"I think that I shall never see A tree lovely as a cheque"
Katy Hayes, with apologies to A J Kilmer

Sex workers need an amnesty from ill conceived laws

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Katy Hayes | The Sunday Times | Aug 9 2015

Most people don’t use prostitutes, are not themselves prostitutes, and don’t think they know any prostitutes, so the law surrounding the sex trade is about as relevant to them as a combine harvester is to a ballet dancer. Yet people should be clear as to what is going on because, where there is apathy, laws get pushed through by a vocal ideological minority.

Amnesty International began its five-day international council meeting last Friday in Dublin. It is a closed forum for discussion. On the agenda is its draft document proposing that sex work be decriminalised worldwide. The proposal is by no means guaranteed approval.

We in Ireland are busy extending the criminalisation of the sex industry, by proposing to make the purchase of sexual services illegal, shifting the criminality onto the purchasers — the so-called Nordic model. I call it the Legion of Mary model, as it drips with sanctimonious judgmental sympathy for the prostitute, who is seen as a victim in need of rescue.

This proposal is contained in Frances Fitzgerald’s new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which also deals with truly vital matters such as strengthening laws against grooming children for sex, and child pornography.

There is a world of difference between consenting adults exchanging cash for sex, and the sexual abuse of children or adults for which the perpetrators should be severely punished. But a person who hands a hundred quid to a willing woman or man for what they both consider to be a branch of the entertainment industry is surely in a different category. To infer an equivalence between the two activities is to demean the seriousness of actual sexual crimes against adults and children.

The draft policy document circulated by Amnesty argues strongly in favour of decriminalisation as a way to vindicate sex workers’ human rights, including the basic right to defences under the law. As things stand in most countries, where a sex worker occupies a grey area in terms of legality, that person is put in an invidious position when they seek the protection of the law in cases such as assault. The way to correct the marginalisation of sex workers is first to empower them by destigmatisation, and this cannot be done without decriminalisation.

Meanwhile, the Women’s Museum of Ireland is creating a map of Dublin highlighting locations associated with notable women. Suggestions include Peg Plunkett, who kept a brothel near the site of the Westbury hotel in the 18th century. So we’re not totally opposed to prostitutes, so long as they’re dead ones.

Men will always want more sex than women. This aspect of human nature should shift the balance of power towards women. However, because the purchase of sex has always been policed by the patriarchal puritan ideal, it has become a source of vulnerability and shame. It is culturally acceptable to swap sex for a semi in Swords and a wedding ring. It is legally acceptable to be a “kept woman” because that, too, fits into patriarchal norms. But give the girl a cash register and a price list, and suddenly she’s catapulted into the criminal underworld.

The Amnesty resolution will have no effect on the passage of the Irish bill, which is supported by all main political parties, swayed as they are by the vocal ideological voices of the likes of Ruhama and the National Women’s Council of Ireland. A certain mindset cannot conceive of a happy, businesslike hooker. As with the abortion debate, we hear very little from the people most affected by the law, in this case the sex workers. Stigma is a powerful silencing weapon.

There are two important issues at stake. First, the freedom for consenting adults to do as they please with their bodies and their assets when it harms no one. And that is an important principle of basic freedom that has been hard won in other areas of social justice. The second is that sex workers need to be protected by the law, rather than victimised by it. Amnesty for prostitutes is a good thing.

Sexism isn’t cool — it’s freezing

The office thermostat has to be put on the gender offender list, according to a Nature Climate Change study.

One of the primary variables used for making indoor climate calculations is based on the metabolic rate of the average male, and it overestimates the female rate by up to 35%. So basically the ladies are shivering to stop the men from sweating.

Another unwanted side effect of chilly offices is that it makes women’s nipples inadvertently stand to attention. So women have to carry cardigans at all times, for strategic deployment over shoulders and draping across front, so we don’t get too self-conscious.

Honestly, it’s exhausting being a woman. And it’s freezing.

Move over, guys — it’s cramping our style

The cross-city Luas works started this week to add to our traffic woes. Traders in the capital are not happy about the new sustainable transport plan, which they consider anti-motorist. Their main beef is that it doesn’t differentiate between shoppers — who are welcome — and commuters — who are clogging up the city’s arteries. Like good and bad cholesterol, there are good and bad drivers.

It is mainly women who are doing the shopping and men who are doing the commuting. So when my feminazi friends and I take over the universe, we will banish the commuting men onto public transport, where they will immediately be emasculated by being separated from their beloved cars.

It will so serve them right for hogging better pay and promotional opportunities in the workplace, and for controlling workplace environments in a hostile fashion. Supported by our gallant allies in the retail trade, we will drive in and out of town all day on our flexitime schedules. To shop.

Bingo mugging

That awful mugging of an 89-year-old lady in Limerick on her way home from bingo is enraging. She was viciously attacked on her front doorstep, having been dropped off by a taxi.

The assailant stole her handbag containing €20, and she has been left with a broken pelvis. My own fantastic mum is 86 and in vigorous health. But people of that age are very light and fragile. An elderly person should be safe getting dropped to their door by a taxi, but obviously not in the current climate.

I suggest nothing less than waterboarding as a punishment for when the offending thug is caught. Or perhaps a real “cascade of sludge” rather than the figurative one dreamed up by lawyers recently in an attempt to get an upcoming criminal trial adjourned.


Link to Sunday Times article