One of the commonest distortions of the resolution Amnesty International voted on this August is that Amnesty want to make sex work a human right.
What Amnesty International resolved to do
develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.
I’d say this distortion from “protect the human rights of sex workers” to “sex work is a human right” was bizarre, except that I have seen similar distortions before, when Amnesty finally agreed that in a very limited set of circumstances (such as pregnancy caused by rape, especially in a war zone) they would treat access to abortion as a human right, and that they would treat healthcare – medical support of a girl or a woman who’s had an illegal abortion and needs treatment – as a human right. That got distorted too.
So, Amnesty International are taking the position that sex work should be decriminalised, in order to protect the human rights of sex workers.
Comfy in Susan Rae’s tiny sitting-room, in her flat at the top of Shrubhill, with a cup of tea, I ask her “So why did you move to Edinburgh from the Borders?” I knew she’d moved here seven years ago.
An American once told me, exasperated, “When I ask why you guys always say ‘Well, four hundred years ago – ‘”
This is of course quite untrue. Sometimes, it’s five hundred years ago.
From 7th April 2017, parents claiming child tax credit will be limited to claiming it for two children only. This is George Osborne’s latest flashy scheme for punishing low-income families in a pretence of “saving money”.
Liz Kendall openly supports this: Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper decline to oppose it (Cooper says she’ll “fight” it but that didn’t extend to voting against it in the Commons). They know that 50% of people who voted Labour in May 2015 support the two-child rule, and Burnham and Cooper aren’t about to try to stick their heads over the parapet and say it’s wrong to do so.
I wrote a few weeks ago why I think this policy is wrong, but this post is about the people who are blithely sure this won’t really affect children of low-income families, and why they haven’t thought it through.
What this policy is really for is to push the idea of the feckless poor, and especially, feckless women who have children without thinking of the consequences. (Iain Duncan Smith and his wife Betsy Fremantle have four children, but that’s OK, because Iain Duncan Smith has a huge salary and Betsy Fremantle is wealthy in her own right.)
It surely cannot be the case that Assange can rely on his own refusal to go to Sweden to escape answering the allegations. However, this does seem to be the case.
It would seem that, in the circumstances, any charge will require an investigation to close; and, in turn, for an investigation to close requires there to be an interview with the suspect. David Allen Green, lawyer & legal blogger
Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as
“gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts’, presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to”.
Famously, Rosten defines the term chutzpah as
“that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan”.
The Oxford English Dictionary will need to add a new definition to chutzpah: Julian Assange.
In Swedish legal procedure, to be charged with a crime you have to be interviewed by the police. Julian Assange has now permanently evaded being charged with sexual assault in Sweden by the following series of actions.
First, Assange left Sweden.
Julian Assange had applied for residency in Sweden on 18th August 2010. On 31st August 2010 he was questioned by the police and told of the accusations: the investigation was re-opened. Assange left Sweden on 27th September 2010, and went to the UK. He did not return. On 18th October 2010, the Swedish Migration Board denied Assange a residency permit: Assange was still in the UK.
On 18th November 2010, the Stockholm District Court approved a request to detain Julian Assange for “questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion”. Marianne Nye, the Swedish Director of Prosecution, told the court that Assange he has “not been available for questioning”.
Is going swimming in natural water (that is, in a river or a lake or the sea, not a swimming-pool) a particularly dangerous thing to do? Between 2008-2010, 160 people died of drowning in natural water.
We don’t think of pregnancy as being a particularly dangerous undertaking in the UK. But between 2008-2010 147 people died of their pregnancy and/or childbirth.
(Between 2006-2008, 261 people died of “causes directly or indirectly related to their pregnancies”: the mortality rate for pregnancy in the UK 2006-2008 was 11.39 per 100,000 maternities and still declining.)
Pregnancy may be regarded as about as dangerous as going for a swim in open water. Most healthy adults who go for a swim in natural water survive the experience – even if they accidentally fall in. Nothing would justify pushing someone into deep water without knowing or caring if they could swim: not even if they survived. Anyone offered the experience of a swim in natural water should have a right to say “no thanks”, or to change their mind and go back to shore. Any organised swim across open water ought to include rescue boats to pull people aboard if they change their minds, for any reason or none.
Most people in Scotland agree: the same applies to pregnancy. Even if most healthy adults could survive a forced pregnancy, nothing would justify pushing a girl or a woman to have a baby against her will, her conscience, or her judgement. And anyone can decide for herself that her pregnancy needs to be terminated: no one should be denied rescue from an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy.
This afternoon in Westminster, MPs will debate the last stage of the Scotland Bill before the third reading and voting to pass the Bill to the House of Lords.
One of the recent amendments added to the Bill is from Fiona Bruce, a Conservative MP from an English constituency.
In the House of Commons there is an unfortunate concatenation of MPs who seek to ensure that UK healthcare outsources safe legal abortion overseas, and to subject women who cannot afford to travel to a forced pregnancy. Their excuse for doing so is that a human fetus is protected by “the sanctity of human life”, though a pregnant woman is apparently not so protected.
Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, is a member of this group and was the proposer of the last-minute amendment to the Serious Crimes Act which would have ensured doctors were banned from allowing an abortion if the abortion was sex-selective. This significant change to the 1967 Abortion Act was proposed as a late amendment which would be discussed and voted on only at the third reading of the Serious Crimes bill before it was voted into law.
No consultation on this amendment had been done with groups such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives, or the British Medical Association, all of which opposed the amendment.
The expectation of Fiona Bruce and her supporters was that MPs would vote for her amendment because they would not want to appear to support sex-selective abortion: there would be no time – they evidently hoped – for any consultation or explanation why it was a bad idea to vote for doctors to be criminalised if they could be accused of approving sex-selective abortions: how there is little to no evidence of any sex-selective abortions on social grounds in the UK (the key “evidence” was a sting operation run by a Daily Telegraph journalist who lied to doctors and clinic staff and secretly filmed their honest response to her lies).