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by on August 22, 2009

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson’s sidekick Kit Malthouse did his best to up Olympic 2012 trafficking paranoia this week by again dusting off his nine-year-old anti-carding campaign.sexcards

Johnson and Malthouse are anxious to get phone companies to disconnect the mobiles of sex workers. Predictably nobody in the  gullible London media had the bottle to question whether this was wise, given the proclivity of sex workers to get attacked by maniacs (in Canada, for example, the local community gathers up old mobiles to give to sex workers for safety).

Instead, the journos blandly accepted Malthouse’s version, warts and all.

The Telegraph reported that Malthouse demanded that “an agreement must be reached between mobile phone networks and police that sees [the phone numbers] taken out of use as soon as they are identified.”

Adding that there were several “poor girls” operating “behind the number,”  Malthouse proclaimed: “If you are an American tourist and if you walk into a telephone box you would think it was a sex shop.”

A very small sex shop, surely? Typical London politician: sod the British, what will the yanks think?

But it was the scenery in the background in the Telegraph that was the most questionable aspect: “Police have already warned that the Olympics may fuel an unprecedented boom in London’s sex industry,” it said. “Sex workers from across the world are expected to attempt to cash in on thousands of site workers, spectators and athletes.”

Among the errors repeated in papers like the Guardian and the Times was the vague assertion that human trafficking ‘doubled’ or thereabouts at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Doubled from what to what, exactly, was conspicuously absent. From the previous week/month/year in Athens? From the Sydney Olympics in 2000? From the previous Athens Olympics in 1896?

To repeat the facts, an extract from a previous post here:

There was a 95 percent increase (from 93 to 181) in all human trafficking victims – including for labour and begging – detected in the whole of Greece in the whole of 2004, but as for the Athens Olympics themselves, they are not associated by researchers with any increase in sex trafficking, but with an actual decrease in child trafficking for begging on the streets of the capital.

The International Organisation on Migration observed: “It can…be stated that neither the 2004 annual report on Organised Crime in Greece by the Greek Ministry of Public Order, nor the IOM Athens case data in the IOM CTM [Counter-Trafficking Module] database referred to instances of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation during the 2004 Olympic Games.”

Though the IOM was present and assisted seven human trafficking victims in Athens in 2004, “individual case analysis… revealed no reference to human trafficking for…exploitation during the Olympic Games.”

There is an obvious, simple and constructive answer to the Olympics dilemma: to have card placement and removal recognised as an Olympic sport, and to carry out heats frequently throughout the games.

Furthermore, this would cost nothing in terms of extra infrastructure.

Meanwhile, back to carding phone boxes. The  carding game is a speciality of certain UK cities, notably London and Brighton, in which the two sides try to outdo each other and keep fit at the same time by seeing if BT and the local councils can take down sex workers’ calling cards in phone boxes as quickly as the carders can put them up again.

It has many fulltime players, including some in the print industry, which it keeps gainfully employed. Over 13 million cards are said to arrive in the boxes annually. BT alone takes down 150,000 a week. The average day rate paid to carders is said to be £200.

In one eight-week period, more than a million cards were removed, which would have cost the ladies concerned £150,000 to print – the girls are not quite so ‘poor’ as Malthouse would have us believe, it seems.

Malthouse’s vendetta against the carders began in 2000 and last surfaced in 2005, when he led a campaign which gave out 20,000 mock cards printed with the numbers of the CEOs of mobile phone companies to Oxford Street shoppers (the mobile operators now dominate the business since BT unwisely started disconnecting sex workers’ numbers in response to Malthouse’s demands). The mobile bosses’ reaction at the time can be gleaned here.

So well established is the practice of carding now that it has museum collections devoted to it. One such is at the Wellcome Library on Euston Road, where by arrangement you can peruse the 17 18 boxes of cards collected by enthusiast Stephen Lowther, and gathered from phone booths in the Kings Cross, Warren Street and Baker Street areas.

The practice appears to have began shortly after the privatisation of BT in the mid-80s, from which the collection’s earliest cards date. Since then, the collection illustrates the development of widely available high definition colour printing (the first colour print was collected on January 23, 1992) and the increasing ethnic diversity of migrant sex workers in the London scene, which the collection dates from about 1994.

See also:

© Stephen Paterson and An Anthology of English Pros, 2008-2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Stephen Paterson and An Anthology of English Pros with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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