EU countries need stronger legislation to tackle rape

Crime, european parliament, Gender, Human Rights, photos, prostitution, sexual harrassment, United Kingdom, violence

Sexual violence against women is a most brutal crime, yet still remains a taboo subject in many countries.  It is estimated that almost every other woman in Europe suffers gender-based violence at some point in her life, with 1 in 5 victims of male domestic violence, and 1 in 10 victims of rape or forced sexual acts.

 Yet across the EU rape is one of the least reported crimes, with less than 10% of rapes being reported and far fewer cases ending in a conviction. While rape is criminalised in all 27 EU Member States, some have a broader definition of rape than others. Many EU countries still require proof of physical resistance or do not cover all forms of rape.

 I was therefore very happy to host an event at the European Parliament this morning to launch the latest report into how EU countries are tackling this hateful crime.

Hosting event to launch EWL Barometer on Rape 2103

Hosting event at European Parliament to launch 2013 EWL Barometer on Rape

The European Women’s Lobby Barometer on Rape 2013 looks at legislation and data collection in 32 countries. It compares them with the minimum standards for sexual violence and rape set by the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, adopted in 2011 and currently being ratified).

The EWL found that just 5 countries have legislation that corresponds to the Istanbul Convention definition: the UK and the Netherlands who have “better legislation”, and Ireland, Italy and Turkey who meet minimum standards. The majority of countries (21) need to improve their legislation, recognising lack of consent as an essential element in determining rape and sexual abuse. Six countries need to urgently change their laws (Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Serbia and Ukraine).


Ian Dale, Olympics, prostitution

Okay, amidst some heated discussion and re-checking of facts, I now wish to revise the figure of one million construction workers that I put out last week. As it is wrong.


A cartoon borrowed from a far more famous female politician

I misread the the information given to me by a charity, which I published on Sunday, partly as the press release was written in India where the commas are placed differently to the UK. The figure ‘1,00,000’ or 100,000 in UK terms was quoted by the Press Trust of India last year and widely used by AIDS and sexual health pressure groups as the number of construction workers due to work on the London 2012 Olympic sites over the next four years.

However, since Ian Dale’s blog I have called around these original sources (taking rather a long time to track down where the Indian Press Agency got their numbers from) and got a number of different figures.

Following these discussions, I now take the view that the Olympic Delivery Authority is the most informed body on this figure. Well, they are the company that is dishing out the contracts! Their figure is a far more conservative 30,000 construction workers over the next four years.

So yes, Ian, I didn’t get my facts right. Something I will be more careful about in future. As is the quicky nature of a blog,  I don’t perhaps check my figures as strenously as I would a comment piece for a paper. And I actually appreciate being pulled up on it by a wide community of interested readers when I don’t. So thank you and that’s 30,000 not one million. Still, rather a big number….


2012, London, Olympics, prostitution, Trafficking
Whilst a strong supporter of the Olympics and the opportunities it will offer the vibrant capital  that is my home, I am deeply concerned that unless decisive action is taken quickly the games may spark a rise in prostitution.
London's Olympic Stadium

London's Olympic Stadium

Fortunately, it now seems that the Metropolitan Police are beginning to share these concerns. A report they published this week  warned that an increase in prostitution and trafficking linked to the Games would put women at risk.
Over a million construction workers are set to work on the site over the next three years, when added together with spectators and athletes cxould a fuel a sex trade time bomb.
Kerb Crawling

Kerb Crawling

During the Athens Games, sex trafficking almost doubled and there were reports of sex attacks in the athletes’ village at Sydney in 2000.

The BBC reported yesterday that a  small increase in the number of trafficked women working in the five Olympic host boroughs has already been noted.

Previously when I have approached the police and the councils concerned on these issues they have backed away from making any link between sex crimes and sporting events, even when I used figures showing dramatic increases in trafficking in w0men around the Germany World Cup, which I also used to call for greater protections for women in last years Euro 2008 on Women’s Hour last year.
Given that the Met are now responsive on this topic I will look to work with them on reducing the risk to London women, caused by a potential surge in teh sex trade around the Olympics, over the next three years.


prostitution, Sex Trade, Trafficking

I’m not going to fall prone to claiming a modern day popular band as my favourite thing to wake up to!  But I am very pleased to read that popular rock band The Killers have joined together with UNICEF, USAID and MTV EXIT to raise awareness and increase prevention of human trafficking and exploitation.


The Killers

The Killers

The band are said to have made a powerful video for their new track Goodnight, Travel well highlighting the dangers of trafficking and the sexual exploitation of young women.

I look forward to seeing this video when it is released on Monday 13 July when I will feature it on this blog.


Equal Rights, feminist, London, prostitution, Sex Trade, Sexual Equality, Trade Unions, Women MPs, Women's Rights

I was delighted to be invited to speak, on work undertaken in the EU on prostitution, at the launch of OBJECT and eaves’ new DEMAND CHANGE! campaign in Parliament yesterday afternoon.

Two powerful and inspiring organisations, OBJECT, is a campaigning organisation which is fundamentally against the objectification of women. And eaves is a London based feminist charity that provides supported housing to vulnerable women, women trafficked into prostitution, and those who have experienced domestic violence.

The new joint initiative between eaves and OBJECT – DEMAND CHANGE! – aims to promote an increased understanding of the myths and realities surrounding prostitution; calls for prostitution to be seen and widely understood as a form of violence against women; and is lobbying for the adoption of the ‘Nordic model’ of tackling demand and decriminalising women in prostitution.

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

As an ardent supporter of the Nordic model, of tackling trafficking and violence against women through prostitution by criminalising the purchase of sex, I wholly support the DEMAND CHANGE! campaign and its aims. I believe campaigns such as these are key to changing the public perceptions and entrenched cultural attitudes towards the sale of women’s bodies for sex, which is  is the only route towards the UK adopting the Nordic model to reduce this intolerable violence against women, children and men.

This event was a great opportunity to take back the battle ground on prostitution from the garish vocalists for pimps and punters The English Collection of Prostitutes and the International Union of Sex Workers. Who interestingly, now that legislation on lap-dancing clubs and prostitution have now passed out of the Commons, were not present at the event. A key indication of the sorts of people that are behind these frighteningly naive organisations, which deny figures on trafficking and offer up prostitution as a feminist choice when the clear reality is that no one would ever wish this destructive and demeaning career  on anyone whom they cared about.

In my speech I discussed the European Parliament’s women’s committee’s inability to agree on the issue of prostitution due to the very varied legislation of each member state. As heated debate on the topic of the health of prostitutes, in the socialist group of the FEMM committee, showed last year, prostitution remains the last great feminist taboo.

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg


Human Trafficking, Labour Party, Police, prostitution, Sex Trade

While I agree with Iain Dale that today’s story is undoubtedly police behaviour at the G20 demonstration, the apparent kick in the back given by one of the police to a demonstrator and the demonstrator’s subsequent death, there is another story today which rings alarm bells regarding police attitudes.

The Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, Tim Brain, lead officer for the Association of Chief Police Officers, thinks new laws to  make it a criminal offence to have sex with prostitutes controlled by pimps, which is due to come into force later this year, may be too complex to work in practice.  The legislation is designed to protect women forced into prostitution by traffickers and pimps – surely something we all support.  I have campaigned for a number of years against the trafficking of women and children and have heard the most appalling stories of what these poor women have to go through.

I therefore passionately believe that we must do all we can to stamp out the vile trade in human trafficking, which is nothing less than a modern form of slavery.  The police who say they will not be able to collect enough evidence from women who are forced to work as prostitutes against their traffickers are some of the worst apologists I have heard for a long time.  It is their duty to collect this evidence.  It is also their duty to protect vulnerable people from crime and the effects of crime.  


Guardian, prostitution
I have been following the debate in the media on Jacqui Smith’s proposed changes to the prostitution laws and noticed this excellent article by my Labour Party colleague Fiona MacTaggart:

I posted a reply on the Guardian website which I have put below:

Fiona MacTaggart has hit the nail on the head by asking ‘who chooses?’ when it comes to prostitution. It was exactly this question that caused so much discomfort in recent meetings of the European Parliament’s Women’s Rights Committee.

This committee, which normally strives to overcome differences to promote the rights and welfare of women, could not unite behind a single position on prostitution. And it was not due to partisan differences but to fundamental disagreements over the issue of who chooses.

My German, Dutch and Austrian colleagues in the European Socialist Party refused to support a report written by a Swedish MEP about the health consequences of prostitution. The report pointed out that ‘prostituted women are considerably more at risk of physical and psychological injuries related, not to extraordinary violence, but to the everyday practice of prostitution’. My colleagues’ objection to the report was that it portrayed prostituted women as victims. They argued that instead prostitutes are women who have made a choice to work in the sex industry and ought to be supported in their choice. For these MEPs, the question ‘who chooses’ is a simple one.

But, as Fiona and my Swedish colleague note, the question is not simple. Even in countries where prostitution is legalised, such as Germany, Holland and Austria, women do not make a free or simple choice to enter prostitution. Figures showing the number of trafficked women and drug addicts who enter this trade are just one of many proofs of this.

The Swedish report on prostitution and health was rejected by the Parliament’s Women’s Committee. Speaking to the committee after the vote, the report’s draftswoman condemned those voting against it for gagging the parliament on this important issue. By refusing to compromise on their views regarding the choice that these prostituted women make, the committee killed the report so it could not be debated by the wider Parliament. It is a great shame that we feminists, in our quest to support women and equality, cannot step aside from the emotive arguments regarding personal choice and let the facts on the violence and abuse suffered by too many prostitutes speak for themselves. Prostitution is, as my Swedish colleague said, the last great feminist taboo.