Irish government uses my writing on Swedish anti-prostitution law without mentioning my name: theft or taboo?

On sex trafficking, sex work and the Swedish claim that their evaluation of the anti-prostitution law is evidence of anything at all, I am one of few public critics. Is what I say so taboo that it cannot be credited, though? Usually my ideas are simply excluded from mention –  obviously the easiest way to deal with criticism. But a report issued recently by the Irish government presents pages of my published work, chopped up into separate bits, without mentioning my name or giving any other reference. The Report of Visit of Dignity Project* Partners to Stockholm 14-16 September 2010 says

Some comment since publication of the evaluation has been sharply critical. Examples of comment in the print media (much of it not mainstream) give an indication of negative reactions. These are summarised at Appendix 2.

But they didn’t summarise at all.  The appendix consists of 966 words of quoted material taken entirely from two articles I wrote – which means they have reproduced a large part of both pieces of writing. This is irresponsible, unethical and possibly illegal and needs to be fixed to acknowledge my work.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter T.D., today (17/10/11) announced publication of a report of the Department of Justice and Equality on Sweden’s legislation criminalising the purchase of sexual services – often referred to as the “Swedish Model”.

APPENDIX 2 (pages 13-15 in the report) (*see end for more on the Dignity Project)

Examples of negative comment in the print media


Critical blogging has been brisk, so what makes mainstream media commentators avoid criticising this evaluation, not on ideological grounds but because it is so badly done that it proves nothing at all?”

“….the embarrassing lack of evidence to prove that the law has had any impact at all on the buying and selling of sex. This is not a ideological argument; it doesn’t prove that the law is no good; it proves that the evaluation is no good.”

” …. crystal clear that the evaluators couldn’t find evidence of anything.”

“Sex crimes go down in Sweden: the new evaluation of the law against buying sex is spreading the message round the world, but the report suffers from too many scientific errors to justify any such claim.”

Stigmatised and criminalised people avoid contact with police, social workers and researchers.”

Street prostitution receives exaggerated attention in the inquiry, despite the fact that it represents a small diminishing type of commercial sex that cannot be extrapolated to all. The inquiry mentions the difficulty of researching ‘prostitution on the internet’ but appears not to know that the sex industry comes in many different shapes being researched in depth elsewhere (escorts without websites, sex parties, strip clubs, massage parlours, students who sell sex, among others).”

All the above comes from my Smoke gets in your eyes: Evaluation of Swedish anti-prostitution law offers ideology, not methodology.

The evaluation leaned heavily on small-scale data about street prostitution, because that was the easiest to find………evaluators bolstered their case by claiming that street prostitution had increased in Denmark, where there is no such law, using information from a Copenhagen NGO whose inflated data was exposed in parliament last year. Street prostitution is known, in any case, to constitute a tiny, diminishing part of the whole of commercial sex.”

From my Big claims, little evidence: Sweden’s law against buying sex (The Local, presumably counting as a mainstream publication)

“… police only encounter sex workers in the context of criminal inquiries, the funded groups mostly meet sex workers seeking help, small studies can only indicate possible trends and the Danish statistics on the number of ‘active’ street workers – used to show that Sweden’s prostitution is less – were publicly shown to be very wrong eight months ago.”

The law is claimed to have had a dampening effect on sex trafficking, but no proof is offered. Trafficking statistics have long been disputed outside Sweden, because of definitional confusion and refusals to accept the UN Convention on Organised Crime’s distinction between human trafficking and human smuggling linked to informal labour migration. The report claims the law diminishes ‘organised crime’ without analysing how crimes were identified and resolved or how they are related to the sex-purchase law.”

“In this report .. the methodology section is practically non-existent. We know nothing about how .. the evaluation was actually carried out.”

Again all the above comes from my Smoke gets in your eyes: Evaluation of Swedish anti-prostitution law offers ideology, not methodology.

“The evaluation gives no account of how the research was actually carried out – its methodology – but is full of background material on Swedish history and why prostitution is bad.”

Again from my Big claims, little evidence: Sweden’s law against buying sex

“One single sex worker’s sad personal story takes up three pages, while the account of sex workers’ opinions is limited to the results of a survey of only 14 people of which only seven were current sex workers.”

“Research must try for some kind of objectivity, but the Government’s remit to the evaluation team said that ‘the buying of sexual services shall continue to be criminalised’ no matter what the  evaluators found. The bias was inherent.”

“This evaluation tells us nothing about the effects of the sex-purchase law.”

Again all the above comes from my Smoke gets in your eyes: Evaluation of Swedish anti-prostitution law offers ideology, not methodology.

” …one feminist faction promotes the ideology that prostitutes are always, by definition, victims of violence against women. As victims, they can’t be criminals, so their side of the money-sex exchange is not penalised, whereas those who buy are perpetrators of a serious crime. This ideology, a minority view in other countries, predominates among Swedish State Feminists who claim that the existence of commercial sex is a key impediment to achieving gender equality. Such a dogma is odd, given the very small number of people engaged in selling sex in a welfare state that does not exclude them from its services and benefits.”

“A Government report from 2007 admitted it was difficult to find out much of anything about prostitution in Sweden.”

“Several media commentators took the occasion to attack the law itself, since despite regular Government affirmations that the majority of Swedes support the law, opposition is fierce. In the blogosphere and other online forums ……… nonconforming members of the main parties relentlessly resist a reductionist view of sexuality in which vulnerable women are forever threatened by predatory men.”

“.. most politicians undoubtedly feel little good will come from complaining about legislation now symbolic of Mother Sweden. The Swedish Institute has turned the abolition of prostitution into part of the nation’s brand, what they call a ‘multi-faceted package to make Sweden attractive to the outside world’.”

“Sweden indisputably ranks high on several measures of gender equality …. But other policies considered as part of gender equality are much harder to measure …. It is hardly surprising that the Government’s evaluation presents no evidence that relations between men and women have improved in Sweden because of the law. The evaluation’s main recommendation is to stiffen the punishment meted out to men who buy sex.”

“….citing no evidence, the report maintains there is less trafficking in Sweden because it is now ‘less attractive’ to traffickers … Such naive statements argue that without demand there will be no supply…….reducing a wide range of sexual activities to an abstract notion of violence and brushing aside the many people who confirm that they prefer selling sex to their other livelihood options.”

As for combating trafficking, there is no proof…..different countries, institutions and researchers do not agree on what actually constitutes trafficking. It does not help that fundamentalist feminism refuses to accept the distinction between human trafficking and human smuggling linked to informal labour migration, as enshrined in the UN Convention on Organised Crime.”

Again all the above from my Big claims, little evidence: Sweden’s law against buying sex

I am writing to the Minister’s private secretary and the Ministry’s press office right now.

* So what is the Dignity Project? From the report itself:

Dignity is an EU funded (Daphne Programme) research project examining services provided for victims of human trafficking, with a view to replicating best practice models in partner countries, and is led by the Dublin Employment Pact and the Immigrant Council of Ireland. It is an inter-agency and inter-jurisdictional initiative with partners in Scotland, Spain and Lithuania and works to identify what steps can be taken to end the exploitation of women and children who are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

The Irish partners are Ruhama, Sonas Housing, the Legal Aid Board, the HSE Women’s Health Project, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Dublin Employment Pact. In addition, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Department of Justice and Law Reform and the Garda National Immigration Bureau are partners with observer status.
Dignity has been lobbying the Minister to follow the lead of Sweden, Norway and Iceland and bring forward legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex and decriminalise the sale of sex in Ireland in order to target the demand side of the sex industry.

Dignity’s website describes their extensive junkets to meet predictably like-minded people in different countries. The size of their grant brings the word boondoggle to mind. In days of Occupy movements this sort of Rescue Industry activity deserve to be cut.

Note: After tedious backs and forths, they fixed the attributions. The report is here.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

One thought on “Irish government uses my writing on Swedish anti-prostitution law without mentioning my name: theft or taboo?

  1. laura agustin Post author

    Kato, indeed, the persistence in mainstream social work of institutions implicated in the Magdalene homes is quite compromising for the Irish government. I suppose most people think all that is in the past, the culpable individuals long gone, but institutions have a remarkable way of maintaining their character despite who comes and goes.


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