A week late with the good news…
Posted on June 25, 2010
You’ve probably all heard by now anyway, but just in case you haven’t – last week UNISON Conference voted overwhelmingly in support of the Demand Change! motion. This means that supporting the Nordic model of prostitution, criminalising those who buy sex while at the same time decriminalising those who sell it, is now official UNISON policy.
There are some good write ups about it here, and here, and a UNISON news item about it here.
There was some opposition to the motion, but not as much as I was expecting to be honest. I do know that prior to conference an email was circulated among activists from Thierry Schaffauser, President of the GMB Sex Workers Branch, asking people to oppose the policy of criminalising clients, but I’m not sure how much impact that had. While we were at conference Workers Liberty and the Labour Representation Committee held a fringe meeting where they argued against the policy, and at which Thierry was the guest speaker, but again, I’m not sure how much impact that had either – although judging by the final vote not a great deal at all.
I noticed that the day after that meeting Workers’ Liberty put out a leaflet claiming that:
“Last night 60 delegates packed out the Workers’ Liberty/LRC fringe meeting on this issue, which was addressed by GMB sex work activist Thierry Schaffauser. We think that at this meeting, which members of the women’s committee attended to put their case for 117, the arguments for a different approach to this question were won conclusively.”
Which was not the case at all, as we didn’t go to the fringe to put our case, but simply to listen to what arguments they were going to use so that we wouldn’t be taken by surprise by anything during the conference debate. And the arguments for a different approach were not won conclusively – they were just the same old arguments we’ve heard time and time again, on this blog and others. But never mind, I’m sure it’s only similar to what my side would have said if the opposition had turned up at our fringe meeting.
Unfortunately on the day the debate was cut short, which was a shame as it was a really interesting debate and there were still a lot of people lined up waiting to speak. But the important thing is that we finally had the debate, that we took the motion to our National Conference and we won.
Now all we have to do is find a way to deal with the some of the shitty sexist attitudes still rife within the union, as illustrated by the big laugh some bloke got when he made reference to having to pay full price for his porn in his conference speech, and the guy who came out of the hall after the prostitution debate and joked about having to have a whip round so he could buy himself a prostitute before the whole thing was made illegal…..
For comments from a more evidence-based, human rights focussed view, see
The IUSW believes sex workers’ consent counts and that people in the sex industry, whether by choice, circumstance or coercion, are entitled to the same human rights – including the right to consent to or refuse sexual activity – as other people.
Thanks so much for your hard work – it so good to have progress.
This is so much empty rhetoric. Everyone believes that those in the sex industry are entitled to human rights, conflating the ‘right’ to be a prostitute with human rights is just plain dishonest.
If prostitution is how you survive, you can’t keep on saying ‘no’, not for a week, or a month, or even a day if you’re drug dependent. And what happens to the men who do hear a no? They go and find someone who isn’t in a position to say no – the IUSW et al ignore completely the issue of demand, and of male entitlement.
Claims like this are disgusting and laughable, and just help prove that the IUSW is nothing more than a lobby group for pimps and johns. If men didn’t want to pay to sexually exploit others, then how come it just keeps on happening?
There are always misogynists in every organisation and sadly UNISON is no exception. These two men demonstrated their pseudo male sex right to women by making those insulting statements.
Coincidentally, here is a link to factual evidence concerning prostitution which takes a human rights approach whereby women are human and yes indeed women are not for sale or sexual exploitation by men or rather as I term them Johns.
Coalition Against Trafficking In Women is another very useful website which adopts the stance that men do not have the innate right to purchase women, girls or subject us to mundane sexual exploitation and male sexual violence.
Hate to think what policy the IUSW is drawing up on libraries.
Maybe someone could inform me just where, in the words of Demand Change’s motion, “enshrined within the UK’s current legislation is men’s right to buy women”?
I must confess to failing to read most UK legislation, but I have read a lot of it, and I haven’t seen that one.
I had hoped, vaguely, that Unison’s health branches would have stood up to this nonsense. Maybe they were too busy drawing up libraries policy.
I suspect (and hope), though, that Unison is going to be somewhat preoccupied over the next few years rightly fighting for public sector workers.
But surely we’ve already been round this loop?
Not even Labour under Brown or the police were in favour of the Nordic model because of the sheer cost and complexity of enforcing it in a country like this, with its burgeoning population of 61 million. And the police are even less likely to get any additional funding to enforce it now.
You know what would really save police time and resources? Scrap all laws. After all, none of them work anyway do they? There have been laws against murder throughout the world for millennia, but murders still keep on happening.
Laws have a normative value, they demonstrate what is expected behavior in society. The Nordic Model says it’s not acceptable to exploit economic and social inequality by paying another human being to submit to unwanted sex.
Catherine, could you expand on the ways in which you think that anyone involved in the Demand Change campaign take an anti human rights approach?
Posted today on the scottish coalition against sexual exploitation facebook page:
‘Mary Sullivan, in the report ‘What Happens When Prostitution Becomes Work?’, which explores the legalisation of prostitution in the Australian State of Victoria, discusses some harm reduction and harm minimisation strategies promoted:
‘..Specialist groups now offer brothel management programs on self-defence and conflict resolution that superficially provide some avenue of defence against the violence of prostitution…
.. advertising catchphrases include ‘controlling self-violation that pre-empts negative outcomes’;
‘creating a common vision that shares an empathetic rapport with the violator’; ‘de-escalation negotiation’; ‘maintaining “first strike” advantage’ (ibid). This program is suggestive of crisis management for hostage situations. In what other non-military profession can hostage negotiations be deemed necessary to cope with the normal workday?..’
‘Legalisation has offered nothing for women caught up in this system of exploitation. Legitimising prostitution as work has simply worked to normalise the violence and sexual abuse that they experience on a daily basis. Victoria must not be seen as a model for other countries attempting to deal with the escalating trade in women and children for sex. Legalised prostitution is government-sanctioned abuse of women and violates their right to equality and safety..’
So Catherine, is it your contention that government sanctioned abuse of women is the way forward on this issue? Any why do you continue to promote the IUSW when it’s been exposed time and again as a sham organisation comprised of pimps, johns and managers?
Fantastic news Cath.
Catherine: can I point out there is a difference between ‘willing’ and ‘consenting’. They mean two different things.
Hiya Polly, can I please read your blog?
I need your wordpress ID valerie.
Not even Labour under Brown or the police were in favour of the Nordic model because of the sheer cost and complexity of enforcing it in a country like this, with its burgeoning population of 61 million
Well how many of those 61 million do you think are punters Gulfstream5? And hello, we already know the police know where the local brothels , sorry massage parlours/saunas, are, DOH! (if you’re stuck just look in your local paper, they’ll usually carry ads for them). And they’re already illegal you numpty.
Sorry polly it’s ukfeminist
catherine – no feminist would try and silence another woman’s human rights. but as other commenters said, when being paid to be masturbated in to is your job, and you need money to live, then you aren’t always consenting are you?
plus research has endlessly shown that it isn’t coercion that puts men off buying women or men for their sexual pleasure. its the fear of being found out (see recent Object campaign).
Douglas Fox doesn’t care about women.