NUM is abstaining from submitting to the APPG on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade's endorsed inquiry into Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation for the following reasons:
- As small national charity with a large scope and a participatory ethos, canvassing members and staff for insights takes time and needs to be linked to objectives that support the attainment of our mandate. Sex industries and ways of working within them are varied and we need to responsibly hear from a diverse contingent before offering input. NUM plans to, through improvements of our digital capacities, provide opportunities to hear from our 7000+ members on these kinds of issues more efficiently, for the benefit of all.
- Extant literature and our own submissions to past inquiries are rich with data and insights on the social conditions and policy/legislative environments that contribute to danger within sex industries. Recommendations for creating options to eliminate survival sex, forced labour, exploitation and trafficking are also abundant, and begin with understanding the breadth of industries and making important distinctions (between trafficking and migration, sex work and survival sex, sex work and trafficking, etc.) to reach the outcomes we all desire.
These outcomes include the elimination of (legislated) poverty and structural inequality that lead to forced labour and survival sex, in addition to supporting those who draw their incomes from sex industries to classify and define what they do.
They get the power to name what is work, what is exploitation and the conditions through which either exists. It’s then our job as practitioners and law makers to work with sex industry folks to eliminate harmful conditions, improve safety and expand choices.
And specific to this APPG endorsed Inquiry:
- Holding an inquiry implies a fact-finding mission but the facts are not enough to influence the APPG and those they endorse towards an inclusive process that may challenge their understanding of sex and society, sex industries, work, exploitation, structural inequalities and how these intersect for people in our current political economy. The APPG and associates appear most interested in stories that support their ideologies within a framework that they have constructed, which delimits the ways that sex workers can identify-- ‘victim’, ‘deviant’ or ‘survivor’ are the only accepted ways of being. This is problematic.
- Our partners requested information on ethics for the collection of data as part of this inquiry and did not receive a response. This is worrying for NUM because in addition to sharing core questions, a process for information gathering requires transparency around sampling strategies, theoretical frameworks and approaches to analysis. These elements affect how contributions are inputed, re-coded and interpreted. Plainly, it affects what is knowable.
Processes for inquiry that ignore existing empirical evidence and that are opaque about ethics puts NUM in a difficult situation. We want to engage but cannot work against our mandate.
We aim to end forms of violence against adult industry workers. By violence here we mean the violence of bias and exclusion, of deliberate misidentification and mischaracterisation of sex industry workers and their work.
Adult industry workers entrust NUM with their experiences of crime and rely on us to help them through some of the most difficult times they may ever face.
We have to use the insights that come from their victimisation to improve their lives in the ways that they ask us to.
That being said, we support the submissions of sex workers and allies who have participated. We hope that our abstention is respected and understood in the spirit that it has been undertaken. We will participate in policy change towards sex worker safety through other channels.
-Dr. Raven Bowen