Imagine opposing big business in ALL its forms. Challenging industry lobbyists. Following the money. Fighting for alternatives. Freeing the world’s poor from having to service the world’s rich. Choosing solidarity with women, children and the world’s poorest.

The deregulated banking industry started the 2008 financial crisis, which paved the way for austerity. Volkswagen fitted cars with devices to cheat emission tests. Food, pharma and agricultural industries lobby governments to minimise controls and accountability, to the detriment of human health and the environment. The licence for the drug Daraprim (vital for people with HIV infection) was purchased by Martin Shkrelrim, who increased its price from $13.50 to $750 a tablet, this was entirely legal.

Does industry deregulation benefit workers? Can industry be trusted to regulate itself for the benefit of people, society or the environment? Sex industry advocates insist that it can.

We are told that prostitution is a free and empowering choice, which (at the same time) poor women ‘need’. We are told this by organisations actively hostile towards the establishment of exit services for prostitutes or support for trafficked women [1]. Opportunities have dwindled as the sex industry has grown, rendering ‘sex work’ compulsory for poor women. Coercion into sex is normally defined as rape: we are told that economic coercion is just ‘work.’

On the premise that ‘sex is a basic human right’ [2], Amnesty International decided in August 2015 to work towards complete decriminalisation of brothels and ‘third party operatives’ (eg pimps). It accepted that women resort to prostitution “due to marginalisation and limited choices” but, dedicated to the cleansing power of money, claimed: “By definition, sex work means that sex workers who are engaging in commercial sex have consented to do so.” [3]

Their circular reasoning magicked away the realities of global female poverty, starvation and suppression of economic alternatives. Their ‘consultation process’ was a sham, as their support for decriminalisation had been decided in advance. They lied about consulting sex industry survivor groups, did not conduct research in any country that had decriminalised the sex industry, and chose to study Norway, which has only had the Nordic Model (the abolitionist model, which involves decriminalising the prostitute her or him self, while criminalising the buyers, pimps and brothel keepers) in place for a year, rather than Sweden, which has had it in place for over a decade. [4]

As survivors, exited women, and women’s liberationists, we are used to the hearing that ‘all work under capitalism is coerced’, and being told that there is no difference, emotionally, physically or psychologically between flipping burgers, and submitting to unwanted sex.

Our experience has been different and we will continue to speak truth to power.

We will tell the truth about our lives. We will tell the truth about the effects of decriminalising the sex industry. In Germany, where there are more restrictions on running a food stall than on running a brothel, prostituted women often live in brothels [5], suffering trauma from their experiences, and developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. [6]

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women’s Taina Bien-Aime describes the normalisation of prostitution as gender apartheid [7]:

“What would happen if every country decriminalized prostitution? […] What marketing slogans would ensue? Might public agencies launch poverty alleviation campaigns? “First Nations, Indigenous, Aboriginal, African-Americans and Global South Populations: Are you Poor, Young, Incested, Transgendered, Homeless? With our help, the Sex Trade will provide you with shelter, food, free condoms and the opportunity to contribute to your (or a foreign) country’s Gross National Product. No experience or education required.”

“By encouraging governments to enshrine the sex trade as just another potential employer, Amnesty is promoting gender apartheid, the segregation of women between those who deserve access to economic and educational opportunities and those who are condemned to prostitution. Make no mistake: as long as women are for sale, no woman will be viewed as equal in corporate boardrooms, in the halls of legislature, or in the home.”

Meanwhile, the definition of ‘sex worker’ remains deliberately vague, so as to include managers (pimps). ‘Sex worker’ groups focus on their need to free the market from constraint, while remaining silent on exploitation, customer violence, murder, stress induced substance abuse, the right to strike, arbitration, withdrawal of labour. The drive to maintain supply to service demand, by any means necessary, is at the core of their activism. UK pimp Douglas Fox was involved in Amnesty’s decision [4]; Mexican pimp Alejandra Gil, who was vice president of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, was, in March this year, found guilty of sex trafficking and sentenced to 15 years in prison [8]; a German brothel operator Felicitas Weigmann, was instrumental in bringing about Germany’s liberalisation/decriminalisation of the sex industry [9]; American Maxine Doogan, of the ‘Erotic Service Providers Union’ is a convicted pimp. [10]

Today you will hear the New Zealand model held up as ‘proof’ that industry decriminalisation works. But in 2012, the Prime Minister of New Zealand admitted that decriminalisation had not reduced the commercial sexual exploitation of children, or street-based prostitution [11]. New Zealand is portrayed as almost a ‘cottage industry’ of independent ‘sex workers’ but the country has its own chain mega-brothels (fully supported by the groups claiming to represent ‘sex workers’) [12], and for homeless, street-based prostitutes with drug and alcohol dependency problems, their experiences are as grim as in any other country [13]. The New Zealand model, like the German one, hasn’t worked.

Fight capitalism. Oppose big business in all its forms. Challenge the lobbyists and the libertarian ‘left’. Free the world’s poor from having to service the world’s rich. Choose solidarity with women and children.

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(Flyer for the Anarchist Bookfair 2015)