John Oliver Uses Puppets To Explain US Prison System Is ‘A Lot Racist’ (VIDEO)

How Germany fought human trafficking by empowering sex workers

Whether you think such sexual transactions are a good thing or a bad thing, the fact remains that criminalization makes things more expensive. And price drives pimps to find new ways to satisfy demand. Prices matter for trafficking because it costs a lot to kidnap someone and hold them against their will.

Legalising sex work and protecting workers seems to be a solid argument. It does nothing to diminish the buying of a woman’s body for cash, and all of the patriarchal misogynistic trappings that go along with that, but it might protect women. As such, it becomes a battle between principles and practicality.

On the last day of my recent trip to Germany, I’d wanted to check out Deutschland’s brothels. The focus of my writing on sex work has been U.S.-centric thus far. So I wanted to speak to someone participating in sex work in a country where it’s legal. I was running out of time and euros, but it just so happened that the quickest route to my hotel after drinks with locals included an area known for its ladies of the night.

As we walked down a hookah-bar-lined street, the sex workers looked more empowered than any I’ve seen stateside. Tall and healthy-looking, with thick hair and thin waists, beautiful corsets shaping hourglasses, they certainly didn’t look oppressed—except perhaps by four-inch platform Lucite heels. (Those oppress any wearer.)

On our walk I learned that Germany’s decision to legalize prostitution not only helped sex workers, but actually decreased the number of human trafficking victims in the country. But on our stroll, one of my companions told me that German feminists are trying to recriminalize sex work. This is a mistake, she argued. Legalization has improved sex workers’ lives.

Turns out, she was right. According to the data, violence against sex workers is down, while sex workers’ quality of life is up. And after testing began, post-legalization, researchers discovered no difference in sexually transmitted infection rates between sex workers and the general population.

Opponents claim legalizing prostitution has actually increased human trafficking in the country. But the data don’t support that claim. In fact, they show the opposite. From 2001, the year the law legalizing sex work in Germany was passed, to 2011, cases of sex-based human trafficking shrank by 10 percent.

On The Freeman, Foundation for Economic Education.

#Twitterpurge is revenge porn: We need laws to stop the non-consensual posting of naked pictures.

Over the weekend, under the hashtag #twitterpurge, users took to Twitter to “expose” the nude photos they had of other people, with or without consent. The so-called purge primarily targeted girls and women. In other words, it was revenge porn.

As an attorney who helps clients remove revenge porn from the Internet, I recently got a call from a mother whose daughter had been contacted by a reporter for an interview. The 22-year-old learned from the reporter that four nude selfies of her had been featured on a site specifically for this kind of thing for nearly eight months and accumulated over 30,000 views. They had been posted with her full name, the name of the town where she lived, and with links to her Facebook and Twitter accounts. Above all of this information was a screed calling her a “cunt” and a “whore” and a “sick, suicidal bitch.”

That’s typical revenge porn; it’s bullying. “Porn” is a misnomer since it draws the focal point to the wrong spot, at least from the victim’s point of view. Victims have lost jobs, dropped out of school, moved, changed their names, attempted suicide, and more, after having their photos posted without consent. The nonconsensual exposition of privately taken or acquired images of a person, particularly nude images, coupled with assaultive language amounts to deeply damaging abuse.

On #Twitterpurge is revenge porn: We need laws to stop the non-consensual posting of naked pictures. (slate)

‘Hobby Lobby’ Is Just the Beginning: A Flood of Corporate Religious Objections Is Coming

In order to find corporations can exercise religious beliefs, Alito must conflate two very different scenarios. The first involves cases where the legal interests of employers and employees are largely aligned against those of the government; the second includes cases like Hobby Lobby, where corporate interests are trying to hide behind constitutional protections to deprive their employees of their rights. It’s a quick, but important, conflation that makes it possible for Alito to continue in the rest of his opinion to ignore the interests Hobby Lobby employees have in being free from religious discrimination by their employer.

With that judicial sleight-of-hand accomplished, Alito moves on to the larger question of just how a corporation can exercise these newly found religious rights. As it turns out, corporations practicing religious beliefs is remarkably simple, and just because a corporation seeks to maximize profit doesn’t mean it can’t do so in the name of religion:

While it is certainly true that a central objective of for-profit corporations is to make money, modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not do so. For-profit corporations, with ownership approval, support a wide variety of charitable causes, and it is not at all uncommon for such corporations to further humanitarian and other altruistic objectives. … If for-profit corporations may pursue such worthy objectives, there is no apparent reason why they may not further religious objectives as well.

Did you catch that? If some corporations can support charitable causes, Justice Alito reasons, why not allow others to pursue religious causes such as avoiding complying with federal law?

On rhrealitycheck.

“His Career Will Be Absolutely Fine”: On Being Molested

I learned a lot that year. For example, did you know that a sex offender isn’t necessarily charged according to the most current Sexual Offences Act? They’re charged according to the act that was around when they doing that particular molesting, “Otherwise,” the lady police officer explained to me, “It would be unfair on the molester.”

L Bear on “His Career Will Be Absolutely Fine”: On Being Molested (the-toast). Emphasis added.

It’s simple: criminalize revenge porn, or let men punish women they don’t like

Maybe. Yet (1) criminal justice penalties do not serve as a deterrent against illegal activity and (2) it’s further use of the criminal justice system to deal with social problems, rather than addressing the “causes” of said problems. It’s an ideal feminist notion, always, that we could address misogyny and the despicable treatment of women and girls rather than resorting to legal measures to simply control them.

On the guardian.com:

Parting from someone you love is never easy. It often means watching the affection and intimacy you once shared turn into bitterness and resentment. It often means sorting out who sees the children when, who lives where, and who gets what.

Now imagine that in addition to all that sorrow and chaos, you discover that the person you once loved and trusted has taken your most intimate, vulnerable moments and turned them into sexual entertainment for strangers.

With the click of a button, an intimate photo of you can be uploaded to a website where thousands of people can view it and hundreds of others can share it. In a matter of days, that image can dominate the first several pages of search engine results for your name. It can be sent to your family, your employer, your co-workers, and your peers. [Rest.]

Yarl’s Wood: Immigration is a Feminist Issue

Very good piece on tokenfeminist about what should be an issue of feminist concern.

Last week Rashida Manjoo, a special rapporteur for the UN, stated that the UK has an in-your-face boys’ club sexist culture that is unlike that of any other country. She made the comments after visiting the UK to investigate the issue of violence against women. Unsurprisingly, there was a highly defensive backlash to the notion that the UK is more sexist than other countries, as there often is when anyone points out the blatant misogyny that occurs in this country every day. This culminated in The Guardian hosting the most pointless internet poll of all time, as they asked UK citizens whether or not they thought their own country was more sexist than other countries, without even asking them their age, gender, ethnicity or whether they had ever visited another country.

The most worrying part of Manjoo’s report related to Yarl’s Wood, a detention centre for female asylum seekers in Bedfordshire. The pictures and quotations on their site might lead you to believe that Yarl’s Wood is a supportive, happy place that really cares about its inmates residents. However, the reality is quite different. According to a report by Women for Refugee Women, 93% of the women detained at Yarl’s Wood are depressed and over half have suicidal thoughts. They do not receive adequate health care, a shortcoming which undoubtedly contributed to the death of 40-year-old Christine Case last month. She died of a heart attack after complaining of chest pains for several days.

This appalling treatment is not only a feminist issue because it is women that are detained at Yarl’s Wood. It is also a feminist issue because of the experiences they have had before they arrive there. Over 85% of the women have been raped or tortured in their home countries and almost all are now guarded by male staff. The majority say that this makes them uncomfortable, which is understandable when you consider that some were raped by prison guards. One woman had fled Uganda after being raped by guards and was on suicide watch at Yarl’s Wood, where a male guard watched her even when she was on the toilet. [Rest.]

You don’t only get photographed when you’re eating

I missed WWEOT’s Tony Burke on the Today programme (praise the gods). (That’s the founder of the Women Who Eat on Tubes photoblog, for those of you who have not had the misfortune of hearing of it.) The line is that taking pictures of women eating on tubes (eating! the hideous fatties! disgusting!) is not sexist or invasive or threatening but, rather, it’s an “observational study”, “something artistic”. Feminist Times tells us more about “creep shots” and a reasonable expectation of privacy. There’s a wider issue here, too, of using the law to regulate/ address social issues. More on that over the next few days.

[...]

Creep shots are so common on public transport that even I, someone who avoids the tube as much as I can, have seen two men take pictures of women’s cleavages on the underground. The first time I was struck dumb in shock; the second time I saw the man take the picture from an adjoining carriage, and when I knocked on the window to tell him to stop he ran. I’m not quite sure what I’d do if I saw it happen for a third time. Stand up and shout “he’s taking a picture of your breasts”? Tell him he’s gross? Perform a citizen’s arrest?

Just like WWEOT there are creep shot Tumblrs, but google #creepshot and you should get a pretty good idea of how endemic this is – just put it into the search bar in Twitter now. Many of the photos are taken in restaurants, supermarkets, on the beach. Women and girls bending over, sunbathing, photos taken from under tables.

Here’s the rub. It’s technically legal to photograph someone without their consent, and of course it’s in our interest to be able to take photos of strangers in public places. It means taking pictures at the Great Wall of China, Eiffel Tower or other packed places we want to take pictures of, which are full of tourists, is not going to land us in court. It also means reporters can go to war zones and disaster scenes or places of public interest and document; something Burke alluded his project did. [Rest.]

Why anonymity would be a green light to rapists

The outcome of the William Roache trial resulted in a flood of demands for there to be anonymity for defendants in rape cases and talk of women eager to make false allegations of rape against men.  I believe that these demands are not just misguided but extremely dangerous for women and for justice generally.

It is often argued that an allegation of rape carries such a stigma that the defendant can never be free of it even if found not guilty and therefore should be anonymous.  Many crimes carry a stigma: murder, an accountant accused of fraud, a teacher accused of hitting a child, a driving instructor accused of drink driving.  If we allow the stigma argument to run its course then most defendants would be included particularly if the defendant was well known or a professional which could lead to a middle class exemption and fail victims.

A not guilty verdict in the criminal court in England and Wales does not necessarily mean that the conduct did not happen it simply means that the CPS did not prove it beyond reasonable doubt.  As a civil lawyer I deal with cases every day where we obtain findings in the Civil Court about domestic violence and sexual abuse where the Criminal Court has produced not guilty verdicts.  The case of O J Simpson in the US is a gruesome illustration of the Criminal Court finding the perpetrator not guilty followed by  a Civil Court finding that he did in fact kill his ex partner and her boyfriend.

On Rachel Horman (podcast of BBC Radio Manc. also on link)

Zero Tolerance and Broken Windows Policing Criminalizes Homeless and Poor People … and Can Kill Them

Alternet:

The recent death of homeless veteran Jerome Murdough in a Rikers Island cell should be more than a temporary debate in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it New York media cycle that often desensitizes us to tragedies. I know it hit close to home for myself — Mr. Murdough sought refuge the night of his arrest in an East Harlem public housing staircase three blocks from my home and across the street from my where my kids go to school. When sleeping in a staircase, I thought, lands you in a Rikers cell, something is wrong.

Murdough’s death laid bare some of our collective disregard for the poor as well as an aggressive police department with an obsession for law and order rivaled only by military dictatorships and science fiction characters (i.e., RoboCop, Judge Dredd). Is it enough to have roundtable discussions lamenting the case of Mr. Murdough as one of someone slipping through the cracks? What happened to him is the not-so unpredictable outcome of a society heavily invested in enforcement by way of zero-tolerance policing and criminal justice system. It’s an approach that is neither humane nor sustainable. But as some debate what stop-gap reforms or long term legislation might be crafted, let’s not lose sight of how Murdough arrived at the cell he would die in: the NYPD and the low-level crime-focused Broken Windows theory that guides it. [Rest.]

The Return Of The Back-Alley Abortion

feminism - prochoice, abortion rights

In 1969, when abortion was completely illegal in Texas except to save a woman’s life, Karen Hulsey became pregnant.

She was 20 years old and living in Dallas at the time, and the diaphragm she was using for birth control had failed her. Her boyfriend, she discovered, was married, and refused to help raise or pay for a child.

“It was just at a time in my life where I knew I couldn’t take care of a child, and he wanted no responsibility,” Hulsey recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Instead, the man offered to pay for her to travel to Mexico, where he knew of a clandestine abortion provider. She wrestled with the decision and was three months pregnant by the time she agreed to go.

“I was not only very afraid of the ramifications with God, but very ashamed and embarrassed,” said Hulsey, who was raised Catholic. “I struggled with the decision for a long time.”

Hulsey left Dallas at midnight on a chartered plane, with no idea where she was going, and landed in a field south of the border in the middle of the night. A woman Hulsey had never met before was waiting for her when she stepped off the aircraft.

“I was scared to death,” Hulsey said. “Of course, he did not go with me — I went alone,” she said of her boyfriend at the time. “That was the stipulation.”

From there, things only got worse.

On Huffington Post: The Return Of The Back-Alley Abortion.

Picture: Four decades after the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose, pregnant women once again find themselves crossing the border to Mexico and haunting back-alleys in search of medical care. Left: Abortion rights demonstrators rally outside of the Texas State Capitol, July 15, 2013 (Tamir Kalifa/AP). Right: Demonstrators march to the U.S. Capitol for a rally seeking the repeal of all anti-abortion laws, Nov. 20, 1971 (AP).

Bill Forces People Going Through Divorce To Get A Judge’s Permission Before Having Sex In Own Home

[…] If Massachusetts State Sen. Richard J. Ross (R) gets his way, that’s exactly what many women (and men) would have to do if they have children and are going through a divorce. In fact, not only would permission-less coitus be banned, but so too would the romantic evening and many dating activities. Ross’ bill seeks to amend Massachusetts divorce law with the following provision (emphasis added):

In divorce, separation, or 209A proceedings involving children and a marital home, the party remaining in the home shall not conduct a dating or sexual relationship within the home until a divorce is final and all financial and custody issues are resolved, unless the express permission is granted by the courts.

The legislation, S787, was first filed in early 2013. On Thursday, it received an extension for consideration in the State House until June 30. In its current state, the bill does not specify what the penalty is for pre-divorce copulation. [Rest.]

(Word has it that the bill was tabled as a “courtesy” to a constituent and the senator himself is not in favour. Still, though, all of this is on the continuum of the traditonal-family-centered, heteronormative-or-else direction of travel of the GOP.)

Bill Forces People Going Through Divorce To Get A Judge’s Permission Before Having Sex In Own Home | ThinkProgress

In Brief: Massachusetts bans up-skirting

After this – Today in misogyny: upskirts are acceptable and legal (MA, US) – this:

image

Massachusetts passed a bill last Thursday that bans ‘up-skirting’, in response to a recent ruling that said a law aimed at criminalising voyeurism did not apply to the snapping of secret photos up a woman’s skirt without her consent.

The bill would make photographing or recording video under a person’s clothing illegal, and now goes to Governor Deval Patrick, who has publicly committed to signing it.

The act of ‘up-skirting’ would be made a misdemeanour.

The passing of the bill has stemmed from the case against Michael Robertson, 32, who was arrested in 2010 and accused of using his cell phone to take pictures and record video up the skirts and dresses of women.

The case against Robertson was dismissed on Wednesday after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in his favour.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley called for a rewrite of the law on Wednesday during a press conference. [Via.]

Well, that’s something. (Love that image, by the way.)

In Brief: Massachusetts bans up-skirting

Porque Yo Decido: Spain’s war on abortion is not about morality – it’s about austerity

photo 466343451_zps6dfd333e.jpg

Porque Yo Decido. Because I decide. That was the title of a manifesto handed to the Spanish government on 1 February on behalf of the millions of men and women across the country who oppose the conservative People’s Party’s push to ban abortion. “Because it’s my choice,” reads the manifesto. “I am free, and I live in a democracy, I demand from the government, any government, that it make laws that promote moral autonomy, preserve freedom of conscience, and guarantee plurality and diversity.”

In late December, the People’s Party (PP) government, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, approved a bill that will make abortion illegal in all but the most extreme medical circumstances and in cases of rape. “That was when the explosion of resistance happened,” says feminist activist Cristina Lestegas Perez. “Since then, there have been hundreds of street protests, debates, demonstrations, parades, conferences, seminars, exhibitions and performances all over the Spanish states and overseas.”

Under the Franco regime, abortion was illegal in Spain. In 1985, laws were passed permitting termination of pregnancy in very limited cases, but so many Spanish women were travelling to Britain to have abortions that dedicated flights had to be chartered. In 2010, the law was finally liberalised by the then socialist government to permit abortion up to the fourteenth week of pregnancy. [Rest.]

Photo: A placard reading “A mother by choice” at a pro-choice protest in Spain. Getty

Porque Yo Decido: Spain’s war on abortion is not about morality – it’s about austerity

child bride

child bride. (bust_magazine)

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In honor of International Women’s Day (IWD) coming up this Saturday March 8th, Catapult – a crowd-funding website championing the empowerment of women and girls – created a series of photos as a part of a visual campaign depicting the growing global epidemic of sex slavery, child slavery, and child brides. The campaign created mock magazine covers, nearly identical to the well-known pop-culture magazines we see stuffed into our newsstands. These covers illustrate the reality of some girls across the world—abuse, fear, and oppression—making the real cover stories from magazines like Seventeen and Good Housekeeping even more embarrassing than they already are. The mocks the headlines we do gawk at, by highlighting the stories we tend to ignore. [Rest.]

Today in misogyny: upskirts are acceptable and legal (MA, US)

Today in disgusting, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that it’s totally legal to take upskirt photos on public transit. Provided that the victim is wearing underwear.

The court concluded that this creepy-ass corner of photography is okay because the law only protects people who are nude or semi-nude and in private. In short, women cannot have any expectation of privacy in a public place, such as a bus or a train. Naked on the train? No upskirts. Fully clothed? Upskirts are a-okay! The decision reads:

We conclude that [the law], as written, as the defendant suggests, is concerned with proscribing Peeping Tom voyeurism of people who are completely or partially undressed and, in particular, such voyeurism enhanced by electronic devices. [The law] does not apply to photographing [or videotaping or electronically surveilling] persons who are fully clothed and, in particular, does not reach the type of upskirting that the defendant is charged with attempting to accomplish on the MBTA.

The court sided with Michael Robertson, a man who admitted to taking upskirt photographs of women on the MBTA’s green line back in 2010. [Rest.]

Today in misogyny: upskirts are acceptable and legal (MA, US)

"Prostitution harms women": RadFem UK and the Nordic Model

Prostitution harms women, and the majority of women who are prostituted have already been harmed through poverty, homelessness, the care system and sexual abuse. Once in prostitution women face violence, emotional and psychological harm, causing them to use drugs and alcohol to numb their pain and ‘disassociate’ from what is happening to them.

As Rachel Moran, a survivor says: “Prostitution is quite simply a misogynistic institution that relies on a constant supply of women and girls who have been previously abused in every imaginable way, including physically, sexually, emotionally and psychologically, and also socially disenfranchised, usually racially and educationally.

“I was a homeless fifteen-year-old child when I was first prostituted on the streets of Dublin. The ‘choices’ open to homeless young girls are as constrained as it is possible for choices to be, and I saw the same reality reflected back to me in the lives of every girl and woman prostitution ever brought me into contact with.

“Prostitution is simply a hell hole in which women and girls are relentlessly abused for the financial and sexual benefit of older, more relatively powerful males – and those who view it in any other way are detached, often willfully, from the reality of what prostitution is.”

We need laws and services that support women – and it is mainly women who are in prostitution – to increase their safety and help those who wish to leave do so. [Rest.]

(Photo: SecretLondon123)

“Prostitution harms women”: RadFem UK and the Nordic Model

Why criminalise the possession of rape pornography?

image

Hidden amongst the more high profile reforms, in the newly published Criminal Justice and Courts Bill 2014, is a proposal to extend the law on extreme pornography. This law, first enacted in 2008, criminalises the possession of pornographic images which are grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise obscene and which explicitly and realistically depict bestiality, necrophilia or violence that is life-threatening or likely to result in serious injury.

The law specifically did not include pornographic images of rape, a gap in the law which the Scottish Government closed with its own extreme pornography law in 2010. [Rest]. 

(Photo: Getty)

Why criminalise the possession of rape pornography?

Why it is time for a criminal offence of Domestic Abuse

(Cross-Posted with permission from Rachel Horman)

On the 1st April 2013 the Government amended the definition of domestic violence to include “coercive control”. This was an issue that I have spoken about previously on the BBC website in September – and is an initiative that I very much welcome.

Changing the definition of domestic violence however is useless without there being a corresponding change in the law. It sounds fantastic to say that domestic violence now includes coercive control but how on earth are abusers going to be prosecuted for it?

The only tools the police have to fight this type of behaviour are the laws against harassment and stalking. These laws are massively under-utilised as it is and require repeated patterns of behaviour. These laws were not devised to deal with coercive control within the setting of a couple living together and would be very difficult to use in many of the cases I deal with on a daily basis.

The Government has already committed itself to creating a criminal offence of forced marriage later this year so why not domestic abuse which is a far more common occurrence? [Rest.]

Why it is time for a criminal offence of Domestic Abuse

A law that would permit Afghan men to hurt and rape female relatives

A law that would permit Afghan men to hurt and rape female relatives (guardian)

Gulnaz, 19, was raped by a cousin but found guilty of adultery and jailed for 12 years. Her daughter was born on the floor of her prison cell. Photograph: Lalage Snow

It is hard sometimes to describe the enormous efforts taken by the Afghan political elite and conservative lawmakers to roll back hard won progress on women’s rights in Afghanistan. Here we have yet another frightening example: a new law, passed by both houses of the Afghan parliament and waiting for President Hamid Karzai’s ratification, would prohibit the questioning of relatives of an accused perpetrator of a crime, effectively eliminating victim testimony in cases of domestic violence.

In article 26 of the proposed change in the criminal prosecution code, those prohibited from testifying would include: husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and descendants of those relatives up to the second generation. Doctors and psychiatrists would also be banned from giving evidence.

This proposed law is particularly troubling in a country where violence against women is endemic and, most commonly, is at the hands of a relative. In a 2008 study, Global Rights found that 87% of Afghan women will experience some form of violence in their lifetime; 62% experience multiple forms of violence, including forced marriage and sexual violence. [Rest.]