Thursday 10 October 2013

Men who rent and use women: film premiere of Honest Lies and debate about change in prostitution laws

Off the back of my discovery of the brilliant sites The Prostitution Experience and The Invisible Men, which put the responsibility, questions and scrutiny back on men who think it's okay to buy women...

At 7pm on 14th October at Amnesty International's UK headquarters in London MP Fiona Mactaggart, author Kat Banyard, campaigner Ruth Jacobs and Cheryl Stafford, Exiting Prostitution and Internal Anti-Trafficking Advocate at Eaves for Women, will be part of a panel discussing the decriminalisation of prostitution following the premiere of Honest Lies:

Honest Lies is an 11-minute film based on a story written by a woman previously involved in prostitution during volunteer-led workshops. The screening will be followed by a discussion about how to support women exiting prostitution, and the need for a change in legislation that will decriminalise the sale of sex, and criminalise its purchase. This is known as the Nordic model: a set of laws that penalises the demand for commercial sex while decriminalzing individuals in prostitution based on an approach first adopted in Sweden in 1999, followed by Norway and Iceland. The Nordic model has two main goals: to curb the demand for commercial sex that fuels sex trafficking, and promote equality between men and women.

To purchase tickets, please click here.

On 20th September 2013, the UN’s Global Commission on HIV and the Law announced they were considering calls for countries to "repeal laws that prohibit consenting adults to buy or sell sex" and that ban "immoral earnings" and brothel-keeping, and also demands measures "to ensure safe conditions for sex workers". These announcements were met with horror from support organisations who are petitioning the UN to listen to survivors.

All panellists will be available for interview at the event and there will be a Q&A discussion.

Fiona Mactaggart MP (Slough) campaigned successfully for the law to be amended so that anyone paying for sex from those they know to be trafficked is criminalised, said:
At the moment, Britain’s prostitution laws target women who are trapped in prostitution, often by pimps or because of addiction, and the men who use those women don’t face any consequences for their behaviour. It’s time we did more to help women build a new life and exit prostitution instead of punishing them.
Ruth Jacobs, author and campaigner whose website provides a forum for survivors to share their stories, is also appearing on BBC1’s Inside Out programme on 21st October talking about the Merseyside model of policing. The Merseyside model refers to the Merseyside Police Force's pledge in 2006 to treat crimes against people in prostitution as hate crimes. The hate crime model has had outstanding results. In Liverpool, in 2009, police convicted 90% of those reported to have raped sex workers. In 2010, the overall conviction rate in Merseyside for crimes against sex workers was 84%, with a 67% conviction rate for rape. The national average conviction rate for rape is 6.5%. The event on 14th Octoberwill be the first time that Ruth will speak publicly about her status as a survivor of prostitution.

Gabriella Apicella, producer of Honest Lies, will chair the panel. Having run writing workshops at Eaves for the past 18 months, she ran a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to 100% finance the making of the film, and adapted the story for the screen. She said:
I made this film because the women I have been working with told me nobody cares about their stories. Not only did I intend to disprove that, but I also believe that the stories of survivors of prostitution can facilitate a change in the law. Those who have been prostituted must be decriminalised, and the purchase of sex punished by law, as an expression by society that human beings are not commodities.
Kat Banyard, author of The Equality Illusion and founder of grassroots activism organisation UK Feminista is also on the panel, along with with Cheryl Stafford, Exiting Prostitution and Internal Anti-Trafficking Advocate at Eaves for Women.

Cheryl Stafford facilitated the writing workshops that the original story of “Honest Lies” came from. Eaves for Women is a charity organisation that supports women who have experienced violence. Specialised projects support women exiting prostitution, trafficked women, survivors of sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence. In 2013 The Scarlet Centre, a women-only drop-in facility where the writing classes in which “Honest Lies” was conceived were initially based, closed due to a cut in funding. Only volunteer-led activities continue to take place, each at the discretion of those who contribute their time.

To purchase tickets please click here.

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Text (c) Honest Lies project and Gabriella Apicella