Scots & Irish jump on Swedish moral bandwagon
DAYS following the publication of the report praising Sweden’s anti-punter law, prohibitionists have been making use of it in Scotland and the Irish Republic to stir up hatred against sex workers’ clients.
Meanwhile, the quoted rise in Danish street sex workers – used by the report to help justify the Swedish measure – has been discovered to be based on false statistics provided by a Danish NGO.
In Scotland, Marlyn Glen (pictured) – an MSP for North East Scotland – has posted (quaintly in the third person) on her blog, bemoaning the fact the report came out three days after her proposals to criminalise the purchasers of sex was emphatically rejected by the Scottish Parliament. The vote was supported by Glen’s 43 Labour colleagues but opposed by the SNP, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives and her amendments rejected by 78 votes to 44.
However, fellow Labour MSP Trish Godman has promised more repressive legislation in Autumn and is already consulting on plans.
Glen seems unperturbed by the fact that her North East Scotland constituency includes Scotland’s oil capital of Aberdeen, where adoption of Westminster-style kerb crawling laws in February, 2007 caused major problems resulting from abandonment of its six year dockside toleration zone.
Quay Services, who had provided shelter and support for the Aberdeen women, was reduced to using text messages to try to re-establish contact with at least some of them after they dispersed, causing increased danger to the women and complaints throughout the city.
In Edinburgh, the kerb crawling law resulted in Scot-Pep reporting that attacks on sex workers for the first nine months of 2007 were 44% higher than for the whole of 2006 and comprised two abductions, 40 assaults, one attempted murder, seven rapes, nine robberies, seven sexual assaults, and 29 ‘other’ incidents (including verbal abuse, harassment, intimidation and non-payment). Many of the assailants were not clients but “groups of male and female youths in cars shouting abuse and throwing missiles such as eggs and bottles” and other passers-by.
These increased violence levels are, of course, something street workers in England and Wales have had to put up with since kerb crawling law was first perpetrated here in 1985.
In her blog posting, Glen describes the vote as an “embarrassing decision” which was “a vote against what has been shown to work in a country such as Sweden with a long-standing progressive reputation on women’s rights.” Not quite so long-standing as Glen thinks, it seems. As recently as 1976, the Swedes were sterilising women – often forcibly – who were considered unfit to be mothers under a eugenics law dating back to 1934, and the leading Social Democrat Party was refusing compensation as late as 1996.
All of which prompts a cold chill when Anna Skarhed says in her report: “Further research is needed…on who purchases sexual services, and suitable treatment methods.” (Italics mine).
Meanwhile in the Irish Republic, the Irish Immigrant Council has also cited the Swedish evaluation for similar purposes.
This Daily Mirror report, typical of many in the UK media, vastly inflates the drug addiction figure for sex workers by taking results from survival street sex worker surveys, bumping them up, and applying them to all sex workers, the vast majority of which are off-street.
As both the Republic and Scotland already have repressive kerb crawling laws, and as the main result claimed for the Swedish legislation has been to reduce street sex workers, it is difficult to see how either could gain much in reductions of sex work from yet further repression against clients.
Danish figures for street sex workers are much relied upon by the Swedes for comparison purposes, along with Norway’s. Heavy increases in Danish and Norwegian street survival sex workers have not been matched in Sweden, says their report.
However, doubt has been cast on the Danish figures by SIO (Sexarbejdernes Interesse Organisation), the Danish ‘Sexworkers Interests Organisation. In a Press Statement, SIO criticises Reden (Nest), the Copenhagen NGO, for its figures which, it says
accumulate over the years rather than begin again (and are therefore merely a total of those who have used the service over time)
includes hundreds of duplicate entries, counted multiple times, and
includes visitors to their service who are not sex workers
A translation of the Press statement is available on Laura Agustin’s Border Thinking blog.
Meanwhile, in Norway there are claims that the street worker population has increased as a result of brothel raids following its adoption of the Swedish anti-punter law, turning women onto the streets.