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Pre-2008 Posts

55th Carnival of Feminists is Up and a Question about the Million Women Rise Event

The 55th Carnival of Feminists is up at Penny Red’s place. 

A question for UK radical feminists:  were any of you present for the Million  Women Rise event in London?  Or do you have friends who were present, or  friends who have friends who were present, who could provide additional perspectives so far as what went on there?

This is what is posted about it on the 55th Carnival of Feminists:

Unfortunately, the spread of feminist ideas across International Women’s day has led to a small number of unwelcome clashes. Hats off to Blacklooks for alerting us to the exclusion of sex workers and their supporters from the Million Women Rise event in London. The unilateral last-minute exclusion of Terisa Mackay of the Solidarity 1st Coalition to Decriminalise Prostitution from the speakers’ stage is particularly shocking in the context of a day which was meant to be all about solidarity.

I don’t know if Sokari was actually present at the event (and will read her post, I haven’t yet); ordinarily she is a highly credible source of information, and I pretty much trust what she reports.  But I got an e-mail from someone I don’t know telling me there is more to this story.

Can anybody fill me in?



23 thoughts on “55th Carnival of Feminists is Up and a Question about the Million Women Rise Event

  1. I took part in the march but wasnt at the rally so I missed the disturbance which apparently occurred.
    Sex workers were definitely included in the event – I saw representatives from the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW) and the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) at the march, and was handed leaflets by them. I did not see any hostility during the march itself, and for me it was a very friendly, fun and inspring experience.

    There is a good review of the event on The F Word:

    and for more on the fracas try this report by Cath Elliott from the Guardian Online:

    Cath Elliott reports that it was the ECP behind the disturbance. This group is very vocal and gets a lot of media coverage, but is regarded with some suspicion by some feminists (including me). This is because it is not entirely clear whether they truly represent workers within the sex industry, or the sex industry itself. Since the whole event was a protest about violence against women, and since the sex industry is responsible for a lot of that violence, it would have been wholly inappropriate to have given the sex industry a platform at this event. The MWR organisers were, in my opinion, right to query what the ECP were going to say before allowing them to speak, and finding that their speech was not in the spirit of the event, also right to prevent them from speaking. However, as I say, I was not at the rally, and so can only go on what I have seen reported.

    Posted by Helen | March 12, 2008, 8:30 pm
  2. Thanks, Helen. This is what my e-mail correspondent said too, that the disturbance did not come from prostituted women or their advocates but from non-sex workers who regularly show up to disrupt these events pretending to represent sex workers, people who at times are representatives of the sex industry so-called.

    Posted by womensspace | March 12, 2008, 8:34 pm
  3. I was at the march. It was a women’s day celebration and protest against male violence against women. It was not a day to celebrate male violence against women in the form of prostitution. I applaud the organisers for standing in solidarity with women in prostitution and not allowing prostitution proponents to glorify sexual exploitation, deny the lived realities of women in prositution and make the violence they experience invisible by calling it a job like any other.

    Some women had carried an ECP banner to the side of the stage where the speakers were. At some point, one, or several, women tried to force their way on to the stage. They had brought a microphone and speaker and tried to speak over the women on stage. This is standard ECP procedure. They turn up at events and either storm the stage, stop speakers from talking or audience members from asking questions. They usually shout abuse at women present. The purpose of this procedure (which they consistently employ) seems to be to try making theyselves look like victims. In other words, they seems intent on doing whatever will make them appear as ‘victims’ of feminism. They are anti-feminist.

    Posted by Arantxa | March 12, 2008, 9:21 pm
  4. non-sex workers who regularly show up to disrupt these events pretending to represent sex workers

    No matter how many times these people harass and physically assault women at anti-prostitution events we are never believed when we say these incidents are not “both sides acting badly” but really one side revisiting the violence they learned on others. It’s like domestic violence situations where police arrest both man and woman for “hitting each other.” They come to our events and seek to shout us down but we do not storm their meetings demanding things or rudely protest their creative shows and plays to disrupt them.

    When Carol Chehade last presented the play “My Real Name” pro-john harassers couldn’t help themselves from interrupting the play and starting a physical fight with survivors of prostitution.

    When Robyn Few invaded my personal space and started making threats about suing me for libel at a conference on prostitution, she came to my workshop but I did not go to hers; I wasn’t there to pick pointless fights but to find allies. She went out of her way to intimidate me, coming in and out of the room with a huff while I spoke before charging up to me when it was over and saying “You better stop telling people I’m a pimp!”

    Their scare tactics work to silence survivors of prostitution. For that Toledo conference I had asked a prostituted woman friend to co-present with me, and she sat on the request a few weeks before answering no. Her reason was that she did not want to face the violence-tinged vitriol of prostitution’s defenders she knew awaited her there. I am so fucking glad she refused my request because she knew what awaited her if she went.

    Posted by Sam | March 12, 2008, 10:02 pm
  5. Yes I was at the march and I was with a number of groups including the ECP. I was standing by the ECP banner and there was NO activity let alone any spitting shouting or throwing of anything. The two women holding the banner did nothing whatsover except hold the banner by the side of the stage.

    Arantxa says she was at the march – but what she writes is exactly the same as a comment left by a woman with another name on my blog and elsewhere!

    I am not part of the ECP or the Global Strike for women but I chose to march with them in solidarity as I support what they stand for and the work they do with sex workers and other marginalised groups of women. And another damn lie to is say the ECP and Solidarity 1st are “pretending to represent sex-workers”.

    My interest is to tell the truth about what I witnessed in a very small section of Traflagar Square on Saturday. As I stated on my blog, two women came up to where I was standing with a group of women and started shouting abuse about sexworkers and saying they should not be allowed to speak. An argument took place in which no violence occurred – no spitting, no throwing, no hitting – until one of the anti sex worker women tried to pull the camera off another woman who was videoing the scene – she held on to her camera and the other woman was hurt in the process.

    Frankly I am disgusted with the lies that are circulating about what took place especially as there could not have been more than 10/15 if that people in the small space so where all these witnesses are coming from I dont know.

    The statement that a group of women who supposedly tried to force their way onto the stage is false. What we did was gather near the stage with the intention of either getting one of the speakers to raise the issue of the sex workers being refused a voice or for one of us to speak ourselves. WE never at any time pushed, shoved or in any way tried to force ourselves on to the stage. Nor did anyone use a microphone because this would have been disruptive to the other speakers. Again more lies repeated here as elsewhere. The speaker system was used on the march for chanting and playing music – how sinister is that – I suppose none of the other groups had similar equipment???? For Gods sake!

    There is clearly a hatred by one set of women for the Global Strike for Women and the ECP which I know nothing of. What I do know is what I witnessed myself.

    The reports read as if the ECP and their supporters were standing around shouting at people and hurling abuse to the wind. My friend was called a Black bitch by one woman in the crowd but no one has bothered to mention that other than to insinuate we made it up. Can someone tell me what the “abuse” consisted of? Of course not because there wasnt any.

    I am sickened with this whole thing and if I had not witnessed it myself would imagine that the ECP Women Against Rape and the African women’s group were a bunch of crazed women who went to Trafalgar Square with the sole purpose of causing a problem.

    I dont know who Cath Elliot is – I have never heard of her but she certainly does not represent me in anyway whatsoever. Her language and tone and that of some other women is exactly the same language used by the police time and time again when they want to discredit and demonise people.

    Here is the link to Terisa MacKay speech –'sbannedspeech.htm

    I suggest you all go and read it and tell me and others what exactly was “not in the spirit of the event”. And who are these “guardians” of what we should and should not speak”

    All these accusations are based on rumour and gossip amongst one group of women who for whatever reason cannot stand another. No we are not united as feminists – we are not one. I am a lesbian Black African woman and believe me there are a hell of a lot of women out there who call themselves feminists – who are not standing with me and have never stood with me and dont even know what the bloody hell I stand for.

    The tone the arrogance of some of the words I have read over the past three days are unbelievable – they stink of superiority and self-righteous pompousness and as far removed from progressive as the Arctic from the Antarctic.

    Posted by Sokari | March 13, 2008, 12:14 am
  6. two women came up to where I was standing with a group of women and started shouting abuse about sexworkers and saying they should not be allowed to speak

    Do any of the UK feminists know who these two women might have been? Feel free to e-mail me if you don’t want to post it publicly.

    Thanks for coming here to have your say, Sokari.

    Arantxa, did you post under another name to Sokari’s blog or other places?

    An argument took place in which no violence occurred – no spitting, no throwing, no hitting – until one of the anti sex worker women tried to pull the camera off another woman who was videoing the scene – she held on to her camera and the other woman was hurt in the process.

    Several things.

    I know to the bottom of my soul that none of the women who has commented here, and no woman I respect — and I respect all of my regular commenters — is “anti-sex worker.” To be opposed to specific politics around “sex work” — particularly those which advocate for prostitution as “empowering” — is not to be “anti sex worker.” To oppose the prostituting of women is not to be “anti sex worker.” It is to be pro woman. To work for the end of prostitution/pornography is not to be anti-sex worker. It is to care about prostituted women and all women.

    I think it was completely wrong for anyone to be videoing women at this action without their consent. To me, this is basic respect. I recently received an e-mail about a Take Back the Night event in which a bunch of people showed up opposing the event, and began videoing the women in the event in a menacing manner. Who knows what someone is planning to do with these videos? Perhaps women at these events, particularly formerly prostituted women, do not want their images showing up on Youtube, for the sake of all that is holy. Perhaps anti-prostitution, anti-pornography activists — who endure endless rape threats and threats against their lives, and that includes ME, I get these threats every single day of my life, maybe you know what it feels like for so many people to wish you raped or dead, I hope you do not, but I have a hunch you do, I do, and it’s a horrible thing — do not want their images plastered who knows where, or on youtube, or showing up somewhere when they have not given consent and where the images might identify where they live, for one of many examples I can think of.

    So I cannot work up too much sympathy for the person with the video camera. I would like to know (1) whether anyone asked the video person to turn off her camera; (2) what she said. Clearly, she wanted to take women’s photos, and they didn’t want their photos taken. No means no. If women did not want to be videoed, whoever had the camera should have turned it off. To persist in videoing women who did not want to be videoed was a violent act.

    There is clearly a hatred by one set of women for the Global Strike for Women and the ECP which I know nothing of.

    I don’t know who may hate whom, and would not speculate as to that. I know that none of the women who has commented here, and no woman I respect, and no anti-prostitution, anti-pornography feminist I know, hates any woman. I know that when it comes to the prostituting of women, feelings run very high.

    My friend was called a Black bitch by one woman in the crowd but no one has bothered to mention that other than to insinuate we made it up.

    I think unless we know a woman here heard this hideous slur, we ought not suggest that someone here did hear and failed to mention it. I know that if any woman here had heard that hate speech, she would have challenged it straight up.

    All these accusations are based on rumour and gossip amongst one group of women who for whatever reason cannot stand another.

    I will reiterate: I can say with confidence that no woman in this thread, or whom I respect — and I know and love many formerly prostituted women and women who oppose prostitution/pornography with every breath that they take — fits into the category of “cannot stand another woman.” Vigorously opposing prostitution does not — does not — equal opposing prostituted women themselves, or any women. Opposing prostitution means *caring* about women’s lives.

    I know how events like this go down and the way anti-prostitution/pornography women are hated *by everybody*, including “sex positive” feminists so called, including white, privileged, degreed, western feminists who blab all the livelong day about how “empowered” what they do is, as though all of this empowerfulness is not the boot on the neck of women and girls throughout the world who have no choice and who would never be prostituted if they did. And including, of course, men who prostitute women and who don’t want us getting in the way of that. So all of these people hate anti-prostitution/anti-pornography feminists and veritably live to find ways to hurt us and make our lives miserable and yeah, we get intense about it like I did last night when I wrote this comment, which I’ve edited now that I’ve calmed down some, and there is plenty of bad feeling around all of this stuff. But we don’t hate any woman.

    Please, do not tell me about anti-prostitution/pornography feminists hating women, don’t say we can’t stand women. This is not true. What we hate is those who prostitute women. What we hate is anyone suggesting that being prostituted is liberating or empowering. We KNOW better. Especially those of us who have BEEN prostituted.

    we are not one. I am a lesbian Black African woman and believe me there are a hell of a lot of women out there who call themselves feminists – who are not standing with me and have never stood with me and dont even know what the bloody hell I stand for.

    I’ll vouch for that. I know what that feels like. It’s sad– isn’t it. Isn’t it.

    Posted by womensspace | March 13, 2008, 3:25 am
  7. I have not posted about this anywhere else or under any other name. My account of what I saw should be the same as that of other observers because that is what happened.
    I have also seen ECP representatives show up at other events and shout abuse at women. It’s not a secret over here in the UK that this is what they do. They almost invariably accuse other women of racial abuse against one of their representatives who is black. I’ve seen her do this myself. She stood and shouted at the speakers at one anti-prostitution event. She became louder and louder and finished by calling the speakers racist.
    The ECP do not represent women in prostitution. What they do serves to silence any woman who doesn’t fit their idea of what a ‘prostitute’ is how she should feel about men using her in prostitution.
    The ECP was at one point (are they still?) funded by the Playboy foundation. They lobby for prostitution to be legalised as if it were just a job like any other. They are serving the interests of pimps, traffickers and johns.

    Posted by Arantxa | March 13, 2008, 7:20 am
  8. Everyone should read the links here, get a feel for what this event was like.

    I also found this:

    Women’s movement in the UK still divided March 9, 2008
    Filed under: politics, women — demystification @ 6:29 pm
    Tags: legalisation of prostitution, rally, women

    An incidence of violent dissidence erupted yesterday at the Million Woman Rise (MWR) rally in Trafalgar Square at 4 in the afternoon, as one woman was injured and taken to the ambulance. The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) manifested their disapproval at being “silenced” by the MWR coalition from speaking on the issue of legalising prostitution. Some of their members unplugged the amplifiers so that the main speaker’s voice could not be heard. The episode quickly escalated as two women – belonging to the two opposing groups- physically attacked each other.

    One witness said: “I don’t know their names. All I saw is someone from our coalition being grabbed by the throat”.

    Teresa McKay, from the Ipswich Trade Council, explained that she was invited to speak on the issue in quality of her position as Regional Organiser of Women, Race and Equality in Unite the Union, “the biggest union in the country”. She said: “I was invited to speak on the issue of the five prostitutes killed in Ipswich. They said they got my speech too late, but then they let the cat out of the bag and said the coalition didn’t have a position [on prostitution], so they couldn’t let me speak”.

    Teresa added: “I was going to get my union to make a donation to this campaign, but there’s no way I’m going to do that now, because they are just censoring us”.

    Gemma Novis, one of the organisers of the rally, claimed Teresa McKay wasn’t censored. “There was a lot of confusion. As a coalition we put up a general call out for speakers, it was about providing a space for them. Lots of women got in touch with us, and then we had a discussion to see if the two sides of the debate were represented. Our coalition doesn’t have a position on the issue [of prostitution], we’re just united in ending violence against women”.

    Three women who witnessed the event explained that it was a political issue. One of them, a member of the coalition and of Unite, said: “The English collective of prostitutes are quite a hard-core group. We need to have balanced views on the stage. Teresa MacKay was using her position in the Ipswich Trade Council to pursue her agenda”.

    The members of the ECP, sporting a banner with “Sex workers rights are women’s rights” written on it, left the rally after the unsuccessful boycott attempt. Their group campaigns for the decriminalisation of their profession in the name of better welfare and safety, a health plan, a pension plan and a chance to pay the taxes in accordance with their professional effort.

    100 years after the 15,000 female garment workers went on strike in New York City to fight for better working conditions, and 40 years after the heyday of the feminist campaign, the women’s movement seems to be far from united.

    This comes as legislation on abortion and domestic violence are under scrutiny in the British Parliament.

    The English Collective of Prostitutes, from my reading, wants to legalize brothels and all prostitution and unionize prostitutes.

    That is not a position which is favored by those of us who want an end to prostitution. Most of us favor decriminalizing prostitution and criminalizing the buying of sex. In other words, throw the johns, pimps, traffickers in jail, not the prostituted women/girls/boys.

    Posted by womensspace | March 13, 2008, 3:14 pm
  9. Re Playboy supporting the ECP, I haven’t dug around to find anything out about that yet, but it’s pretty much a no-brainer that many men, and the sex industry so called, is going to support legalizing prostitution. If prostitution were legal, after all, Spitzer wouldn’t be in trouble right now, he’d still be governor of New York. He’d have been simply a consumer, buying goods in the marketplace, when he paid a woman $4,000 to have sex without condoms with her.

    Posted by womensspace | March 13, 2008, 4:11 pm
  10. This was a welcome glimpse of reality, if a bit short and sketchy. Malarek was a street kid some years ago. Now and for some time since, a highly respected investigative journalist. His latest work is on the sex slave trade: The Natashas. We know who Farley is. Thanks to them both. farley&st=nyt&oref=slogin

    Posted by sis | March 13, 2008, 5:41 pm
  11. Indeed, throwing pimps, johns and traffickers in jail, and not prosecuting the prostitutes themselves is exactly what they did in Sweden. I heard this story on NPR the other day, when an economist said there has actually been very little study of the economics of prostitution.

    What several studies revealed is that legalization just made prostitution MORE not less widespread, so it made vice more available, and women were still getting stuck in this.

    In Sweden, once the men were being jailed as the “buyers” of sex, the rate of prostitution went down. This was the only effective means of lessening prostitution in a society. I’d like to know a lot more about the Swedish law or who cleverly enacted it.

    In this way, we blame the people who enable the womanhating practices of men. We put men in jail where they belong, or we turn up the heat so that even a governor of New York has to answer for his weird double life. All these stupid male commentators keep saying, “Oh JFK did it…” i wonder why this is such a fuss now? Well they overlook the fact that women and the feminist movement made people like Spitzer face the hotseat and humiliation of public opinion. It was feminism that made the personal political, and it made the public more aware of just how evil men in power can be. Private lives indeed, the private lives of men who buy women and then claim to be moral champions!

    All liberal men say that prostitution is a victimless crime. Men would think this about just about anything they do to women. “Oh the women enjoyed it, they were smiling…” you know the typical woman hating things they come up with.

    Good old Allan Dershowitz (can’t spell the jerk’s name) was calling prostitution victimless until I think (Anderson Cooper?? shamed him by saying, “I don’t think Spitzer’s wife and daughters would think this was victimless, what about them?” As I recall, Andrea Dworkin debated Dershowitz years ago, but the audio tapes of this debate have been suppressed by Dershowitz. It would be interesting to get a hold of these tapes somehow, because I suspect Dworkin (an incredible speaker and debater) made mincemeat of his “liberal” pro-sexual access to women for money views.

    Playboy… don’t get me started!

    Posted by Satsuma | March 13, 2008, 6:49 pm
  12. Really, what woman is safe in a culture in which the men are prostituting women? Illegally is bad enough, but legally?! What’s next, classes in the trade schools and community colleges, “Prostitution 101”? “Running a Brothel for Dummies”? Does the good governor want one of his three daughters enrolled in classes like this? Preparing for these “professions”? Here you have a guy who has patronized (such a great word) prostitutes for years and yet for a fee, a young woman will have sex with him without a condom with absolutely zero reason to believe she’s not going to get an STD. She probably will get one because he’s probably been paying for this kind of sex for the longest. So many men are so dangerous in this way; they easily, regularly, do stuff like this with no shred of conscious about it and without really thinking about it. They are not integers. They are not whole. They really do have zero integrity in themselves. Does anybody think the governor’s wife, an attorney, highly accomplished, knew she was marrying somebody like this? No. Because men like this lie and don’t care, have no remorse about it, don’t even think about it. Would legalizing prostitution change anything? No. It would just create more and more prostituted girls and women and boys for men to use and then lie about it whenever they felt like it. Throw their asses in jail or wherever, I don’t care, get them away, they hurt women and girls *so so much*. I can’t stand to even think about what this man’s daughters are going through. One is near the age of his latest service provider.

    Posted by womensspace | March 13, 2008, 7:33 pm
  13. It has to be said that the Million Women Rise celebration of Internation Women’s Day was hugely succesful and very enjoyable for the women that attended the march, rally or party. It was a great day and I hope there will be a march next year too!

    Posted by Arantxa | March 13, 2008, 8:22 pm
  14. To be opposed to specific politics around “sex work” — particularly those which advocate for prostitution as “empowering” — is not to be “anti sex worker.”

    Heart, I’m sure that there probably are some people out there who try to claim that prostitution is “empowering”, but that’s not what the international sex workers rights movement is about. And, prostitution does sound to me like it has to be very alienating sexually for the woman (or non-female sex worker) and probably traumatic. The thing is, the actual prostitutes themselves are organizing and demanding their rights and dignity, even in, and especially in Third World Countries. Reading about it has been surprising and eye-opening for me, but as a radical feminist, I must listen to what these women (and non-female sex workers) are saying about their own lives, and I support them in their demands that they themselves are making.

    Here is more information:

    Posted by Myrrh | March 13, 2008, 11:36 pm
  15. Thanks, Arantxa (and everyone in this thread), I read all the links and did some poking around on the internet and it looks like the Million Women Rise celebration was amazing! We need this so badly in the U.S.

    For some who have commented, and whose comments I will not be approving, with respect:

    * I understand that many who identify as sex workers do not view their work as empowering;
    * I understand that they don’t suggest to anyone else that what they do is empowering.
    * Many sex workers in the U.S. and western countries do view what they do as empowering, they are vocal and outspoken and what they say is harmful to all prostituted persons.

    As to the idea or suggestion that what sex worker collectives/organizations want is coming from the “sex workers themselves,” and therefore, as feminists, we should support it, again, with respect, there are thousands, maybe millions, of prostituted women, girls and boys who are not in agreement with the agenda of organizations like ECP and SWOP and who want out of prostitution. Legalizing and mainstreaming the prostitution of women virtually ensures that this marginalized and, for all intents and purposes silenced majority will never have what they, as prostituted persons want for themselves. They will remain enslaved.

    I don’t want any part of a world in which the selling of sex, of women’s bodies for prostitution is legal. That is a world in which women and girls will NEVER be free, will NEVER be liberated, will NEVER be safe. So I will not be providing any platform here for endorsing legalizing prostitution, brothels, any of it. Not here. I’d still like an answer to my questions: are we going to offer mentorships and training in prostitution in trade schools and community colleges? Are we going to train persons to run brothels? I want no part of anything like that and will not provide space for those advocacies on this blog.

    I want johns, pimps and traffickers in JAIL. Forever, as far as I’m concerned. I want prostituted persons freed.

    Posted by womensspace | March 14, 2008, 1:14 am
  16. I just want to let Heart know that the videotaping of a “Take Back the Night” rally also happened at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, in 2002.

    There was a series of “date rapes,” like four to six of them in the first three weeks of the new school year.

    One woman wanted to press charges. Back then, the school’s policy was to actively discourage rape victims from going to the police (that policy was illegal; federal law requires that all on-campus violent crimes be compiled in a federal database so parents of prospective students, and the students themselves, will know how safe each school is). Instead, the school encouraged women to go through this administrative hearing procedure on campus. They told her she didn’t need a a lawyer, made her face her rapist in this “meeting to work things out,” and when she arrived, without council, for the meeting, there was rich white boy with two lawyers!

    So, at our “Take Back the Night” rally that spring, someone videotaped our “Speakout Against Rape” portion. We later learned that the Jesuit priest who was the president of the school – and still is – ordered the taping. The school’s position was that it wanted to be able to protect itself legally against anything that might be said about its handling of the case I’ve outlined above.

    Imagine some priest sitting there, alone in his office, looking at that video of all of us speaking out about having been raped (shuddering)!

    In the end, we did make the school adopt a new and more acceptable rape policy, so SOME good came of the episode, but, of course the woman in question felt thrice raped (the original cime, the school’s handling of it, and then the taping of the rally).

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know about that one, Heart, supporting your argument that taping at these events can be problematic.

    Posted by ceejay1968 | March 14, 2008, 1:25 am
  17. I was there and had an awesome time, watched some of the speeches but unfortunately had to leave early to catch a train. So I missed whatever went on here and am completely out of the loop. I did see several banners for prostitution groups whilst on the march however.

    Posted by Anji | March 14, 2008, 8:56 pm
    Posted on March 14, 2008 by staceyswimme


    For Immediate Release: Contact: Sapna Patel, SWP, 646/602.5626,

    Friday, March 14, 2008 Juhu Thukral, SWP, 646/602.5690,


    (New York City, March 14, 2008) – Eliot Spitzer resigned from his position as Governor of New York after being implicated in a prostitution scandal. The irony is that Mr. Spitzer’s office helped pass Anti-Trafficking Legislation in New York and specifically pushed through controversial provisions that we opposed, one enhancing penalties for clients of all prostitutes, and another that made trafficking into all sectors other than prostitution a lesser crime. As advocates for the protection, safety and human rights of sex workers and trafficked persons, we are not interested in Eliot Spitzer’s personal life. However, his resignation provides an opportunity to reflect on the counterproductive and moralistic policies that he supported as Governor.

    To focus solely on the salacious scandal created by Mr. Spitzer’s alleged actions without attention to the realities and needs of sex workers does nothing to provide solutions for sex workers. Sex workers are individuals whose reasons for engaging in sex work – and leaving it – are personal, economic and social – as complex as anyone’s reasons for involvement in any type of work. The current scandal brings to light the variety of sex work people engage in and the reality that, although many may find themselves in the industry due to lack of economic opportunity, not all are forced or coerced.

    The inaccurate conflation of prostitution and trafficking encourage policy makers to create laws that in reality provide no real solutions for safety and protection for sex workers or that comprehensively address the issue of human trafficking. Mr. Spitzer’s alleged involvement in this scandal further evidences that “end demand” policies that emphasize criminal punishment of the clients and shaming simply do not work. As seen in this situation, seemingly no efforts have been made to address the needs of the sex worker involved in this scandal. A narrow focus on demand in the context of sex work represents a dangerous move toward policies which, under the guise of protecting sex workers, is another way of undermining sex workers’ independence and causing more harm to them. Enhancing penalties for clients of sex workers will not “eliminate the demand” and end trafficking but instead makes sex workers more afraid, more stigmatized and less safe. The fact that someone with as much to lose as Eliot Spitzer would still visit sex workers speaks volumes about the efficacy of such strategies.

    Sex workers’ voices are largely absent from discussions of the policies that affect them. Laws and regulations on sex workers’ health and safety are generally made without their input and often overlook or even deny their human rights. It is ironic that sex workers’ human rights are often jeopardized by the very policies intended to help them. Policies based on the assumption that sex work is inherently dehumanizing can never recognize or improve the reality of sex workers’ lives.

    Policymakers must revisit perceptions and policies towards sex work in the U.S. and instead of narrowly focusing on ineffective criminal justice strategies to protect sex workers and eliminate trafficking, they must redirect resources to social services that provide real solutions, realistic economic opportunities, and protections against violence and exploitation. Addressing basic human needs for education, equal opportunity and a realistic array of economic options would help to ensure that no one who enters sex work does so because of trickery or coercion.

    The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center provides legal services, legal training, documentation, and policy advocacy for sex workers in New York City. For more information, please visit our website at:


    Posted by Jill Brenneman | March 15, 2008, 2:59 am
  19. woman who were neglected or abused in childhood are more likely to become sex workers.
    This is to do with development issues.
    not a moral judgement.
    they need kindness and to be pointed towards help and healing which is available.
    if they are helped their children will be helped.

    Posted by yepandyep | March 18, 2008, 2:49 pm
  20. “Sex workers’ voices are largely absent from discussions of the policies that affect them. Laws and regulations on sex workers’ health and safety are generally made without their input and often overlook or even deny their human rights.”

    Id counter that with this – you dont know how many prostitutes and ex prostitutes have been in discussion about policies that affect them. Im willing to bet that there are way more women who have been or are in prostitution who with their testimonies are the influence behind the view that prostitution is an abuse of people, a human rights issue, than there are prostitutes or ex prostitutes influencing the “sex workers rights” self appointed and so called spokespeople.

    I reckon that in reality, ‘sex workers voices’ are largely absent from ‘sex workers rights’ organisations, and the policies they are pushing.

    Posted by V | March 18, 2008, 7:59 pm
  21. “policies that emphasize criminal punishment of the clients and shaming simply do not work.”

    Yeah, we should give out humanitarian awards to men who pay to fuck prostitutes. Eliot was doing it for the children!

    In fact, Bush should give every man an additional $600 to spend on the sex industry: it’s like trickle down economics but with a “money shot.”

    “Sex workers’ voices are largely absent from discussions of the policies that affect them.”

    Well, since corporate CEOs and pimps are also “sex workers” now, that’s not entirely true. And yeah, you can always count on spam and press releases from them. Thanks!

    Posted by Rich | March 19, 2008, 1:32 am
  22. Thanks for linking my blog! You sparked an interesting debate!

    Posted by demystification | May 21, 2008, 4:55 pm

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