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For Number 10, selective dumbness on sex work is a speciality…

by on January 3, 2009
VISITORS to the Number 10 website may know that it has a laudable facility for e-Petitions. If you have a gripe, or a constructive suggestion, you can pop it in an e-Petition and it will apparently be addressed.

Well, it’s a little tougher than that. But serious e-Petitions with 200 or more signatures are promised a response.

Visit closed petitions by size on the No 10 site and one can clearly see that No 10 or, more probably, the Government departments responsible for the policy area, do a fairly good (though far from excellent) job at responding to petitions.

And, indeed, most qualifying petitions get a response. The petitioners don’t necessarily like them, of course, but that’s politics, and at least someone in government is supposed to have considered what they have to say.


No 5 in No 10’s step by step guide clearly states:

“When a serious petition closes, usually provided there are 200 signatures or more, officials at Downing Street will ensure you get a response to the issues you raise. Depending on the nature of the petition, this may be from the Prime Minister, or he may ask one of his Ministers or officials to respond.

“We will email the petition organiser and everyone who has signed the petition via this website giving details of the Government’s response.”

It doesn’t, of course, say when they’ll do it. Ah – there’s the rub.

Only two closed petitions (of many) on prostitution have achieved more than 200 signatures.

Sexworkers, a six month one organised by myself and other members of my Yahoo sex workers and allies UK group, with much support from IUSW, Scot-Pep, UKNSWP and others, had achieved 734 signatures when it ended on September 3.

Signed by many leading academics in the field as well as sex workers, their clients and other knowledgeable people in and out of the industry, it raised urgent matters which should have been properly considered in the Government’s Review of Demand for prostitution, now published.

Rejecting the criminalisation of clients, it called for decriminalisation of the industry and for sex workers to be accorded the rights laid down in Council of Europe Resolution 1579 (see paras 11.3).

Yet four months after the closure, all we’ve had is silence.

What has happened to this petition? Were the key opinion formers and decision takers in the Review of Demand even aware of its existence? Is it forever lost in some No 10, Home Office or Ministry of Justice electronic in-box? Has it been languishing awaiting a response until the policy was formulated with which to respond to it (ie, until it was too late to affect the key decisions)?

The other qualifying petition aiming to liberalise our laws in this respect – in this case by legalising and licensing brothels – achieved 216 signatures and has been waiting nearly a year for any sign of a response.

This contrasts sharply with an e-Petition making the ludicrous claim that 700,000 women (about the equivalent of the entire population of Leeds) are trafficked to the UK annually, many for sexual exploitation. At that rate, the arrivals since the millennium will exceed the entire population of Greater London at some point in 2012.

Little wonder none of our four nations made football’s Euro 2008, then. A miracle, indeed, they could find eleven men between them capable of standing up.

That petition called on Government to sign the European Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. And, of course, received an unctuous response within a month with no denial of the 700,000 figure.

I, for one, am not voting Labour until it delivers what it promised – a response to our petition. And as the Conservative majority over Labour here in Clwyd West is exactly 133, this just may have meaningful consequences.

Especially with a bit of leaflet dropping…

….and maybe a petition….?

  1. Just noticed your header image is almost identical to a photograph I took of the pro-sex worker placards at RTN – we must have taken our pictures about half a second apart and a metre away from each other, as the only difference is a bit of lighting and one woman having her mouth open in my picture and closed in yours. I have a high-resolution version of this picture if you’d like a shiny new banner with those placards in it? 🙂

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  1. Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom & Autonomy #15 - Sugarbutch Chronicles

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