First posted here 23 June 2014
Everything you hear in the media about sex work, with very few exceptions, comes from “Turn Off the Red Light” and everything “Turn Off the Red Light” have to say is a cold blooded, calculated lie for their own advantage. Organisations like Ruhama have no real user group because sex workers (understandably enough) cannot stand being infantilised, patronised, stereotyped and indoctrinated and will not engage with them. They get so far on bluff and bribing a few to engage with them for show, but effectively Ruhama have been redundant since the day they opened. The immigration Council of Ireland is completely superfluous, as is Doras Luimni, this is a tiny country and we already have too much duplication of those services.
“Turn Off the Red Light” is calculated to artificially generate a purpose and continued and increased funding for those organisations in tandem with reviving the power of the religious orders within the system. This was then copper fastened as another means by which female political influence can be artificially cultivated and increased.
I have been associated, one way of another, with sex workers for 42 years in 3* countries. In that time the only time I ever saw organised crime involved was just prior to the recriminalisation of street workers in 1993 when they swept in using criminalisation as leverage for control. It works this way. Criminalisation does not stop sex workers needing their income not provide a realistic alternative so that they are forced to accept any work around that is offered which provides organised crime with opportunity and the leverage to use it.
Prior to the 1993 law I think organised crime had more interest in Marks and Spencers than what was, effectively decriminalised sex work.
Ruhama worked round this unfortunate fact by producing a complete fraud to pretend to have sold sex during the decriminalised period and tell lies to order about it.
(I know Ruhama were fully aware of this because I tried to warn them myself in good faith as soon as I was sure there was no element of truth to her story at all and was completely ignored. As a signed, original copy of the deposition I personally handed to Sarah Benson a few weeks ago has been ignored except to doodle a few words on in contempt at a public meeting. I do not expect anyone to “take my word for it” but when someone goes to the effort and risk of placing what they know on oath, and other witnesses have also spoken out there is no excuse for not even trying to find out the truth.)
In all of those years, I have never managed to locate a single sex worker who was subject to anything like trafficking or commercial coercion/pimping – not one. If I had I would have moved heaven and earth and risked my own life to get them free. It would not even occur to me to contact Ruhama to do it because psychologically and emotionally that would take a vulnerable woman out of the frying pan and place her into the fire.
I am against “ALL FORMS” of abusive control and coercion and “Turn Off the Red Light” is all about using legislation to coerce free sex workers into the abusive control of organisations like Ruhama, often with destitution as their only option.
Ruhama do not have real option to offer sex workers, they have never even wanted to, most sex workers are job ready but you will never see Ruhama pointing them to a board full of vacancies and helping the fill the gaps in CV. What Ruhama do is strive to turn leaving sex work (which, for many, *IS* as simple as finding other employment or self employment that covers your bills and obligations) into a totally superfluous, long drawn out “journey” of indoctrination and “personal development” that must be followed in order to qualify (presumably by being able to become, or at least fake, whatever Ruhama want you to be to order) to attempt full time education on benefits and so it drags on…while the women being assisted to “exit” usually STILL have to sell sex to pay the bills.
I have seen the way Ruhama treat hard statistics in public, the speech began something like this:
“If you look at official figures for trafficking in Ireland you would be forgiven for believing that trafficking does not happen here at all. Be we do not agree, we would estimate….”
…and that was pretty much the last mention made of any word like “guess”, “estimate” or “opinion” which a lot of absolute and blatant tripe was wheeled out as though it were hard fact.
(At the department of Justice conference 2012 she actually went into graphic and quasi pornographic details of her perception of what sex workers actually do with clients with a weird and rather disgusting kind of relish).
This always begins by stating that the majority of sex workers are coerced…never mind that (barring a handful in deeply abusive personal relationships) I have never met a “coerced” sex worker in 42 years and three* countries, and, furthermore, all three* of their much vaunted token “survivors” claim by their own dodgy and carefully crafted account to have worked without coercion and one of them was even, technically a pimp!
Personally, as it has come to a situation where barefaced, third party lies are being allowed to dominate, and dictate the lives and futures of sex workers and their families with no right to reply available, I now feel independent, neutral research into the sex industry such as that commissioned in the North** (which, I believe will include some elements of research into the south) is now imperative, just in the name of sanity and justice.
If our own politicians are too afraid of the negative impact “Turn Off the Red Light” are capable of having on the life of any politician who stands up to them perhaps a researcher will not be.
Understand me, “Turn Off the Red Light” is just one of the first significant symptoms of a self appointed NGO sector out of control and a law unto itself dragooning elected representatives and some public opinion into compliance with one or more interlocking power games. It is not that last of it and will not even be the worst unless someone has the courage to cry “HALT” and rein the whole sector in, starting, perhaps with an audit to ensure that every NGO in receipt of state funds can prove they have a clear mandate from a voluntary user group and are not just imposing their will on a target group at the expense of the state.
*NB I have now realized that is, in fact, four countries. The explanation is simple. I had forgotten the staff of my neighbourhood brothel in Switzerland.
**This research is now available though conclusively refutes every word ever said by “Turn Off the Red Light” it was dismissed and ignored as Stormont debated and passed the dangerous and abusive clause 6 of Morrow’s anti-trafficking bill.