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Changing cultural beliefs on prostitution

I had a very productive meeting with the dynamic Dr Carrie image Pemberton yesterday, founder of CHASTE – Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking in Europe.

She is thrilled that Home Office Minister Vernon Coker will be speaking at their major conference in London this month, which focuses on the demand for prostitution.

She is also thrilled with four recent anonymous donations from men who wanted to demonstrate their support, who feel equally appalled that so many women are forced into prostitution after being illegally trafficked.

The high profile conference, called Tackling Demand for Human Trafficking, is being held on Thursday, 24 January at the International Headquarters of the Salvation Army, London. Speakers also include senior representatives from the Swedish police, a representative from the nationwide police initiative, Pentameter 2 which has concentrated police efforts on unveiling the hidden abuse of trafficked women in brothels across the country, as well as sex trafficking experts from South Africa, Canada, Denmark and America. I shall be there.

Anyone who wants a clearer understanding of the horrific abuse experienced by sexually trafficked women should read the CHASTE book entitled Not For Sale. This is one chilling extract:

“I said I didn’t want to pole-dance any more. I didn’t like what I was doing. he then beat me up and raped me. I was sold to this guy who brought me to England – I was to work for him now. If I go back home, I won’t have a head or legs or hands, they will find me – I am very scared.”

How can anyone turn a blind eye to that kind of abuse? Four thousand women are being trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation every year. CHASTE also provides much needed safe houses for women who have been rescued from brothels and sex slavery.

Changing cultural beliefs about prostitution is the huge challenge faced by Carrie and her dedicated team. I shall be doing my bit today by promoting the conference and making media calls.

*I’ve just come across this post by Harriet Harmen who Carrie has met to lobby on this subject, strongly urging our government to adopt the Swedish model where the man is criminalised when paying for sex, not the women, and they seem to be in total agreement. Unfortunately, there are no updates on the Labour’s deputy leader’s blog following her recent announcement to make it illegal to pay for sex.

Update 9 January: This post is listed as one of the best of the web Guardian online posts.


39 Comments

  1. Very interesting post and comments. I would like to read the CHASTE book.

  2. Just to inform everyone that Nick Craven has written a feature on this subject and it may be published in the Daily Mail tomorrow. He interviewed Carrie, CEO of CHASTE. Do look out for it.

  3. jean shaw

    Good news re Peterborough and I commend the work of Chaste.
    This is exactly what the Police should be doing and it emphasises the point I was making that it is easy for the Police to find out where criminals/kidnappers are operating from.
    It also reinforces my point that the Police need no NEW powers , just do their job.

  4. “I think its also interesting to note that the police found these brothels, in part, through the same ways as ordinary punters would find a brothel: through advertising in local newspapers, and adverts in phone booths.” (Carol)

    How else to you expect an investigator to look for brothels? Has this country lost so much common sense that its’ demonstartion becomes a curiosity?

  5. Fantastic story and thread, Ellee. Really enlightening.

  6. Jean, many thanks from me too for your story, it is certainly very interesting, and I hope you remain unharmed and in control. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the women who CHASTE helps, those who have been forced into prostitution after being trafficked illegally. Please read this story about how these women were rescued, and Peterborough is very close to where I live:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article2547626.ece

  7. Carol, thanks for your updates on the excellent work of CHASTE. One can only imagine the relief of these poor women on being rescued from their cruel captors.

  8. The police have been carrying out operations on both a local level (like in Cambridgeshire with Operation Radium) and a National Level. Although the police are yet to release the statistics on the raids, I do know that they found a large number of brothels in Peterborough, set up to look like ordinary residences, where trafficked women are being kept.

    I also know that as a result of the national operation, Pentameter II, all of the spaces in safe houses which specifically cater for Trafficked women throughout the UK have been filled to capacity and victims who have been rescued have had to be found alternative housing. CHASTE helped in the planning and co-ordination of both those operations.

    I think this goes to show just how deep the problem runs. I think its also interesting to note that the police found these brothels, in part, through the same ways as ordinary punters would find a brothel: through advertising in local newspapers, and adverts in phone booths.

  9. jean shaw

    Certainly I agree with some of the points you make Carol but the Police already have extensive powers to deal with these crimes of rape, kidnap and imprisonment and there is absolutely no need for them to be given extra powers. I do accept that there are some really evil people about but my worry is the reverse of yours that if the Police get ever more powers which they do NOT need then the many men and women who have a positive experience of paid sex will be harmed.

    I would also take issue that I am in a minority segment of the business , go to the many websites and you will see the numbers of women who are successfully plying their business . The many massage parlours which exist also show this as they are well run businesses.

    If they are not why do the Poice not raid them , they have ample powers to do so , the women who are held against their will would be freed , I appreciate that the women themselves may not have been in a position to free themselves but what are the Police for but to help the unfortunate. It does not take a genius to identify where criminals are active, you cannot move brothels overnight.

    Again the well run businesses pay taxes why does the Inland Revenue do nothing about those crooks who run brothels or massage parlours and pay nothing. Again dead easy to identify where they are.

    I am afraid it is the usual problem of Government if in doubt introduce more laws

  10. Dear Jean,

    I recognise that there are women like you who service the ‘high end’ of the prostitution market, but I think you would be incorrect to think that your experience it a common one.

    Statistics show, that most women get into prostitution before the age of 15. That they have been coerced into it by a trusted older male in their life who act as their pimp. This, cannot by any standard, seem to be a freely chosen career path. Once ‘in the game’, these women find it very difficult to get out, and even those who wish to and work with NGOs and charities, sometimes take years to overcome drug or alcohol problems which they developed through their work.

    I wish to make to moral judgement on the ethics or ‘buying and selling’ sex, but merely want to highlight that in practise, your experience is exceptional, and the majority of sex workers, predominantly street workers, are without doubt exploited.

    You were able to make certain choices, most women in the sex industry do not feel that they do have alternatives, nor do they feel that they can choose their clients and often end up beaten and abused by them. When women are pulling tricks simply to survive, they can’t be very picky about their cliental. Being raped regularly, is not uncommon for these women, as the punters who frequent them are well aware or their desperate situation and are prepared to take full advantage.

    The service you provide, and the men you provide it to, are not the majority.

    Finally, I would like to point out, that when it come to trafficked women, the argument of morality of the ‘sex industry’ does not enter into it. Trafficked women in the sex industry are forced, physically and mentally, to have sex with men for money. Their traffickers and pimps use a variety of both physical and mental means to manacle these women to the work. These women literally have NO option. They are threatened with their lives and these have proved not to be empty threats. Others have their families in their country of origin threatened. Certain women from parts of Africa have been told that any attempt to rebel against their captors will result in sickness and death, as they have had blood voodoo or juju curse put on them. When these women have sex for money, (which is them kept by their pimps) it is not informed, or freely chosen. It without doubt has all the hallmarks or RAPE.

    I do not wish to attack you or what you do, but merely emphasise that the longer that prostitution is viewed predominantly as the way you have experienced it, the less likely the public and governing bodies are to address the terrible exploitation that other sex workers experience. These women, the silent majority, for the reasons described above do not have the freedom to communicate their experience in the way that you so eloquently have and thus, like exploited people for centuries, rely on others to give them a voice. I sincerely hope that you do not shout your own agenda so loudly as to block out theirs.

    Thank you for your story.

    Carol

  11. jean shaw

    Yes, via my “self- employed” company. It is fairly simple to set up a model agency , P.R company or other company which consists solely of an individual’s hands on work . Take a small model agency consisting of one hard working individual.
    Admittedly I dont expect all workers in the sex trade particularly those in it for quick cash e.g students , temporarily unemployed bother to do so. However anyone in it for any length of time has no option.
    Mind you if it was a legal business the Government would be able to earn a lot more from taxes.
    Can I just add that well run massage parlours also pay tax , it is usually the dodgy ones which dont and that should provide the authorities with another way to act against them but , of, course, they rarely do.

  12. Did you pay tax, Jean ?

  13. jean shaw

    Mamaluuu ,
    I am sorry but you always have choices, I could have stayed in a rubbish job for the rest of my life . My clients could have remained celibate or remained faithful to their wives/partners. I know that several of my clients love their wives but sexually there is something missing and rather than have an affair which most of them could easily do they prefer to solve their problem in a practical unemotional way. In fact I get respect from clients because I provide a service which satisfies their needs and the last thing I am going to do is create a scene or tell the wife/partner. They know I am honest and have no emotional ties to them even when I like them.

  14. mamaluuuu

    Lots of interesting things being said, except one which keeps cropping up: prostitution is not the “oldest profession”. It is what you do when you have absolutely no choices left and have to earn money by being exploited – or,(in the case of women like Jean Shaw), by exploiting those who are incapable of finding a real, rewarding, (albeit flawed), reltionship. What we foolishly tend to deem as “high class” prostitution is also exploitative and has no more “class” than the backstreet kind. Prostitution only works where respect from and to both parties is missing. I suggest that reading the CHASTE book might help clarify some of your muddled and rather sentimental thinking.

  15. Again politics is going all topsy-turvy on us.
    We end up in this moral maze because the left wing politicians ruling us have been wrong all along. For decades we’ve been trying to tell them so.

    Firstly they open our borders and then wonder why we end up with endemic gun crime, drug dealing and prostitution. Then in typical fashion they target the indiginous (male) population for their ire and create yet more new laws that would not be needed if they had been doing their jobs properly in the first place.

    The whole point of uncontrolled immigration is to undercut our labour market – this is happening in everything from plumbing to prostitution. This benefits both politicians and their rich party backers but it does nothing for your average Joe/Josephine – WE DON’T WANT IT – THEY DO. The likes of Jean Shaw (comment 23) were perfectly happy with the situation before, now women choosing to follow her path have it much more difficult.

    The POLITICIANS made this situation. They created it whereby less decent standards are imported into our country. A situation whereby our daughters won’t even have the option of selling there bodies for a decent price if that’s what they choose to do in the hard times to come.

    Isn’t it ironic that since the bra-burning feminism of the 60s and the the rise of more and more female politicians that the sexual ‘revolution’ has left women more oppressed and abused than they ever were ? In fact 1960s sentiment seems utterly determined to strip away every safeguard and vestige of decency by importing the world’s suffering INTO our country on a massive scale.

  16. “*I’ve just come across this post by Harriet Harmen who Carrie has met to lobby on this subject, strongly urging our government to adopt the Swedish model where the man is criminalised when paying for sex, not the women, and they seem to be in total agreement. Unfortunately, there are no updates on the Labour’s deputy leader’s blog following her recent announcement to make it illegal to pay for sex”.

    Even the Nazis and the Communists couldn’t stop prostitution.

    If one wants to remove the trafficking problem from the UK, we need proper border controls. That wont happen whilst we are still in the EU.

    Making men criminalized for paying for sex is absurd. A policy promoted by angry women of the left who don’t understand the male psyche.

  17. jean shaw

    I am proud to announce that as a liberated woman paying my taxes and following my intended career path I am now in my 30’s financially secure for the rest of my life ,able to retire fairly soon and have made many friends.
    How did I do this I began work in a massage parlour , saved money, rented and then bought my own flat and charge men £150 per hour to have sex with me . If you think I feel exploited you have to be joking , rather the exploiting is the other way round.
    People who denigrate the profession , particularly women such as Harriet Harman and even , I am sorry to say , Ellee have had advantages in life that many British women have never had . Throughout the ages women have always used their sex to get financial or status advantage and this continues to today :-female “C list “celebrities use their sex to charge fees for accompanying men to events, young women regularly marry older richer powerful men.
    3 further comments
    1)Police have ample powers to stop the exploitation of women who are being misused. They do not need any more.
    2) Most women who come to this country from overseas are today not illegal as no trafficker wants to complicate matters for him/herself by bringing in non-EU citizens. The women may have been brought here under false pretences but they are not illegal which also demonstrates the excuse it is difficult to prosecute traffickers because the women are deported immediately and so cannot give evidence as rubbish, you cannot deport EU citizens.
    3) Having written to 3 Government Ministers since the beginning of December it is worthy of note I have not received even the courtesy of an acknowledgement let alone a sensible reply.

  18. I would like to thank everyone for their comments, and Beverly and Jim for their personal insights. My views changed on this subject after working with CHASTE and our aims are primarily for the safety and well being of women forced into this life against their will after being trafficked.

  19. Prostitution isn’t known as the oldest profession by chance, taking increasingly authoritarian approaches isn’t really going to help. And on the separate issue of trafficking and sexual slavery, well as many have already pointed out, it is already covered by many serious criminal acts. Adding unnecessary legislation has been one of Labour’s most predictable public relations strategies for covering up the failure to enforce existing legislation effectively, it doesn’t actually work, it just gives the illusion that something is being done.

  20. jim hamilton

    As said above the Police have ample powers already to control sex trafficking I dont believe they require any more, all they need to do is their job.
    However I must declare a personal interest as a widower in my forties with 2 teenage children it is very difficult to establish any new long term relationship with a member of the opposite sex ( I have tried dating agencies / social clubs) so I have in the last 6 months had recourse to a massage parlour to satisfy my needs.
    After a couple of unsatisafactory “massages” I now have a regular lady. First of all none of the girls who work in the parlour feel in way debased, they chose the job,they work at most 3 days a week and earn good money. They regard their clients not as exploiters but as customers. With the lady I visit as in any successful buyer/supplier relationship a friendship has developed. Money changes hands but it does in all business relationship. She certainly feels no problem about doing her job and it gives her freedom to do other things and not to worry about her finances.
    Please recognise that many thousands of ladies work quite successfully in this profession of their own choice

  21. Beverly Johnson

    I am an escort and it is a profession I chose because I came from a poor background with minimal educational qualifications. I enjoy my job and I am now financially secure for the rest of my life. I have the power to decide how hard I work and when I work .
    Re trafficking yes it is evil but the Police have all the power they need already but totally fail to do their job ,there is absolutely no need for additional powers except possibly the legalisation of prostitution which would give protection to the girls working at the riskier end of the business i.e on the street.

  22. This is what an open immigration policy brings to us. Slavery. Our politicians have caused this and now they posture as saviours.

    But otherwise why is it wrong to pay for sex or to sell it ?

    Surely it’s far more honourable than telling someone you love them when you don’t mean it.

  23. Ellie,

    Newmania, the WI idea is flawed because it promotes prostitution and if you spoke to many women in this trade, they are in it against their will or because there is no alternative.

    What are you talking about? I’m sorry, but I must have missed the meeting where kidnap, rape, blackmail, false imprisonment and assault were made legal.

    How would you feel if it was your wife, you sister, your daughter?

    Do you seriously think that we should make policy from such an emotive standpoint.

    But since you ask, were my wife, sister or daughter in prostitution, I would rather that it was in a safe, licensed brothel where she could have regular check-ups, than out of the street with all the risks of assault, drugs and murder that go with it, and the fear of going to a doctor with a medical problem for fear that he’ll turn her in.

    David, you say, “As for believing that we shall ever completely eradicate prostitution: how absurd!? Don’t you feel innocent women should be protected from those who force them into this, like the extract I quoted demonstrates?

    You will never completely eradicate prostitution, Ellie; just accept that will you. We haven’t been able to do in the last few hundred years, just as we have not been able to eradicate drugs. PLease try and put your emotions away and face reality: it’s so important.

    As for innocent women being forced into this, as I pointed out above, kidnap, rape, blackmail, false imprisonment and assault ARE ALREADY ILLEGAL, as is living off immoral earnings. Get it?

    You may not like prostitution, Ellie, but — as with drugs — by far the most damage is done by its illegality.

    DK

  24. StevenL

    It’s a funny one this. One thing you notice moving from the North-East to any large town or City South is that down here you guys have a retail sex trade. By this I mean your local authorities allow brothels to trade openly in certain areas of your towns or cities and advertise explicitly in your local press. In Newcastle this does not happen.

    The thinking seems to be that doing this keeps it ‘off the street’ (at least according to bureaucrats and policefolk I’ve discussed this with). Yet in Newcastle there is no red-light district either, nor is there a big herion problem.

    I’m not naive enough to think there are no prostitutes in Newcastle, a quick ‘google’ search soon displays that myth, in fact commercial TV stations have made a couple of eye-opening documentry programs about escort agencies in Newcastle over the last few years.

    I would imagine that if men are to be criminalised for paying for sex the ‘high-street’ trade will die out and be replaced by internet-based arrangements. No police force is going to want to spend the neccessary resources to go after men who arrange to have an escort delivered to a hotel, the easy target would be to raid the odd massage parlour. A few stupid men will get caught out and the trade will move further behind closed doors.

    Best thing to do would be to legislate in order to spell out far-reaching enforcement powers for police to tackle the more abusive end of the sex trade and start spying on, and subsequently raiding such establishments and the houses of their proprietors.

    Only it’s probably not worth the bother – if the pimps and traffickers don’t worm their way out of it using the Human Rights Act they will probably end up serving half of a five year senetence before coming out and starting all over again.

    I doubt the Saudi’s have this problem.

  25. Here is a link to the prostitutes murders referred to by Ian, and killer Robert Pickton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Pickton

  26. Ian, the woman you mention and her work sounds really interesting, I wonder if you could refer her to this post so she can read about CHASTE and their work.
    I’m stunned by the murder trial you mention, is that a record?

    Newmania, I wonder what those women would say now, what their lives are really like. Was poverty driving them to it, or the need to feed a drug habit? Perhaps lack of education or skills? What alternatives did they really have? These are the issues that need addressing.

  27. if you spoke to many women in this trade, they are in it against their will or because there is no alternative. How would you feel if it was your wife, you sister, your daughter?

    What on earth makes you think that I have never met prostitutes. My experience was that they did it because they liked the money . They certainly did not have to do it and in any case this has nothing to do with coercion or trafficking.Perhaps you and I should go down to the Capricorn club and ask them there ?If it was illegal they would just be poorer.
    Your point about , how would i feel if it was my daughter ..well pretty bad ,..but so what ?

  28. They may pass these Bills, but the World’s Oldest Profession won’t stop just like that. It’s the abuse and violence towards women in the sex trade which is a primary concern.

  29. Ian Lidster

    I admire greatly those who devote energies to bettering the lot of those in the ‘oldest profession.’ The abuse of prostitutes is universal and those in authority turn a hypocritical blind eye to it almost invariably.
    I have a friend, head of a prostitute empowerment body in Victoria BC who is endeavoring to open that city’s first ‘legal’ brothel as a means of addressing abuse. Needless to say she runs up against one brick wall after another.
    And that comes in the wake of a two year trial of a man who was just recently convicted of the murder of over 50 Vancouver prostitutes.

  30. – “if you spoke to many women in this trade, they are in it against their will or because there is no alternative”

    So how will those women with no alternatives cope when men find it’s illegal to buy their services!?! Sell drugs? Sell a kidney?

    Maybe the Government should start an advertising campaign in Eastern Europe warning of the dangers of illegal trafficking?

  31. Seems to be a deliberate? blurring here of two separate issues – prostitution and trafficking.

    Rather than criminalising men who pay for sex perhaps it would be better to enlist their help and give them the confidence them to report any suspected cases of enforced prostitution.

  32. All that is so and yet there is an element in the girl’s femaleness which makes it easier to drag her into things where she has no one to advise her.

  33. Newmania, the WI idea is flawed because it promotes prostitution and if you spoke to many women in this trade, they are in it against their will or because there is no alternative. How would you feel if it was your wife, you sister, your daughter?

    David, you say, “As for believing that we shall ever completely eradicate prostitution: how absurd!” Don’t you feel innocent women should be protected from those who force them into this, like the extract I quoted demonstrates?

  34. Well Ellee if you will back up Harmanisation…. Harriet and I are very distantly related BTW

  35. David Allen

    Newmania is right _ if the buying of sex is ethically wrong, then it is wrong for everyone, regardless of their gender or the gender of the person from whom they buy it. Equally, if the buying of sex is wrong, then its sale must also be wrong. But we needn’t dance on pinheads here. This excuse-for-a-policy is because this half-arsed government think the problem of the forced trafficking of women into Britain for sex is easier and cheaper to tackle by having a few high-profile prosecutions of their male clients than by addressing the real problem: which is our porous borders which allow people trafficking in the first place. Stronger borders, more police, more enforcement of our current laws and more prisons are what is needed _ But Nu-Lab won’t deliver any of these. As for believing that we shall ever completely eradicate prostitution: how absurd! No other society ever has.

  36. No no no no no
    . Instead of trying to sort out the mess that is the Home Office and the Criminal Justice system Labour suggest ……..( roll on the drums ) , an ill thought out and cheap political gambit they hope will make the Conservatives appear anti women.
    MacShane’s amendment( for it was he ) to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill will give power to the police to prosecute a man who pays for sex ,fine him or send him to jail. Henry Porter in Guardian Unlimited comments as follows.
    ..?it will not be illegal for a woman to sell sex, as long as she complies with the laws concerning the sex trade, chiefly soliciting. Also, it will not be illegal for a man to buy sex from another man or a woman to buy sex from a man, or a woman from a woman, though all these variants in the sex trade – some extremely rare, I grant you – will have to comply with the law in other respects.?

    So its mess and patently unjust . No doubt we would prefer that men did not buy sex but they do and I doubt it will be in the power of Gordon Brown to stop either buyer or seller. (Christ do you think anyone ever shagged him for his looks and charm!) Men and women agree a deal and they freely entre into a contract. Never have myself ( due to a severe squeamishness about STD`s), but I would say about half of my male acquaintances have at some point, probably more.This is none of the governments business
    In any case who is to say when payment is made . Get the Dinner bill and you could end up doing a stretch at her Majesties pleasure . If she pays she is in the clear, which at least provides us with the best excuse I have heard for while ….. ” Sorry you`ll have to pay for sex with me now .I would do the honmours but its illegal …”

    The figures are compete nonsense manufactured by the victim brigade .( How on earth would you know ), z\and the laws we have are ample to deal with the problem

    Kidnap ,rape and assault are already illegal and I thin you`ll find that women`s attitudes are as involved as mens. the WI had a better idea legalise brothles and monitor them . Now that might work….but oh no , lets have another stupid law

  37. That is an excellent idea – fine the men!

  38. I think part of the problem is the attitude men have towards women.

  39. Very interesting post ellee – I do hope they can make progress. Keep us posted.

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