News Round-Up

// 13 November 2008

Seemingly according to Jersey officials sexual abuse survivors should shut up. Now bear with me whilst I explain how I got to that conclusion… They have called the release of information about the investigations at Haute de la Garenne “misleading”. It was that information which created a culture shift in which (alleged) victims of sexual and physical abuse at the children’s home felt they could come forward. In short, Lenny Harper’s actions releasing information led to a situation in which survivors could disclose. By calling that “misleading” effectively argues that survivors should never have been enabled to speak out about the abuse they experienced. Yet again, those people who risk stigmatisation, who risk being stereotyped, who risk being called liars, hysterical or fantasists, yet again they are told that their society does not want to listen to the truths of abuse.

Also being told to shut up are the mothers who complained about the lack of protection given to their children during the Holy Cross protests in Northern Ireland. The Holy Cross situation included protestant men throwing pornography at and displaying hardcore images to catholic schoolgirls on their way to attend school (note in other settings this would constitute child sexual abuse according to UK law) as well as intimidation, verbal and physical abuse etc. Some mothers took a case all the way to the House of Lords claiming discrimination because the Police allowed “inhuman and degrading treatment”. The House of Lords have dismissed the claims and criticised the Human Rights Commission for supporting the case. At the same time the House of Lords agreed that the children were subjected to “inhuman and degrading treatment”. The summary of the judgement is this:

“the House clearly accepted that the children were subject to inhuman and degrading treatment, yet concluded that permitting a protest to take place, which the police admitted was illegal, was upholding the rule of law,”

Go figure.

Meanwhile, nine people have been jailed for their role in an “online brothel” (the term is misleading – this isn’t about avatar sex, this is about trafficking of women for (male) sexual purposes). The set up is simple – web sites advertise the “goods” (i.e. women) on offer at brothels and men using the internet can select their preferred options. Some sites seem to be run by women themselves, advertising nothing more than themselves and colleagues working without pimps. But not in this case where the women were “indentured” (i.e. slaves with no chance of paying off their “debts”).

One of the women – advertised on the website as “Helen” – had been “bought” from her traffickers by a syndicate of two women and a man for £11,000 and then told she would have to pay her “bondholders” £30,000 to win her own freedom.

Brian O’Neill, prosecuting, said she effectively had to sleep with 300 men, at £100 a time, to buy herself out of a modern-day form of slavery.

The nine people jailed (sentences in brackets) are site owners/runners (and ergo brothel keepers and enslavers) Pongpoj Pitayatanakul (18 months prison), his brother Bordee Pitayatanakul (15 months prison), and Pongpoj’s girlfriend Monthira Duangthip (12 months prison) and in addition drivers/assistants Panya Peakaew (28 days prison), Nopharat Charoenying (28 days prison), Graipich Vudto (28 days prison), Thatri Pornpaditkong (community service order). The “bondholders” (i.e. slave owners) were Sutima Khongpon (2.5 years prison), Phanusak Kaewbenjarkarn (2 years prison) and Jiripha Sriwicha (2 years prison).

So there you have it – up to 60 women were advertised on this site and the maximum sentence received was 2.5 years. That’s what a woman’s freedom is worth.

In rather more positive news from the Palace of Westminster, Parliament has launched a Charter for Asylum Seeking women. And Amnesty International has launched a report on Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse in Armenia.

In disability news, amandaw has written this poignant and accurate explanation of the “second shift for the sick”. I’ll let her articulateness stand for itself as I’d only mess it up!

Resistance — truly the best word for it — it is as though “normal,” “healthy” folk are able to move throughout the world uninhibited, like pushing your hand into thin air — but sick people, disabled people must move through a world which is set up to prohibit their full participation — like pushing your hand into a thick heavy bog.

That is privilege. The ability to swim through your sea with nary a care, completely obliviously unaware of the freedom of movement you are so fortunate to have, while the rest of us have sand bags tied to our limbs, anchors roped round our waists, our feet set in cement blocks… and to look back at us and ask, “What’s taking you so long?” It’s exhausting. I cannot convey in words how exhausting the fight is. Always on the defensive, always saddled with the knowledge that your basic needs require a struggle, while everyone else’s basic needs are pretty much a given so long as they put in at least a half-assed drop of effort. It’s not even just time spent, it’s energy.

In popular culture analysis, Sociological Images has an advert from a Polish phone company which objectifies women to make the point that (I assume for men) it’s better to talk to other men about men’s things like cars, sports and breasts. Not only does it objectify them but it suggests that female firefighters, soldiers and mechanics are too “girly” to do an adequate job. Feministing has also flagged up the lack of female voices doing movie trailers. And further to this mention of Nell McCafferty’s new portrait (which I should say I think is fab), McCafferty has spoken out here

“Sure, I’m against people using the beauty of women to sell cars and things, and that hasn’t changed. The message is different here, it is about showing the body for all its age. I haven’t exactly had any offers from car companies asking me to help sell even their second-hand cars since the picture appeared. What would I sell? Trabants?,”

Also, member of Birmingham Feminists, Mari Jane Cox has written a book about domestic violence which she is encouraging people to request from their local libraries so it exists as a resource. It’s also available to buy from various outlets including Amazon (and do remember in the approach to the festive season that the F Word shop raises funds through Amazon referral sales for the site and feminist activities – to link through us as referrer then use the “shop” link to the right or the link above).

If I had an “Analysis of the Day” award it would currently be tied between amandaw’s piece and this piece by Jeff Fecke deconstructing an MRA diatribe. Fecke gets points for making me laugh out loud. Amandaw gets points for making me nod madly and go “yes that’s it!”

Comments From You

nell mc cafferty // Posted 13 November 2008 at 8:52 pm

ah jaysus what i said about the portrait of my naked ageing body is that a good used car showroom should buy it, and use the slogan “It”s the engine, stupid.

the (male) reportee didn’t get it. do you?

Ruth // Posted 14 November 2008 at 6:44 pm

Yep, Nell, only the last two cars I had – engines were fine but the bodywork and chassis kept shedding bits…

A lawyer // Posted 19 November 2008 at 1:17 am

I would just like to point out that in the case you cited all the women involved were self employed prostitutes, registering with websites and earning £5,000 to £8,000 per week, paying a perentage to the websites for advertsing. The (female as it happens) Defendants in this case were found Not Guilty of trafficking and pleaded guilty to controling for gain, hence the two and a half year sentence. Under the 2003 Act, whilst prostitution is legal, any form of “control” is a crime, even if the control is prostitutes forming a co-operative for mutal protection, pooling of expenses or employing a receptionist to take bookings on behalf of them all. If a prostitute works from home on her own, she / he commits no offence, but is at risk of who being attacked / raped / robbed by ‘clients’. The current law simply prevents women (and men for that matter as some of the prostitutes in this case were male) from protecting themselves. Any group of prostitues who formed a collective and advertised for other prostitutes to join would be guilty of conspiracy to traffic (4 – 10 years) and conspiracy to control for gain / being concerned in the managment of a brothel (2 – 5 years). As a lawyer who has represented many women who have been horribiliy abused whilst working as prosititues, I would suggest that it is criminalising of prostitites organisizing themselves in any way that is the problem and allows the explotation of sex workers by pimps and traffickers.

Louise Livesey // Posted 19 November 2008 at 9:24 am

I am not sure how this can be the case given that “control for gain” is being touted for introduction in next months Queens’ Speech

(from the same original article)

“Earlier this year the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced plans to introduce legislation to outlaw paying for sex with someone “controlled for another person’s gain”. It is thought this legislation could be included in next month’s Queen’s Speech.

Plus the defendants weren’t found not guilty of trafficking – the CPS dropped those charges.

Ten people, all from Thailand, were eventually charged with conspiracy to traffic women within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation; conspiracy to control prostitution for gain or money laundering. But the prosecution later dropped the trafficking charges and earlier this week all 10 pleaded guilty to prostitution and money laundering offences.

Now the reasons aren’t given but we do know from work by, for example, the Poppy Project that trafficking convictions are hard to get unless you catch them in transit however the testimony of one of the women involved makes clear the role of these people as end-point traffickers keeping women enslaved to pay off imaginary “debts”.

One of the women – advertised on the website as “Helen” – had been “bought” from her traffickers by a syndicate of two women and a man for £11,000 and then told she would have to pay her “bondholders” £30,000 to win her own freedom. Brian O’Neill, prosecuting, said she effectively had to sleep with 300 men, at £100 a time, to buy herself out of a modern-day form of slavery

So I am not sure where you are getting your information but it seems to be very hard to be “self-employed” if you are “bonded labour” and even if the legislation for “control for gain” had already been introduced then that would automatically disprove your claim these women were exercising their autonomy here.

The current law, as Fiona McTaggart MP was arguing on Radio 4 yesterday, does prevent women from autonomously organising for their own safety and she was bemoaning that her legislative change to allow groups of up to three women work together never reached fruition. Alongside side arguing that the Swedish model (criminalising purchasers of sex) is much clearer than the Finnish model (criminalising purchasers of sex where the women are pimped or trafficked) in terms of ensuring women’s safety. Not sure whether I agree with the latter but if the Finnish model legislation that may be announced any day has, as it’s thought, no clause that says the punters have to be aware of the pimping/trafficking then it’s a step forward to acknowledging the rights of sex workers and the rights of women not to be trafficked.

Kath // Posted 19 November 2008 at 9:53 am

Hi Louise, I believe that “control for gain” (pimping) is a criminal offence at the moment and includes prostitutes collectively organising themselves – this is what Fiona McTaggart was referring to. The new laws would make it a criminal offence to pay for sex with someone “controlled for gain”, or who had been trafficked. And quite rightly so.

Anna // Posted 19 November 2008 at 12:00 pm

There was someone on the wright stuff this morning (why is it the only two times I’ve bothered to watch the show it’s been an essay in rape apologism?) bitching about how ‘innocent men, who didn’t know that woman was forcibly trafficked, could end up on a rape charge. and how could that be fair?’

I was shouting at the TV twenty seconds in – what the hell gives him the right to think he can buy a woman for sex? And why does he think being prosecuted for a rape he ‘didn’t know’ he was committing is somehow worse than raping a woman? He made absolutely no reference to the trauma inflicted on the woman involved. Lovely man.

If you don’t want to potentially get done for rape – and far more important, NOT BE A RAPIST – then don’t use prostitutes. Use your god damn hand.

Argh.

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