entrusted to her as the CEO of the YWCA. 

 

 

Simone Watson (pictured) is a survivor of the legal and illegal sex trade in Australia and director of Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NorMAC).  She is a contributor to the book Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade edited by Melinda Tankard Reist and Caroline Norma. She is a former member of Amnesty International and in 2014 was their Western Australian Human Rights Delegate.

Six survivors speak out about New Zealand’s punishing “sex” industry

Reality NZ

writing by renee

Below are six testimonies from women who have all been exploited within New Zealand’s sex trade, and who have exited to become vocally critical of the trade itself and wanting to see open debate on prostitution legislation in New Zealand.

Rae Story, excerpt from Working in a New Zealand brothel was anything but ‘a job like any other’, published on Feminist Current

The boss liked us to work most nights and so the constant interference from (often) rabid men left us bruised and sore. This one particular john had a thick penis, which he liked to jab in and out of me, as hard and fast as he could. Initially, I tried to breathe deeply and relax my muscles, but the pain was excruciating. I began to hold onto his hips to slow him down, push him away from me, but he got impatient and then angry, before flouncing off…

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When progressives support pimps

When Progressives Support Pimps by Laura Gene McNally

Laura Gene McNally

This article originally appeared on the ABC here

“Love how you treat them like slaves too bro love your work” pipes up one young Australian dad on Facebook. He is messaging Tim “Sharky” Ward, a notorious Australian pimp who lives in Pattaya, Thailand.

Pattaya’s lucrative sex trade boomed off the back of the United States Army who frequented the town for a bit of “rest and relaxation.” The trade continues to this day, bolstered by favourable economic policy and cohorts of sex tourists.

Pattaya’s demand for young women is particularly well served by the continued exclusion of minority and ethnic groups in the region.

Sharky, Pattaya’s resident pimp, boasts several hundred thousand online fans that flock to view his explicit images of young women. He also shares stories of how he demands respect and uses violence if “girls” don’t pay up – for instance, he put one woman in a…

View original post 1,162 more words

Vixen Collective? Vixen Collective Unspun:

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Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation)
http://vixencollective.net

Vixen’s Mission:
To empower all sex workers through the provision of community and peer support, and promoting the cultural, legal, human, occupational and civil rights of all sex workers.

VIXEN aims to overcome divisions between workers and acknowledge the links between us all. We celebrate us in all our diversity!

VIXEN is committed to promoting the wellbeing and rights of sex workers from all unique backgrounds. We value our members’ diversity of race, culture, gender, sexuality, ability, choice of drug use, ways of working and so on.

VIXEN also runs regular six weekly meetings for sex workers to catch up, be active in promoting sex worker rights and support each other.

The members of this Facebook Group are Victorian Sex Workers and Supporters. If you would like to show your support please feel free to join.

This is a community page, the intention of which is to share information relevant to the sex industry, promote discussion of sex worker rights and build solidarity and understanding with the broader community.

It is not the space for advertising nor is it the space for individuals to solicit new relationships. We will not tolerate any racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, whorephobia, slut shaming, fat shaming, victim blaming or any other behaviour perpetuates stigma against anyone.

 

Hmm.. Lets try that again:

Vixen Collective unspun sounds more like a Mens’ Rights group-  lets go with –

 Hiscon!

 

Hiscon’s mission:
To empower all sex buyers, pimps, procurers, profiteers and sex traffickers through propaganda extolling men’s entitlement and privilege through funding and control of ‘sex worker front groups’ and promotion of the mantra of choice and agency by sex workers.

HISCON aims to provoke divisions between sex workers and survivors of the sex trade to ensure no links can be forged to undermine our continued interest in perpetrating violence and abuse against girls and women we purchase to degrade and maintain our dominance over. We celebrate our success in perpetuating the commodification of girls and women and any others we choose to sexually exploit and want to increase supply of girls and women to be degraded by expanding an underclass of women through financial impoverishment or by any other means.

HISCON is committed to promoting men’s sociopathic behaviour and sexual aggression towards all women regardless of their class.  As proud misogynists we pride ourselves in targeting girls and women in ndigenous, ethnic and disadvantaged communities especially those who have been: sexually abused as children,  disabled, homeless, drug addicted, have a mental health illness or are trafficked as a result of military conflicts or ecological disasters.

HISCON runs regular six weekly meetings for sex buyers, procurers , pimps and profiteers  to share news and discuss how to further men’s right to sexually abuse and exploit girls and women.

The members of the Hiscon Facebook Group come from all over the world and are ready and waiting to buy girls or women in any circumstances. If you would like to show your support please feel free to join.

This is a community page, the intention of which is to share information relevant to men’s privilege and need to increase supply of girls and women to provide an outlet for our natural aggression and need to dominate women.  We want to build solidarity with other men and entrench male privilege in the minds of the broader community, corporations and politicians.

This is a space for advertising your opinions about your experiences as a punter and as advocates for free speech we welcome any comments that are: racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, whorephobic, survivor phobic, slut shaming, fat shaming, and any other degrading and hateful language you choose to use against the underclass women.

 

barcode-elements-4753610

I think a everyone can do with a bit of honesty now and then. 

Slap the Pimps on the Back: Prostituted women Don’t Matter in Australia

 

 

 

Sitting in front of the select committee in South Australian parliament to testify against the decriminalisation of sex-buyers, pimps and profiteers in 2016 I could have been forgiven for thinking the sex-trade was comprised of women with disabilities buying sex from men. My experience of being bought by men along with that of currently and formerly prostituted women seemed to disappear in a puff of smoke.

hamburg

Two women and a representative of a disability care organisation testified at the loneliness and lack of physical intimacy suffered by disabled women and their heart-wrenching stories moved the committee to exceptional patience and compassion as they stumbled through, with much courage, lengths of personal testimony on their suffering due to lack of access to sex. I was moved too- so much so that when it was my turn to testify,  I forgot that it wasn’t illegal for two parties to buy or sell sex in South Australia, and therefore query what on earth they were talking about. Hadn’t they just told the committee that they used male ‘sex workers’ legally? Why, for example, did anyone else have to profit from the experience of paying and being bought for sex? Why were they insisting that pimps be legitimised? Did the fact that the prostituted incur disability matter?  Did my disability matter? (nope.)

My testimony immediately followed theirs and was met with about as much patience and compassion as a chain-smoker in a room full of asthmatics. Apart from speaking about my time in legal prostitution I spoke of women I had met who had been sex-trafficked in New South Wales. But that was prior to decriminalisation, insisted Tammy Franks of the Greens Party exchanging conspirational smiles with committee chair Michelle Lensink- (We got her now!)

I was so surprised that any one could smile during my testimony I forgot to correct that assumption and remind them that decriminalisation in NSW had happened nearly a decade before I met these women, and it was the decriminalisation of pimps and sex-buyers that came after my time there.

These women meant business and that was to push the bill through at any cost. An effective tactic was to sit glaring into my eyes while I stumbled, with much courage, through my personal testimony (now shortened due to time constraints) of suffering at the hands of men who bought me for sex.

Since 1979, various bodies have been trying to push through further deregulation of prostitution in South Australia to extend decriminalisation to brothel owners and other third party profiteers. Now, in 2017 Michelle Lensink is telling us to get with the times and expresses confidence that this bill will pass. Others are not so sure but one would hope that the lessons learned from such legislation in NSW and New Zealand would pose a warning to those who believe that the expansion of the sex-trade is a positive move.

Not all of the bill is problematic. On paper it has some healthy rhetoric around removing restrictions on the prostituted on the basis of stigmatisation and discrimination. It is ‘fluffy’ language and meaningless in terms of efficacy but at least it looks like they tried. Scrolling through the proposed bill nothing seems untoward until one finds the clause protecting pimps,sex-buyers, advertisers and procurers. That they are added under such protections is a dangerous and unnecessary inclusion in an otherwise harmless kind of document. And while front groups for pimps and sex-buyers are referred to as sex workers,  I am referred to as a “self described prostitution survivor”.

Apparently rhetoric goes a long way. ‘Sex worker rights are human rights’ is one such slogan designed to jibe the general public into complicity with pimps and extend funding to front groups who call themselves ‘sex workers’. While the proposed bill makes some tentative inclusion of exit programs, most references used are from the Scarlet Alliance, (cohorts with the Sex Industry Network (SIN) in South Australia) who along with the Vixen Collective were upset at ongoing funding being given to the only entity offering exit programs for those who want to leave the sex-trade – Project Respect. They were ‘outraged’ in fact: http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/national-news/victoria-news/victoria-sex-worker-outrage/154708

The Scarlet Alliance and Vixen use the language of ‘peer-support’ as the best method of supporting ‘sex-workers’ . Peer support from a class analysis and indeed a psychological therapeutic frame work makes sense to me, and would make for an important debate around issues of state control, paternalism and crusades formulated and endorsed by those who consider the prostituted as mainly ‘bad women’ who are tempters of men. They would make sense if peer support was actually grounded in the abuses of the rights of the underclass, but in this case they are not. Given these groups are not representative of the prostituted, the very idea that they are referring to such peer support for that majority is an indefensible breach of , and disconnect from, the most marginalised in the sex trade.

While ‘sex worker rights’ groups such as the Scarlet Alliance claim federal funding to disseminate propaganda aimed at ‘lifting’ up an underclass, the majority in prostitution are swept up in the neo-liberalism of identity politics and pushed to the wayside-with the use of mainly females for male sexual gratification being framed as a ‘choice’ for women,and any harm suffered reducible to ‘stigma’ rather than male violence. Socialists unite and let men have at us in the name of liberation for the masses? Criminalising sex-buyers and pimps ‘pushes prostitution underground and makes it dangerous’? Is it some underpass or side street that jumps out and murders women? I’m sure the men who rape and murder the women they buy are pleased at their complete lack of responsibility here. Where are the Scarlet Alliance when a woman is raped and tortured in legal prostitution and the law deems it a theft of service? The silence is deafening.

For my part, if I must be stigmatised I would rather that stigmatisation be based on the reality of being prostituted than be heralded in the future as someone who fought to normalise the expansion of the sex-trade and the male sexual entitlement that put me there. Shame on Lensink and Franks for being on the side of pathological commercialisation and an abstract ideology that refuses to locate the human toll within that. Their almost gleeful push for decriminalising sex-buyers, pimps and profiteers  reminds me of the school yard mentality of back-slapping the one who dealt the latest blow to the underdog. It is something to be truly ashamed of.

 

  • Update: last link below is part of a Hansard from Tammy Franks MP from July 5 th 2017

+ https://sim345.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/testimony-select-committee-decriminalisation-of-sex-work-south-australia-2016/

http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/deconstructing-the-disability-trump-card/

* https://www2.parliament.sa.gov.au/Internet/DesktopModules/MemberDrill.aspx?pid=4363

** http://www2.parliament.sa.gov.au/internet/desktopmodules/memberdrill.aspx?pid=2742

*** http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-31/push-to-decriminalise-sex-work-one-step-closer-in-sa/8574924

**** https://reneejg.net/2017/06/06/six-survivors-speak-out-about-new-zealands-punishing-sex-industry/

A few weeks after the publication of this blog, Tammy Franks really enjoyed putting the boot  in. Her sympathy for the disabled apparently does not extend to people with disabilities created in the sex-trade such as myself, and her claim that anyone, including the disabled, are not legally allowed to buy sex is a flat out lie. Astonishingly she goes to great length to dismiss the feminists who testified against decriminalising pimps and johns because she didn’t know who they were. Apparently, if you hadn’t had a cigarette behind the shelter-sheds  with Ms Franks when she was in high school you couldn’t possibly be a feminist. tammy franks hansard July 5 2017

Look Back in Anger

Rebecca Mott

The sex work lobby wants exited women to disappear into silence.

We will not, we will be loud, we will speak truth to power, we will not rest as we see the daily genocide of the prostituted.

Exited women are not meant to be here.

We are meant to be dead – or too damaged to speak out.

No-one is allowed to a witness to the conditions of prostitution.

That is the reality of how the sex trade has always worked, it destroyed all our humanity and power to express our truths.

But we are alive, we have keep our sanity, we are growing in our truth-speaking.

We know our past are the presents of far too many prostituted women and girls.

And we are angry.

We see and know the rooms, the streets, the brothels, the hotels, the flats, the cars, and endless sites that are prostituted Sisters are…

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