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Snapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.

‘Equal Recognition’ campaign launched in Edinburgh; hope for a ‘third gender’ within the UK?

Oriana Frame, Durham University.

On the 1st of November 2014, the Equal Recognition campaign was launched in Edinburgh. The campaign, pioneered by The Scottish Transgender Alliance alongside the Equality Network, has vocalised the notion that Scotland, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, is falling behind countries such as India, Denmark, Bangladesh and Germany who have already legally recognised a ‘third’ non-binary gender.

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Snapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill (NI)

Sarah Thin, Durham University

On the 20th of October, the Northern Irish Assembly passed the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, a controversial new law which purportedly seeks to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation by, inter alia, criminalising the act of paying for sexual services.  It is likely to become law by mid-2015.  By targeting the buyer as opposed to the seller (a novel approach within the UK), the proposals aim to recreate the supposed success of the ‘Swedish model’, the idea behind which is to reduce demand within the sex trade thereby reducing levels of sex trafficking.

There has been heavy criticism of the proposals: a survey of sex workers has found that 98% of them oppose the proposals and 61% believe the new law would make them less safe.  Many argue that the Swedish model ‘strips women of their agency and autonomy’ by criminalising the consensual buying and selling of sex, has increased the stigmatisation of sex workers, and its success appears to have been greatly exaggerated.  While no-one would deny that human trafficking is a major problem in today’s society, claims that the majority of sex workers in Northern Ireland are victims of trafficking have been shown to be unfounded, and many believe the plans will simply force the sex trade further underground, making it even more difficult to combat the issue and provide support to victims.  These proposals, while presumably well-meaning, conflate the two separate issues of trafficking and consensual sex work and are likely to be at best ineffective, most likely very harmful.  We must hope that the new campaign for a similar law in England meets with a more considered approach. 

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A Two-Day Symposium: Thursday 18th – Friday 19th September 2014

Durham Law School, Durham University

Registration is now open

In December 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code, holding that they violate sex workers’ constitutional right to security of the person, and gave the Canadian Parliament one year to come up with new legislation, should it decide to do so. This landmark decision marked the first successful human rights challenge to the criminalisation of sex workers.

The conference will bring together academics, practitioners and activists from Canada and the UK, to think about the impact of the Bedford v Canada case in Canada, how it might provide lessons to the UK, and what human rights and a human rights challenge might look like for sex workers in the UK.

We welcome papers from academics, sex workers and activists and are open to alternative forms of presentation.

Key Speakers:

  • Maggie O’ Neill (Durham University)
  • John Lowman (Simon Fraser University)
  • Nick Mai (London Metropolitan University)
  • Niki Adams and Laura Watson (English Collective of Prostitutes)
  • Rosie Campbell (Genesis)
  • Georgina Perry (Open Doors)
  • Jenn Clamen (Stella)
  • Amy Lebovitch (SPOC; plaintiff in Bedford v Canada)

Also showing ‘Normal’ – a film on migrant sex work by Professor Nick Mai

Programme of the two days available here: SW and HR Programme FINAL

Abstracts of papers available here:  SW and HR Abstracts

For more information about the event, please contact the organiser Laura Graham at laura.graham@dur.ac.uk.

This two day event is kindly sponsored by the Modern Law Review and supported by Gender and Law at Durham and the Centre for Sex Gender and Sexuality.

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redumbrellacatEithne Crow is a London-based queer migrant sex worker and  tweets at @eithne_crow. This post was originally published on Eithne’s blog and is reposted here with permission and thanks.

I should probably say straight up that if you’re here and reading this article, I’m assuming you’re down with the notion that people should be able to do whatever they want with their own bodies, familiar with the notion of sex work as work, and at least in theory supportive of sex workers organising for their labour rights and decriminalisation.

You can 100% be on-board with these ideas, and also be opposed to trafficking. There is absolutely nothing about being pro-sex worker than makes you pro-trafficking (quite the opposite, in fact). If you are pro people doing things consensually with their own bodies for their own benefit, it follows that you can be correspondingly opposed to people being forced to do things with their bodies for someone else’s benefit, since it gets in the way of the consensual part, and the part where they benefit from the things they consent to doing. We could get into complex conversations about poverty and whether anyone really ‘consents’ to work within a capitalist system — and I am 100% down to talk about this — but it needs to be a conversation about work in its entirety, and not focused on sex work as an exceptional case. We’re not comparing the coercion that is capitalism to the coercion that is being held against your will and abused. There is a world of difference, and we need to respect that difference in order to respect survivors of abuse.

So, the video:

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ComputerHildur Fjóla Antonsdóttir is a human rights and gender expert at the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research, University of Iceland.

Iceland has recently proposed changing its laws on pornography. The Committee on Criminal Legislation at the Ministry of the Interior in Iceland is preparing a Bill with the aim of narrowing the legal definition of pornography; and an additional committee is charged with exploring how the law can be implemented, especially in relation to on-line material.

Before the 90s, pornography in Iceland had been in the form of a few imported magazines, like Hustler and Playboy, as well as behind-the-counter videotapes in specific video rental stores. Although prostitution existed, there has never been a tradition of street-prostitution in Iceland or specific neighbourhoods where prostitution was available. In addition, strip-clubs did not exist in Iceland prior to the mid-90s. Pornography was, and is, illegal – Act 210 in the Penal Code stipulates that it is illegal to publish, import, sell, hand out, or distribute pornographic material, or to hold a public lecture or play which is similarly “immoral”. Prostitution, as a main occupation, was illegal according to the Penal Code, and it was illegal to make money off prostitution as a third party (pimping). There was, however, no specific legislation addressing the running of strip-clubs.

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Aoife McKennaAoife McKenna is a PhD student researching the sociology of health enhancement at The University of Edinburgh. She is currently based at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Aoife blogs about her research at Pangur Bán. The Brazilian debate coincides with increased calls for reform of the law relating to prostitution in England and Wales.

The question of voice – of who speaks, and who speaks in the name of whom – is a crucial issue for this debate, and for democracy in general’ – Sonia Corrêa

Everything that exists, but is illegal, creates a mafia’ – Gabriela Leite

Now is undoubtedly a fascinating and crucial time for those interested in the law and human rights in Brazil. The rapid social, political, and economic changes of the past few years have instigated corresponding changes in civil society, as citizens react to, and interact with, the forces that are shaping the future of their lives and nation. Interesting discussions around citizenship and social justice have been raised – for example, recently introduced laws that aim to criminalise prejudice with a view to protecting minority groups.

Part of this wider discussion on citizenship and rights could be seen on 7th November in Rio de Janeiro, when The Brazilian Lawyers Organisation hosted a debate – ’A prostituição na reforma do Código Penal’ – regarding the ongoing reform of the Criminal Code and the proposal (PL 4211/2012) that is currently before Brazil’s Congress. Proposed by Federal Deputy Jean Wyllys in July 2012, this proposal would alter the criminal laws surrounding adult prostitution to allow prostitution businesses and cooperatives, and makes a clear distinction between “prostitution” and “sexual exploitation”.

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Bhavna Bhagwan

A few choice words…

In response to a ban lift on gay blood donation for those who have not had sex for ten years, Peter Tatchell wrote an article in the New Statesman saying: ‘protecting the blood supply is the number-one priority but ensuring blood safety does not require such lengthy time spans during which gay and bisexual men should not donate blood.’

Ten years sounds indeed both disproportionate and impractical.

Gay rights

A gay couple claims that they have been ejected from a pub because they had been kissing. Mr Bull and Mr Williams were approached by a man and a woman who said they were the landlord and landlady. The man asked the couple to stop kissing because he said it was bothering him while the woman said that the couple had to leave because they were being ‘obscene’. The man even went to grab the collar of Mr Williams. Mr Bull has complained to the police. (more…)

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