Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Oldest Liberation Movement

By Finn Mackay, Co-founder - FCAP

New Feminist group gives a voice to the majority who want a world without prostitution

On Monday 11th February over 100 women gathered at the Amnesty UK Human Rights Action Centre for a public meeting to launch the new Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution – FCAP.

Yes, I’ve already been told that this sounds like a form of female contraception, but then so did the Campaign Against Pornography – CAP – and it never seemed to do them any harm. So, I like to keep the spirit of the Second Wave alive!

The meeting was titled “Not One Woman More” in reference to the tragic murders of five young women who were involved in prostitution in Ipswich. Many speakers were brought from all over the country and internationally, to discuss what we can do as a movement to ensure that not one woman more is lost to the ‘industry’ of prostitution. Speakers included Gunilla Ekberg from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) who advised the Swedish government on their prostitution law, Aravinda Kosaraju from the Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (CROP) based in Leeds, Jan MacLeod from the Glasgow Women’s Support Project and Fiona MacTaggart MP. The message was clear, that the time has come to focus on the demand side of prostitution. We heard from Sweden on how this was done, we heard from Fiona MacTaggart MP that it could be achieved here. Indeed Fiona MacTaggart called for all of us to contact our own MP’s and create a movement around this issue to adequately reflect public opinion. We cannot be complacent on this issue, we need to make it clear to our decision makers that this is a real concern to the people of this country and that now is the time for change. And it is real and radical change that FCAP is calling for – the decriminalisation of all those involved in prostitution and instead the criminalisation of demand, as has been carried out in Sweden with great success. This must go alongside dedicated investment in exit, support and safety services for those involved in prostitution.

Along with my political Sister Julie Bindel I am Co-founder of the new FCAP and am excited and proud to be giving a formal face to what I know is a majority view. I believe that most people don’t think that prostitution is a job like any other, or that it is of any benefit to women or society. A recent survey for The Politics Show in January found that 52% of the public polled thought that paying for sex should be made illegal, and 65% believed buying sex is exploitation of women. Younger people were more likely to hold these views. So what can we do to make these voices heard?

It is this question that was behind the founding of FCAP. A few years ago I attended a fringe meeting at NUS Women’s Conference. A group called Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) had organised a meeting with a speaker from the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW). I will never forget what this speaker said to the group of over 20 young women in attendance. I quote –
“trafficking is a myth”, “the amount of money it costs to be brought over from Thailand you can pay back in less than 6 months if you work hard”, “prostitution is one of the only areas in Western society where women can feel good about their own bodies, because we go into work every day and men tell us we are beautiful”.
I know from my work in the London Feminist Network that most young women do not believe these lies. But, many women stay silent when faced with such views because they don’t feel they can argue with something presented as a workers rights issue. Well, the truth is this has nothing to do with workers rights and everything to do with women’s rights; and whether we believe men have a right to buy women, or not. It’s really as simple as that. What we have to do is take back our voice and say so. The IUSW and the similar English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) who are part of Wages For Housework, do not represent the majority view in this country, and they certainly are not the ‘voice’ of the women’s movement or of women in this country. FCAP is about providing a safe space for the majority of us who don’t believe that anyone should be bought or sold, it aims to be a banner under which to mobilise on this oldest of oppressions.

In the face of this oldest oppression we need to build, or re-build, a movement against it, a movement for freedom for all. And anyone who is concerned with social justice, human rights, anti-globalisation, anti-consumerism, anti-racism, women and children’s rights – should all be part of this struggle. Because this is a struggle for the most oppressed, the most disenfranchised and silenced in our countries and communities. We must stand by, fight with, and speak out for women involved in prostitution, our sisters, who have been failed by state systems put in place to protect them and we cannot fail them too. The multi-billion dollar and growing ‘sex industry’ does not need anyone’s help to defend it, but all over the world women and children do. Prostitution is a global human rights abuse. It is perhaps the most brutal example of women’s continuing inequality in society today. A scientific study in the Journal of Trauma Practice (2003) found that 89% of women in prostitution wanted to leave immediately, but had no other options. Research from ‘Paying The Price’ (2004) found that the majority of those involved in street prostitution have spent time in local authority care, survived physical child abuse and almost half are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Tonight, as every night, up to 5000 young people will be exploited on our streets in prostitution. Children and teenagers are groomed and pimped, indeed the average age of entry into prostitution is 13 – 14yrs old. Millions of women and children are trafficked around the world for the purposes of sexual exploitation every year. All to fulfil a demand that some try and tell us is inevitable. But men are not born on this earth with a biological understanding that half of the population can be bought and sold for sexual exploitation. This is learned, and therefore can be unlearned. We as a society can start teaching something new to our boys and young men, to all of us: the very real fact that violence and abuse is never inevitable and that change is always possible. Imagine waking up in a Britain that had stood up and said that women and children are not for sale. Now do what you can to make it real.

For more information and to join FCAP see –

Other useful links –

Finn Mackay
Co-founder - FCAP

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At 25 February 2009 at 14:22 , Blogger lizzyarrow said...


I thought you might be interested in a campaign. It's about asking the UK government to take action to end violence against women in the developing world, and its contribution to the spread of HIV. For example in South Africa it is estimated that women have a higher chance of being raped than learning to read. With 5,000,000 South Africans living with HIV/AIDS the risk of HIV infection for women is extremely high. If you're interested check out the campsign


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