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As everyone now knows, speculation about the relationship between big sports events and sex trafficking continues despite evidence that no such relationship exists. Seemingly endless reports before the Olympics began in late July worried about what might happen, justifying all manner of awareness-raising and misleading rhetoric (from the EWL, from Stop the Traffik and of course from the police).

We at x:talk have made a questionnaire for those who worked in London during the games (including the Paralympics). The purpose is to find out from those directly involved: Was business better or worse? Did people travel to London to do business? Did they see anyone forced to do sex work? What experience with the police did they have if any? The survey, called Did the Olympics affect London’s sex industry? can be found right here: Do please disseminate far and wide, but don’t participate unless you actually worked in London during the Olympics. Here’s the description at the start of the survey:

Help give a voice to London’s sex workers and adult-entertainment businesses

Xtalk Project Limited, a co-operative led by sex workers in London, would like to know if and how the Olympics affected your business. If you worked in the sex industry - in any kind of adult-entertainment business – in any capacity, whether as employee, independent, owner or manager from 27 July to 10 September 2012, please take 10 minutes to answer some brief questions.

* We are not asking your name, address, age, gender or any other personal details.

* We will not record your ISP in order to track your computer or where you were when you filled out this questionnaire.

We will be reporting how many respondents answered questions and what they said, in order to contribute to ongoing debates about sex work and adult entertainment in the UK and abroad.

Everyone who worked is invited to complete this questionnaire: people who sell sex or erotic services, people who have support roles in or provide professional services to adult-entertainment businesses, managers and owners. If you had any of these roles in London during the Olympics you are eligible to do this questionnaire.

Please do not answer this questionnaire if you did not work in London’s sex industry during the Olympics. We want to provide unbiased information about what happened.

If you have any questions, please contact us at xtalk.olympics [at] yahoo.co.uk or visit xtalkproject.net

Click here to take the xtalk Olympics survey

Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

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If you are in London next Monday, come to the launch of the Stop the Arrests campaign. The event will be short and sweet and it would be good to see a lot of people not only turn up but also join the resistance to yet more policing and repression of sexual practices involving money. It’s also a good central location with numerous pubs nearby for socialising afterwards.

It’s not to late to put your signature on the list of supporters.

I will be speaking about the lack of evidence linking sporting events with trafficking. I wrote about the background to this initiative a while back.

INVITATION: Stop the Arrests Campaign Launch

WHEN: 1830 Monday 18 June 2012

WHERE: Centre for Possible Studies, 21 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8HR (nearest tube: Marble Arch)

Campaign group Stop the Arrests will hold a public launch in central London this Monday to outline its call for a moratorium on sex worker arrests during the London 2012 Olympic Games. The panel includes Laura Agustín, trafficking expert and author of Sex at the Margins, Georgina Perry, manager of Open Doors, a sex worker health project operating in Hackney and a video link up with Brooke Magnanti, aka Belle de Jour and author of The Sex Myth. Stop the Arrests is concerned that the policing of sex work and sex establishments in the lead-up to the Olympics threatens to compromise the safety and autonomy of sex workers.

The launch will also feature voices from workers in the sex industry.

The Met have recently been in touch with Stop the Arrests to inform that they have developed ”an alternative system of dealing with sex workers during the Olympic period”. This protocol, which will be made public on Monday 18 June,  has been developed without any input from sex worker organisations or other specialist services working with sex workers, such as health and harm minimisation organisations.

Ava Caradonna, Spokesperson for x:talk said: Stop the Arrests has tried for months to get an audience with the Met to discuss policing protocol during the Olympics. A senior Met officer has assured us that that the relevant department is aware of xtalk and the proposal for a Moratorium and yet we have not been consulted. The current laws and policing around sex work have been criticised from many different quarters for the lack of consultation with sex workers and sex worker-led organisations, and the failure of these policies to take into account the realities of the sex industry. It is deeply worrying that the Met continues to develop policies that ignore these criticisms and the views of those affected.

Media Enquires:

Xanthe Whittaker: 07901335613
Katie Cruz: 07917732990

NOTES

1. Campaign group Stop the Arrests issued the Mayor of London with a letter on June 6 calling upon him to use his powers, in co-operation with the police and UK Border Agency, to stop the arrest, detention and deportation of sex workers during the Olympics. Signatories to the letter, which was initiated by the xtalk project, include John McDonnell MP and chair of the Green Party, Jenny Jones, author Brooke Magnanti (Belle de Jour), Jane Ayres, manager of The Praed Street Project – a sex worker health project operating in London, and the UK Harm Reduction Alliance. Full details of campaign and list of signatories here.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

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The European Women’s Lobby – which should not be allowed to call themselves that – continue to use public money to further a campaign that contradicts the laws of several European states that allow people to sell and buy sexual services. This red-card nonsense is part of Together for a Europe Free From Prostitution, which overtly spreads what they themselves call abolition: true missionary endeavour, even if these missionaries look like so-called liberated western women. How do they get away with this? Is there no oversight for funding to such groups? I suppose the Germans, Dutch, Czechs et al just ignore it all, but in times of purse-tightening it is annoying that zealots are allowed to throw public money around like this. I wonder what happened to the question that was put in the European Parliament about this?

Money is the key: It has become easy to get funding nowadays to campaign against trafficking; no thinking is required; just flash your ideology like a red card. Funders then get to tick the box showing they care about trafficking, which in turn makes them look good. Never mind that the message is a lie, since there is no evidence that sex trafficking increases when big sporting events take place. Evidence is irrelevant to ideological fanatics, of course, but it shouldn’t be to Brussels technocrats. Two mega-events are cited, the London Olympics, which begin in late July, and the UEFA European Football Championship, which begins any minute now.

The text accompanying this message deliberately misinterprets that evidence, provided by relatively sound investigation and staid sources.

This year, thousands of young girls and women are at risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation to satisfy the demand for prostitution on the sidelines of the Olympic Games in London and the UEFA Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

The number of human trafficking victims in Greece increased by 95% during the 2004 Olympic Games. Ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, predictions were for more than 40,000 women and children to be trafficked into the country to meet the prostitution demands of millions of football fans. During the 2011 World Cup, South African authorities noted a ‘huge’ increase in the sex trade, with the number of women and girls involved in prostitution, as well as the number of brothels, doubling.

The European Women’s Lobby has called on Members of the European Parliament to take a stand against prostitution at sporting events. Nineteen MEPs supporting the EWL campaign have been invited to gather for a group photo with the EWL red card ‘Be a sport. Keep it fair… Say NO to prostitution’.

 

On the sidelines of this visual event, the EWL will present an awareness-raising video clip ‘Sport, sex and fun’, as well as issue a press release and briefing about prostitution at sporting events.

The evidence, once again, is:

Germany: 2006 World Cup

  • SIDA/IOM report: The first significant attempt to assess whether women were trafficked (forced) to sell sex at a major sporting event was financed by the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA) and published by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Despite predictions that 40 000 women would be trafficked, only 5 cases of trafficking were found to be linked to the World Cup. Report published in 2006.
  • German government report: Subsequently, the German Federal Government produced a report for the Council of the European Union, finding no increase in cases of trafficking related to the World Cup. Report published in 2007.

South Africa: 2010 World Cup

Research was carried out by the Sex Work Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and the African Centre for for Migration & Society, commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This investigation included a survey of local sex workers; no cases of trafficking were found associated with the World Cup. Report published in 2010.

Note at the end of the EWL disinformation: More infotainment on the way! Forget the facts, show a naff video! The EWL can scarcely surpass their video of a male made miserable by licking the pussies of his clients, though: surely that ought to win some award.

Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

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Olympics Sex Workers

Now you can sign up by clicking a button on the website for Stop the Arrests, either as a group (best, if you can do it) or as an individual. Here’s the list of those who’ve signed so far. You can be located anywhere in the world, but if you are a UK group it’s really important your name is there! The letter will go to Mayor Boris Johnson soon. I discussed this campaign a while back, including a list of all the laws that criminalise sex workers in England and Wales.

One menu tab on the site is called Evidence, and it says:

No research has proved an increase in human trafficking caused by large sporting events.

Three research projects have been conducted specifically to assess cases of trafficking associated with major sporting events after those events were over.

Germany: 2006 World Cup

  • SIDA/IOM report: The first significant attempt to assess whether women were trafficked (forced) to sell sex at a major sporting event was financed by the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA) and published by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Despite predictions that 40 000 women would be trafficked, only 5 cases of trafficking were found to be linked to the World Cup. Report published in 2006.
  • German government report: Subsequently, the German Federal Government produced a report for the Council of the European Union, finding no increase in cases of trafficking related to the World Cup. Report published in 2007.

South Africa: 2010 World Cup

Research was carried out by the Sex Work Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and the African Centre for for Migration & Society, commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This investigation included a survey of local sex workers; no cases of trafficking were found associated with the World Cup. Report published in 2010.

Other major sporting events have been speculated about: the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and several US Super Bowls. A report from GAATW (the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women) gathers together existing data. Many other reports deconstruct and debunk the idea that trafficking increases when major sporting events take place, but only the two on Germany and one on South Africa contain data gathered in the relevant places, after the events.

This campaign was initiated by x:talk (I am a member).

Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

 

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Those who wish evidence were the basis for social policy have been endlessly frustrated and annoyed by the survival of the myth saying sex trafficking – forced prostitution – increases enormously on the occasion of major sporting events. Despite enough evidence to convince most people that there is no such surge (see SIDA’s report on the 2006 World Cup and SWEAT’s on the 2010), it’s obvious that evidence doesn’t matter where the fear of hidden crime is constantly threatened. In other words, if the police haven’t found many women in chains, the victims must be too well hidden, which justifies further money for more intense policing.

Some NGOs against human trafficking do now acknowledge that there’s no proof that trafficking increases around big sporting events.  But they like to argue that their own efforts to prevent trafficking are the reason – Ta Da! There must be a name for this kind of logical fallacy.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)  has set up its own anti-trafficking programme called UN.GIFT, which now gives funds to a lot of the people sustaining this kind of scare-mongering. Stop the Traffik (sic – why have they spelled it like this?) is one, here maintaining that

campaigns countering human trafficking and increased law enforcement, before and during the events, are necessary to prevent the trade. International sporting events can increase human trafficking due to the short-term increased demand for prostitution, construction work, and all other sorts of labour.

So the funding gravytrain tootles along. But now they have a new justification for their activities:

prestigious sporting events can play a central role in attracting attention to the issue of human trafficking, and can function as an opportunity to increase engagement across communities. Most importantly, as there is evidence of continuous human trafficking in London and across the entire UK, we should use this opportunity that the London Olympics presents us with.

So now, whether there was ever going to be any increased trafficking or not, campaigns that worry people that their might be are doing a good job of raising awareness. In NGO-speak this is called prevention. If there is more self-serving silliness I don’t know about it.

With great solemnity, based on this absence of evidence, we find troops of volunteers ready to worry everyone in London about the hidden scourge. Here’s one (with funding from Stop the Traffik) in Tower Hamlets, one of London’s Olympic boroughs (meaning some Olympics activity actually occurs there). Do you wonder what these people will do?

This will involve running outreach sessions with local schools, hotels and faith groups using data gathered from borough-specific research, which volunteers would also be conducting. There will also be the opportunity to organise a local fundraising event to generate additional income and attract more volunteers from the local area.

I’d like to know how that research is being done. Meanwhile, the photo at the top shows a UN.GIFT box that’s going to be unwrapped during the games. (Warning if you click on that link that you are subjected to the soundtrack of a promotional video portraying cruelty.) The purpose is described as

to inspire visitors, both from the UK and abroad, to take action to stop the trade. . . a giant public art installation, which will demonstrate to people how victims of human trafficking can be deceived; beyond the promises of exciting opportunities that will entice people to the box, once inside, the stark reality of human trafficking will be revealed. . .  family-friendly and will inspire people to advocate and end trafficking in their own communities.

This is all what happens when a fear (panic, myth) takes on a life of its own. Evidence that there is cause for such fear is simply irrelevant. Unfortunately, there are unsought side-effects, as police make raids and arrests of sex workers to show they are looking for traffickers and their victims. Thus x:talk’s call for a moratorium on arrests in London.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

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A friend took these photos of a parked van while having a drink in Brixton, in the London borough of Lambeth (where Waterloo Station is). Buy Sex – Pay the Price is the message, with a man’s silhouette as a sort of parody of the cliché prostitute silhouette. At first I thought this bad boy was smoking, but on closer inspection I see he is looking at a phone.

According to the sign, the consequences of getting caught buying sex are:

- be arrested
- be convicted
- receive an anti-social behaviour order
- lose your job

- lose respect from family and friends

However: No borough can unilaterally criminalise something just because they want to; they have to follow official law. Several laws prohibit particular client behaviours in the UK: paying for sex with someone found to be controlled for another person’s gainkerb-crawling and soliciting women for (sex) business. Perhaps the campaign means Lambeth police will be more aggressive in pursuing these laws. I wrote about the more drastic version of the legislation about gain when it was being considered, but all my arguments still apply to the watered-down version.

But the way the advert is worded does imply that End Demand has been imposed in a single London borough – and presumably some people will believe it, or feel too worried to do something they want to that is not actually illegal - pay for sex with an independent worker, for example, or tip a stripper or lap-dancer. This is what social-purity campaigns do: make at least some people feel worried and guilty so that they repress themselves. The advertisements were funded by Lambeth council’s Violence Against Women campaign, described in this press release.

Social Purity campaigns were linked to gender equality a hundred years ago, too – with a good deal more cause: women didn’t have the vote. That social purity as an ideal should be back in crude form in cosmopolitan Lambeth might derive from the abolitionist presence of Eaves Housing for Women, where the Poppy Project is sheltered, in the borough. Or will this idea spread to other boroughs?

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

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