Saturday, November 04, 2006

Scottish Socialist Party's Prostitution Resolution

Here is the text (note they state their position is 'radical'. It is not radical in the slightest, it is conservative. I also love their use of the patronising term 'prostituted women' - as if they are all being forced!):

Mhairi McAlpine of the SSP Women's Network explains the background to the debate on prostitution in the SSP

The issue of prostitution was first raised at SSP conference in 2003, in response to Margo McDonald’s proposal to establish “tolerence zones” – effectively legalising prostitution in a limited way. There were three proposals on the table – decriminalisation; support for tolerance zones, and the Swedish model of targeting the demand. The issue was remitted for further debate and discussion. The motions were remitted for further discussion, education and debate in the party.

In the three years that have passed, the issue has been debated throughout the party, in branches, at platform meetings and in the Socialist Women’s Network. Following this discussion, this proposal to follow the Swedish model, once a minority position, was brought back for ratification.

The SSP after much debate and discussion concluded that prostitution by definition was violence against women and therefore harmful to them. There can be no tolerance of it. Drug addicted women, migrant women and adult survivors of child sexual abuse make up the vast majority of prostituted women. Those women enslaved by the industry, whether by traffickers, by addiction problems, by poverty, violent partners and pimps or poor mental health must be given support to escape.

Violence towards them even if they consent? But we'll see soon their patronising dismissal of women who do choose to work in this profession as suffering from 'false consciousness' or something of the like. But then what does a 'sectarian idiot' like myself know? I note that no statistics are cited in their assertion about who makes up the majority of prostitutes, as data regarding the sex industry is notoriously unreliable. I agree that women who want to leave the profession should be given help (indeed so should workers in low paid menial jobs which they hate, or migrant workers enslaved by criminal gangs in a number of industries. All should be given benefits, help if they are in need of accomadation and access to education or training). I don't make a special case for sex work, I support help for any workers to leave jobs that they are unhappy in. Nobody should be stuck in any job that they hate. And it is naturally the case that I abhore the stigmatisation of women who have been sex workers, which can require lying on a CV.

Alongside this their position is coercive - criminalisation ensures they will have no choice but to leave. Such 'exit strategies' will possibly end up pressuring these women into taking low paid menial work. Just like the Victorians who advocated 'better employment opportunities' for women - probably in domestic service. The same Victorians whose hearts bled over women involved in prostitution but shed few tears over those exploited by the drugery of the 12 or 14 hour shift in the factory or textile mills.

However, even supposing the traditional data was reliable (and it tends not to be as it is often self serving, taken from mainly street prostitutes in bad beats). But even if almost all women in prostitution were either exploited migrants, drug addicts or survivors of child abuse would even this justify criminalisation? Would this justify infantilising them so and getting the State and it's allies to rescue them 'for their own good'? It would not, as at the end of the day it is not the State's business to regulate sexual behaviour.

The writer of this bilge may not wish to know it but not every migrant sex worker is trafficked or forced either. And many human beings are enslaved by various industries via poverty or other related problems. Asian sweatshop workers are 'enslaved by poverty' to accept work in the conditions they do. Should textile factories therefore be banned?

"Economic coercion to perform sex acts is a violation of women’s integrity and can only be understood within the context of ongoing social and economic discrimination. To criminalise prostituted women is to criminalise the victim."

Economic coercion of anybody into wage slavery is a violation of their intergrity. I don't know why these people claim to be Marxists. I dig the blanket definition of 'victims' too.

"Nonetheless decriminalisation is not the answer, for this is not a victimless crime. Those who use prostituted women are party to a system of enslavement, which brings women from poorer parts of the world to be multiply raped on a daily basis, which keeps women drug addicted to blot out the realities of their experiences, and which causes adult victims of sexual abuse trapped in a cycle of negative sexual relations."

This is true in some cases, but not all. Yet these people can only see in black and white. Sexual slavery involving rape is not even the same thing as a drug addict turning a trick or two for a fix. It's not the same for men on heroin, they tend to do other things to supply their expensive habits as they do not having this option.

The phenomena of human trafficking for sexual slavery of course needs to be addressed. But it should be done from the framework of fighting all forms of forced or debted labour that migrant workers endure, not only sex slavery. Along with this should come opposing the immigration controls that encourage criminals to transport and exploit vulnerable economic migrants. Tackling trafficking should not be used as an excuse to clamp down on all sex workers by painting them all as slaves, as is done so often. This is a classic example of where the lines are blurred between consensual sex and what is effectively rape.

This group makes little noise about the migrant workers enslaved in other industries who have zero resources and and no recourse to the authorities as they may face deportation. Such was the case with the Chinese cockle pickers who died, most of whom were working under debted labour for a gangmaster. Yet nobody is calling for a clampdown on the fishing industry.

I also note that no mention is made of gay male prostitutes or rent boys. Typical. Just like victim feminist dicussions on porn never mention gay porn, or they know their position would come flying down.

Those prostituted women who believe that they are freely “choosing” to sell sex are not criminalised by the SSP’s position but can access the resources they need to stay safe and reduce ill health. Therefore there needs to be resources in place so that all prostituted women can access the required resources they need without fear of reprisals or criminalisation.

Now this is my favourite. Those 'prostituted' (sic) women who 'believe' that they are freely "choosing" to sell sex? This in effect means that they are not really choosing freely, they only believe they are. In which case either they are stupid, mentally ill or suffering from some severe false consciousness, unlike their enlightened and liberated sisters in the Scottish Socialist Party. Women are miracously able to consent to having an abortion (not even just adult women, but also teenagers I will add), yet they cannot consent to accepting money for sex.

What bilge, and how insulting to the intelligence. If their thesis was true groups like the International Sex Workers Union or Coyote would not exist, if sex workers were really so downtrodden and/or dumb. Neither would the CIS.

This is not feminism, nor is it empowering in the slightest. It is profoundly disempowering. Those who accept the victim label will be rendered inert by self pity, and those who don't will surely risk inciting the wrath of these would be redeemers (as Claudia once stated).

Resources are already in place under the current system - they can access health services and support groups already without being prosecuted, so they are stating nothing new. All criminalisation of clients will do would be to rip the women of their livelihood, regardless of their wishes. This is why this approach is so elitist and condescending.

The SSP has taken a ground breaking step. While our internal discussions were going on, the Scottish Executive was also debating the issue through a public consultation. While all of the submissions highlighted the vulnerability of prostituted women and the dangers inherent in the industry, the premise of the final report was that the duty of the state was to manage prostitution. In contrast we believe that the paid abuse of women is intolerable and, far from being “managed”, must be eradicated.

Yes, prostitutes are so dumb. They are not only being abused without their knowlege by men they associate with but are also accepting money for this privilege (paid abuse!). Yes, it is the 'duty' of the State to keep these slags in line by criminalising the perverts who they allow to abuse them.

It has always been debated on whether or not prostitution would exist in the socialist society the SSP supposedly dream of and fight for, but to eradicate prostitution under capitalism? Give me a break. Poverty can never be eradicated under capitalism, for starters. The only way you can eradicate poverty is to eradicate capitalism. And without eradicating poverty it would be impossible to eradicate prostitution. And even if you did eradicate poverty - in a money system it is very likely that there would still be a market ofr the purchase of sex. Some men will not stop being alienated and lonely, and some women will see nothing wrong in exchanging sex acts for money. They may like the flexible hours and may not want a regular job. It would probably only be possible for prostitution to be eradicated if the total transformation of human relationships came about that is dreamt of by some socialists. I used to believe in this dream but I now think it is rather utopian.

We want to see a Scottish wide education programme to highlight the realities of the industry and of the experiences of women trapped within it and send a clear signal to anyone contemplating purchasing sex that it is unacceptable by bringing in legislation aimed at outlawing the purchase of sex.

What about the experiences of women who choose to stay within it? No chance of that, as they would demolish the theory and the sickening attitude behind it. Why don't the consult the IUSW branch in the GMB?

It is sickening. The only policy a left wing party should have is the decriminalisation of prostitutes (and support any attempt by sex workers to fight back by unionising). Anything more than that, positive or negative, is just too private a matter to have a party line on. I do not deny that there are many problems in the sex industry. But unlike these moralisers I believe that they can be lessened by decriminalisation of the industry. Criminalisation creates a situation where women are vulnerable to abuse due to the illegal nature of their work. Prostitution laws are similiar in a sense to the drug laws, an essentially victimless crime being made more dangerous by prohibitive policies. The picture drawn of sex workers by the SSP is a stereotype, encouraged by the government and it's allies in the media. Clearly the organised wing of the sex industry has much to do in challenging this stereotype.

Think what you will of the sex industry, it has been shown that criminalising women does not stop it. And what about the proposals to criminalise men for purchasing sex? For a critique of the Swedish prostitution laws go here. Demonising a whole industry where women work and writing off the women who choose to work in it as being stupid or mad if not coerced is not feminist. It is moralistic and conservative crap.

I say no to any prohibitive policies that will only continue to socially stigmatise prostitutes for the work they do and endanger them - and no the moralising politicians who propose them, be they of the left or right.

Meanwhile there are good sources here and here on the attitude of the Victorians towards prostitution. It seems little has changed in some quarters. The SSP seem to have their own ideas about building modern day Urania Cottages, shelters that will reclaim the fallen women for lives of virtue (their proposed 'safe houses' and 'exit strategies' suggested previously).
Hence anybody who reads between the lines will see there is nothing 'radical' about these ideas - they are simply a rehash of the patronising morality of the Victorians.

No comments: