Sex workers rights: a matter of law

Theresa has been trying to make a living as a prostitute for a long time and she finally could work safely in her own flat in Glasgow. But one of her colleagues couldn’t afford a whole rent, so she asked her if they could work together. Theresa accepted and they tried to work as covertly as they could, but they knew that at any moment they were going to get in trouble.

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“The problem came when one of my friend’s clients started to behave violently. I told him that I was going to call someone if he didn’t leave the flat. Then he threatened us calling the police, because we were two girls working together. We knew that it was illegal and that he was going to win. Fortunately I could manage to kick him out and anyone had to call the police”, she relates.

When more than one woman are working together with the purpose of selling sex the law considers that as a brothel and, thus, a crime. Sex workers organisations, such as the English Collective of Prostitutes criticises that because it makes no distinction between small groups of women who work cooperatively and those who are being coerced to work in an establishment which is run by a boss.

That’s one of the main reasons why the Home Affairs Selected Committee (HASC) presented a few months ago a report to change the legislation about sex workers in England and Wales. Those matters are supposed to be legislated separately in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the present situation of sex workers and the basis of the legislation is the same for the whole state, where between 60.000 and 80.000 sex workers live.

Currently, in the United Kingdom selling and purchasing sexual services is legal between consenting adults, but there are lots of activities surrounding this practice that attempt on the security of sex workers.

The legislation could be changed in two different ways. On the one hand, the HASC considered the possibility of implementing the Swedish system, based on the sex buyers law, which considers that “prostitution is morally wrong and should therefore be illegal” and punishes the clients. Therefore, and after a few evaluations, the HASC concluded that this wouldn’t be the most effective legislation “in reducing demand or in improving the lives of sex workers either in terms of the living conditions for those who continue to work in prostitution or the effectiveness of services to help them find new ways to earn a living”.

On the other hand, the Committee studied two other possibilities: legalising sex work, as it has been done in the Netherlands, and decriminalisation, following the New Zealand’s system. The last model was the preferred by the Government, as it was the one which resulted in more benefits. In the end, any approach appears to offer a complete solution and the inquiry is still awaiting government response since the 15th of July.

But why legalising sex work is not a good option? Anastacia Ryan, one of the founders of Umbrella Lane, a charity organisation created to give support to sex workers in Scotland, explains it. “Legalisation means the introduction of laws and policies specific to sex work to formally regulate it. This has had the effect in some contexts of creating additional tiers of criminalisation and penalisation of sex workers, subjecting them to compulsory health checks, forced testing, mandatory registration, disproportionate taxation and renting of homes, etc”.

She also agrees with the idea of decriminalisation as the best choice: “If sex work is decriminalised then sex workers can prioritise their safety and wellbeing rather than focus their energies on avoiding arrest and prosecution. The police can also begin prioritising protecting sex workers from violence and addressing the crimes committed against them rather than arresting and charging the sex workers themselves”.

Apart from being considered as the oldest profession in the world, prostitution is also one of the most dangerous. Just in the UK, 152 sex workers had been murdered since 1990. However, sometimes it gets a point in life where you don’t have the choice. People who do sex work often also belong to marginal groups, such as LGBTQ, migrant workers, lone parents or people with health issues that mean they struggle to take on more mainstream jobs.

The HASC report assumes that “many people sell sex simply because they are unable to access other means of earning an income, and that many sold sex intermittently, to accumulate savings or cope with one-off or occasional financial needs”.

Luca Stevenson, ex sex worker, member of the Sex Worker Open University in Glasgow and coordinator of International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, thinks that a good solution could be “providing a basic income for everyone”. In that way, “no one would be forced to work on any precarious and risky job to survive”, he says.

Luca also points that “Most sex workers work in fear of criminalisation and public ‘outing’ of their work. This fear deters them from accessing services for health, social care and importantly deters them from reporting violence and exploitation to police or other authorities, while in a decriminalised system sex workers will feel confident and secure in reporting violent incidents to the police without fearing repercussions for themselves”.

In addition to those difficulties, sex workers have to face the reality of working on the street. At that moment, “The Street Offences Act 1959 criminalises loitering or soliciting for purposes of prostitution”. This is why most of people who practices prostitution tend to work on the suburbs and marginal areas, to avoid being seen. This becomes a problem when any kind of violence is committed against them, as it’s harder to reach some help from those places.

“Once I was in an international conference about sex workers rights and we were trying to find a solution to that problem. One of the participants said that she didn’t want their kids to see people offering sex around their neighbourhood because it might be dangerous. She wanted to help those girls but she preferred to hide this problem, without taking into account that maybe if we all tried to share it, it would become smaller”, says Luca.

Here is the thing: sex workers are being seen and treated as passive victims with no real agency, while they are silenced in debates on sex work legislation and policies. Those who are working as sex workers must be meaningfully engaged in these debates, Like Luca. Otherwise, the law would change but stigma won’t disappear without the empowerment of the community.

Pretty and comfy: the ultimate guilty pleasure

Sneakers have become a trend and, at the same time, a big temptation. “Oh those stilettos may look good with my jeans… But, wait, my white trainers were made for this outfit”. It’s the story of your life, right? Shops and brands know how much we love feeling pretty and comfortable at the same time and they have been working hard on the current season to give us the latest trends on sneakers.

There was a time where we only trusted a few brands in terms of sportswear. But if there’s something amazing about nowadays’ fashion is that we can wear (almost) any piece of clothing in any situation. So why are we spending a lot of money on one pair of sneakers when we’re not  going to run with them on? Fashion brands know that we ask ourselves that question and they answer us with lots of different sneaker models every season.

Zara is one of the most concerned stores about this fashion. The Spanish brand designs a different sneaker style for every type of consumer. This pair of sneakers combine perfectly two trends that have been present on every shop window: burgundy color and velvet material.

Who said that sneakers should have laces and be made of leather? These high tops from H&M go against all the standards about sport shoes. The fleece lining, the elasticated front side and the fluted rubber soles are the definition for comfort!

Another trend that we refuse to forget is the use of pom poms as shoe accessories. They decorated our sandals in summer and now it’s still to early to say goodbye. With a simple detail, Topshop discovered the best way of making our shoes look fluffy again.

The most popular feline among all the footwear brands brings us a new trend: creeper style sneakers designed by Rihanna for Puma. This pair of shoes, made of suede above a rubber flatform, has become a “must have”. This is why many stores are selling copies at an affordable price — which is a good thing, taking into account that the original ones are sold out on the official Puma website.

Classics are always a good idea. Reebok, as many other brands like Adidas or Nike, has bet on one of its vintage models. The typical pair of white trainers suits your favorite jeans and a basic T-shirt perfectly. And it’s the best option if the night starts with a beer but may end in the club!

When the sneakers trend was born, New Balance was one of the precursor brands. The good thing about NB is its wide range of shapes, sizes and tones. Our suggestion is to choose a plain color, like khaki, to make it suit with any piece from your wardrobe.

Interview with David Coburn, UKIP leader in Scotland

He was a businessman, he wants to fight against the establishment and he believes in amateur politicians, not in professional ones. Does it sound familiar? No, we’re not talking about the new elected president of the United States. We’re talking about David Coburn, the UKIP leader in Scotland and the only Scot member representing the party in the European Parliament.

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He has built a notorious reputation for what people regard as outrageous remarks but he’s not bothered. “I was a businessman and I did well enough to reach an accountable life and many people think that I became a politician to make money. I got in for public service and to help my country and that’s why I am in politics. And I am there to say what I think is right, not just what people want to hear”, he says.

That’s actually the key for his success: being an “ordinary person to represent ordinary people”. Unlike the rest of the parties on the Parliament, the “UKIP wants amateur politicians”. He considers that the problem is that nowadays politicians “seem to be people who has never had a job in his life other than as a politician” and who has “no experience on running anything”. That’s why a change is needed.

“You’re seeing it in the United States, where people are sick and tired of the professional politicians lying to them. That’s why they removed professional politicians, like Obama. And now they’ve put in Donald Trump, who I think is an excellent future president of the United States because he’s a successful businessman and they want him to speak for the ordinary people”, he affirms.

The cause of those changes that are taking place in our days? “People like myself, people like Trump, people like Farage or Madame Le Pen do not represent the ruling political and media elites”, he answers. At the same time, he rejects their common treat: “Just because they think that it’s wrong to have an open door for immigration they are meant to be racist. Lots of people coming with an islamic religions and they’re trying to push our ordinary people. If people come to our country they must try to live like us”.

Coburn doesn’t like to be told what to say but neither what to do. For the moment, his main goal as the UKIP leader in Scotland is “to make sure that we leave the European Union” and then “get into the House of Commons and to remove the current establishment”, he assumes.“We should be free of the European Union and ruled by our Parliaments in Westminster and Holyrood but not by Brussels and Strasbourg or Frankfurt. We need to rule our country in our own way. I will fight for that right”. That’s what he stands for and that was the main reason why he started on politics.

“I started volunteering on my spare time and I was in political organizations. And I left the conservative party disagreeing about Europe. I didn’t agree with European Union and Nigel Farage took me out for an alcoholic and we drunk so much wine that I came out saying that I will support him and I did it”.

After the wine, there were some values defended by the UKIP that Coburn agreed with: “we are a libertarian party. We believe in limited government. We do not believe in the freedom of the people. We believe that politicians are the servants of the people, not the people the servants of the politicians. And we believe in our national Parliament, the House of Commons. We believe that this is the only source of power and we should not be told what to do by an elected European bureaucracy in Brussels”.

In spite of his declared europhobia, he thinks that “Scotland and Britain as a whole have a very good relationship with other European countries, but it has been soured because we have been forced to do things that other European countries wanted to do but that we didn’t wanted to do because it wasn’t in our interests. I love Europe. I love France. I love Spain, I love Spanish people but I don’t want to share a bank account with Spanish people”.

For the moment, it’s hard to deal with that for him: “As long as we’re in the European Union I will have to accept the law. Otherwise I would be a revolutionary. I’m nearly a revolutionary but not one”.

Nevertheless, Coburn doesn’t even look being interested in what the highest Scottish power decides: “Nobody cares about what Madame Sturgeon says. She talks a tremendous amount of nonsense. She sees everything through this idea, this obsession and hysteria about the Scottish independence”.

He defends that the Scots voted on the referendum as a part of the United Kingdom and that’s the reality. The UKIP member claims that the president of the European Union, Mister Schultz agreed with him after having a nice cup of coffee together: “no such agreement was made with the Scots”.

But it’s not all about politics or economy. It’s also about personal issues. The leader has openly assumed his homosexual orientation but he’s still against gay marriage. “Marriage is considered to be a holy sacrament by many people of religious faiths. Many people decided that it was a good thing to have civil partnerships and I thought that was a good idea. But suddenly someone decided that it wasn’t enough. This is about the European Union trying to force everybody to get rid of their religion. The EU hates religion and that is wrong”, he says.

He is convinced that “the idea of marriage for people of the same sex is ridiculous” and “it’s making a lot of enemies”. But, anyway, that it’s happened and he blames on “Tony Blair and his liberal so-called elite”. “They’re authoritarians and they brought us into the European Union and the disasters of the wars of the Middle East. These are the people who are guilty. And now they’re trying to ruin things for gay people. I think it’s making gays unpopular and I don’t want to be made unpopular by a bunch of heterosexual politician”, he says.

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Interview with Daniel Wallace, Olympic swimmer

Daniel Wallace can consider himself a national hero, and not just because of his nickname, Braveheart (very deserved, by the way). “I’m from bonny Scotland, with ginger hair, a large personality and the second name Wallace. So the nicknames ‘Braveheart’ seemed pretty fitting”, he explains.

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Wallace is one of the team members who represented Great Britain at the Rio Olympics, including Duncan Scott, Stephen Milne, James Guy and Robbie Renwick, four of them swimmers from the University of Stirling. The squad made a new British record with a time of 7:03.13, winning the silver medal for the 4x200m Freestyle Relay.

The 23 years old swimmer from Edinburgh confesses that they key was “Trust. We had fought for our spot on that relay and we knew that each of us wanted to succeed as a team more than anything. We trusted in each other and everything fell perfectly into place”.

In fact, this is one of the things that he appreciated the most of the whole competition: “The relationships between all the swimmers on the Olympic team was great. We all know each other very well now and I can happily say they are my friends for life”.
Dan, how he uses to be called, remembers the experience as “a dream that seemed a million miles away. In the end it suddenly creeped up on me. Only now looking back I can see how special it was and what it means to me to say I have done it”.

One of the things that he points as one of his strongest points is the mental ability: “I’m able to stay very relaxed during high pressure situations in swimming and this allows me to always have fun during my races and competitions”. This is why he didn’t find any pressure in representing the whole country: “I loved having the responsibility to represent my country and I felt a huge sense of pride in doing so”.

The competitive ambience that we all think that the Olympics implicates seems far from reality in Dan’s words: “I loved meeting and speaking with other athletes from all around the world, knowing that we are all here doing the same thing. Representing our countries at the highest sporting level”.

Wallace has been swimming for more than 10 years now and he still remembers that at the age of 15 he discovered that this was something he wanted to dedicate his life to. His first competition was the Scottish Schools Championship. “Since then I have gone on to win medals at The Commonwealth Games, World Championships and The Olympic Games. As well as holding several Scottish and British records”, he remembers.

He started his career in Scotland, but his passion moved him to the other side of the ocean: Florida. Actually, his club is the University of Stirling and his college team is the University of Florida. But there’s any problem on that, for him is like “having two big families”.

Talking about how easy is to combine studies and a professional swimmer life he considers that the University of Stirling is one the “places around the world that allow you to pursue an athletic career and also to earn an academic qualification”.

But there’s more in life then study and workout: family and friends. The swimmer says that it has been easy for him to deal with that. “My family and friends have been there since day one. They have sacrificed just as much as I have on my journey and my success in swimming wouldn’t have been possible without them. I do enjoy getting away from the pool and my swimming life and just being normal from time to time with my friends and with my family who I am very close with”, he explains.

Especially his mum is an essential part in his life. If there’s someone who could replace Michael Phelps as a role model that’s his mum: “my mum Tanya is the most loving and hard working person I know and she has so many great qualities”.

But there’s no doubt that Phelps was an inspiration for him, as he affirms that “he was definitely someone who I looked up to when I started swimming. To now have raced him and to call him a friend of mine is crazy”.

Lena Dunham, not just another “Girl”

What most of the followers of Lena Dunham want to know at that time is how the last season of Girls is going. The sixth season is going to be the last one, so no one wants to be disappointed with the future of Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa. But Dunham, a writer mostly known by her career on cinema and tv, has been busy for some other reasons lately. She has been participating on the US elections campaign as a Clinton supporter.

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Dunham joined last week the team of directors who are collaborating on a documentary about this year’s US presidential election, which will be released on early 2017. Some of their missions for this project are live-streaming events during the electoral campaign and also following and recording a diverse group of Americans from across the country until the winner is revealed.

The director has been using her fame and role as a public person to fight for the image of women. So it’s not surprising that she has been campaigning for Hillary Clinton during last months. The ones who follow her on social media could have noticed that she has been streaming different meetings and political events.

But this not the first time that Dunham gets involved on electoral campaigns. On 2012 she was criticized by appearing in a video advertisement promoting President Barack Obama’s re-election. Some media considered that she was trying to get the youth vote “by comparing voting for the first time to having sex for the first time”. But the actress defended the ad by Twitter saying “the message is serious: vote for women’s rights”.

The same reasons moved her to “Chose Hillary Clinton”. She explained why she was with Hilary in an article published b y the magazine T ime last April, where she confessed that she thought that having a woman as a President “was something impossible”. Among the facts that made her support Clinton she pointed “her commitment to women’s reproductive health and rights”, as the abortion, her plans against “systemic racism” and her aim to carry out “gun control”.

In relation to the last topic, Dunham said that “gun control is a feminist issue”, taking into account that “guns are responsible for more intimate partner killings than all other weapons combined”. That’s why “Hillary has a plan to keep guns out of the hand of domestic abusers”.

If we go through the reasons that Dunham gives, we will know a little bit more about Clinton’s policy, but also about the actress’ way of thinking, values and principles.

Lena Dunham, born in 1986, grew up in Manhattan, in the Soho, where she meet some her future colleagues in Girls. The series was created and directed by her, who also plays the role of the main character. The show and the characters has been nominated by different awards several times since 2012, age of the original release, winning The International Prize of the British Academy Television Awards, among others.

One of the keys of the success is that, in spite of the name, Girls, the show is not a typical story about young women. The plot may coincide with a well known tv program: four girls in Manhattan who try to deal with love, work and social life. Yes, it sounds like Carrie Bradshaw’s Sex and the city, but it has nothing to do with that. Dunham has been inspired by real events in her life to tell things about us, women, which hasn’t been told before.

Before creating the show that put her on the map, she worked on several projects. She started uploading short films to Youtube as a student at Oberlin College. Since the very beggining she worked on controversial subjects and sex was very present, like in Tight Shots, a ten-episode web series for Nerve.com. The definitive step to the fame before Girls was Tiny Furniture, a semiautobiographical film that she released on 2010.

Although being just 30 years old, she has a lot to tell, as she demonstrates on Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”, her first book. It’s a memoir where she reveals what she has been writing on her diaries since she was a child, like the day that she suffered sexual abused or her obsessive compulsive disorder. Those episodes which marked her life now are part of her and her personality, reflected on every single word she writes.

Bridget Boom (again)

The clichés about single women are on the top of the charts again. Bridget Jones’s Baby arrived with the same power as the previous films did. Again a story about a lady’s life which just revolves around men but with a new component: a baby! Yes, people were almost going to forget that this is the main goal in a woman’s life. But weren’t we supposed to be more critical with the figure of women in films? Oh, excuse me, it’s Bridget Jones, she knows how to make money. And newspapers know it. It’s hilarious that Renée Zellweger has been having a bigger prominence in the media than the refugees for a few weeks. The film has already made just in the UK $11m and is planning and other sequel. But don’t even try the Bechdel test, because the score won’t be be at the height of its budget.

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