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The New Zealand and Swedish experiences of prostitution

January 16th, 2008

Dr Petra

Any of you following the UK debates on prostitution relating to the proposed revision of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill may be interested in a talk today by Catherine Healey and Pye Jakobsson who will be describing the experiences of prostitution regulation in New Zealand and Sweden.

The talk is from 4-6pm today (16 January 2008) and anyone with an interest in this issue is welcome to attend.

The meeting will take place at the House of Commons, Committee Room 10, Westminster, London SW1 and will be hosted by Baroness Vivien Stern and John McDonnell MP

A statement from the English Collective of Prostitutes about the event explains…
As repressive legislation to “rehabilitate” prostitute women and criminalise clients is considered by Parliament, experts from Sweden and New Zealand speak on the daily implications of these laws for women’s safety.

Are prostitute women ignorant victims? Immoral criminals? Or are they workers who deserve respect and support? What do the women think of the government proposals to “rehabilitate” them and criminalise clients? Would these proposals stop the trafficking of women for prostitution? How different is this trafficking from trafficking for agricultural, domestic or other service work? What do other women think of the feminist claim that all prostitutes are victims who cannot be left to decide about their own bodies and about how to make a living? Is prostitution uniquely degrading or is it uniquely degraded by criminalisation?

Before you decide, come to the meeting in the Commons on 16 January.

The Safety First Coalition invites you to hear first hand about New Zealand’s decriminalisation of prostitution, Sweden’s criminalisation of clients, and the effects on women’s health and safety.

Keynote speakers:
Catherine Healy
Key to New Zealand’s successful decriminalisation of prostitution in 2003, Ms Healy was appointed by the Minister of Justice to the New Zealand Prostitution Law Review Committee. She is a founding member and the national co-ordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective. She is frequently sought by national and international organisations for advice on issues affecting sex workers. She was widely consulted for the publication of A Guide to Occupational Health and Safety in the New Zealand Sex Industry recommended by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee. She collaborated with researchers from Otago University, Christchurch, on major research into the effects of decriminalisation, soon to be published. In1993 Ms Healy was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal for her services to women.

Pye Jakobsson
Organising for sex workers’ rights since 1994, Ms Jacobsson is a founding member of Sex Workers and Allies in Sweden (SANS) which organises against the criminalisation of sex workers resulting from the criminalisation of clients.

The Safety First Coalition is made up of members of the church, nurses, doctors, probation officers, drug reformers, anti-rape and anti-poverty campaigners, residents from red-light areas, sex workers, sex work projects and others, who came together in the aftermath of the tragic murders of five young women in Ipswich to press for women’s safety to be prioritised and for an end to the criminalisation which makes sex workers vulnerable to attack. It opposes Clause 105 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill which increases criminalisation. It is co-ordinated by the English Collective of Prostitutes.

Clause 105 was rushed through the Commons on 9 January despite widespread concern. It is being promoted as an alternative to a fine but it is an additional power. It requires anyone arrested for loitering or soliciting to attend a series of three meetings with a supervisor approved by the court “to promote rehabilitation, by assisting the offender to address the causes of their involvement in prostitution and to find ways of ending that involvement.” Women will be humiliated by having to reveal intimate circumstances, while no resources are to be made available to “address the causes”. Failure to attend will result in a summons back to court and possible 72-hours imprisonment. Women may end up on a treadmill of broken supervision meetings, court orders and imprisonment, on top of fines and prison sentences for non-payment. Even the Magistrates Association has expressed concern.

The government is considering criminalising clients and ministers have just visited Sweden where it is illegal for men to buy sex.
For the briefing on aspects relating to prostitution in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill or any other information contact the English Collective of Prostitutes and the Safety First Coalition Tel: 020 7482 2496, 07811 964 171 ecp@allwomencount.net

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