Human Rights

Adopt our culture or leave

“Adopt our culture or leave” — my challenge to the BNP.
Nick Griffin would be hugely funny if he were a character created by Sacha Baron Cohen, rather like Borat or Bruno. But his wilfully inconsistent line is a planned and calculated programme to court ‘the plain man’. I’m not really sure how dangerous the BNP is. Their support is, after all, tiny. But I am sure that they are a slap in the face to our democratic society.

Today, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has begun a legal challenge to the BNP for its constitution and membership criteria. Speaking on Radio 4’s PM programme, the BNP’s Griffin claimed that his party was exempt under sections 26 and 27 of the Equality Act 2006. However, the Commission has pointed out in its letter the BNP does not satisfy the criteria for a membership organisation which exists for the benefit of its members.

Griffin, I think, failed to register the irony of his remarks. He declared unequivocally that the British National Party existed for the benefit of the ethnic minority English people, who were discriminated against by society. First off, English people are not an ethnic minority. According to the 2001 census, 85.7% of the population are the native ethnicity referred to as ‘White British’, while the CIA Factbook suggests that 77% of the UK population are English. But, rather more ironically, does Griffin’s party purport to represent the interests of English people, or, as the name suggests, British people? If British, then it should surely include all those with British citizenship. Or else he should be required to change its name to the ‘White British Ethnic Party’, since he can scarcely claim that his party is a ‘national’ party, if its aim is to exclude a part of the nation. If he really means only the white English, he should change the name to ‘White English Ethnic Party’.

During his Euro-election night speeches, Griffin suggested that people coming from other cultures to Britain should be required to adopt our culture, or should be required to leave.

Let me therefore replay this challenge to the BNP. Britain is a multi-racial, multi-cultural society with laws protecting all for the benefit of all.

If the BNP is unwilling to adopt our culture and obey our laws, its leaders and members should simply leave the country. I am not strictly sure which countries would welcome them.

But, there’s always Rockall.

Banning prostitution is not the answer — but fining the clients might be

BBC NEWS | Politics | UK should outlaw paying for sex

After endless amounts of backwards and forwards discussion, Harriet Harman is considering “banning” prostitution. Her reasons are something I applaud – to reduce the sex market, thereby decreasing the profits of sex-trafficking, and moving towards eliminating the modern slave-trade.

Actually, though, ‘banning’ is something that patently does not work as far as what is generally referred to as ‘vice’ is concerned. The American experiment with Prohibition of Alcohol is invariably cited as the case in point. On the other hand, the solution recommended by the English Collective of Prostitutes – to legalise building-based prostitution, as has been done in New Zealand – has also been proven not to work. In Amsterdam and across Belgium, building-based prostitution has been shown as the best of all worlds for people-traffickers. Their victims are out of sight, easy to control.

This sounds like the counsel of despair. If banning doesn’t work, and if legalisation doesn’t work, we are almost at the point of saying that we are living in the best of all possible worlds – and what a terrible world that is.

Some solutions, have yet to be tried. It has been hinted at in radio interviews, but the best solution is to target the clients. Any kind of restrictions on sex-workers invariably results in more pressure by pimps and traffickers on illegal immigrants. The threat of law is used against the victims. What’s more, those involved in semi-consensual sex, which is most prostitutes, can only pay the fines that are currently dished out to them in magistrates’ courts by engaging in more prostitution. Targeting the clients, on the other hand, goes (as the Inland Revenue say) ‘where the money is’. There are at least three kinds of prostitutes: trafficked women, semi-consensual prostitutes, and (most often heard on the radio) prostitutes who choose to do what they do. There is only one kind of client: men who want sex, and are prepared to pay for it. The experience of research in Belgium is that men are unwilling to distinguish between the three kinds. Target the clients, and the market reduces.

However, this approach can only be pursued if routes are created out of prostitution for those who want to exit the trade. This is not only for trafficked women. There are plenty of semi-consensual prostitutes, working to pay for drug-habits, or because their economic situation is one for which they cannot find another solution. We don’t (as yet) have sufficiently integrated paths out of drug-use. Any way out needs to be carefully constructed at a local level to provide drug rehabilitation, dental treatment (almost always essential for drug users), training for employment, social housing, and more. This can only happen if we commit to it as a society: far too often initiatives of this kind are held back because ‘ordinary’ people (or their local political representatives) say that they don’t want public money to go on helping people out of their own bad choices to this extent. It’s the same argument that says that teenage girls get pregnant in order to get housing benefit. True, or not? Hard to say. But irrelevant. In a civilised society, we need to invest in people’s lives to bring them back into mainstream society, no matter how they fell out of it. If we are not willing to pay the price, then we must accept that we will never approach an answer to human trafficking.

Which makes all of us guilty.

Birmingham Raid uncovers tip of the iceberg

Yesterday’s raid on a Sauna in Birmingham uncovered the tip of the iceberg of the UK’s sex-trafficking industry. 19 women were rescued from allegedly forced prostitution, from Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Poland and Turkey.

The Birmingham police deserve every congratulation for facing up to the situation and taking action. But there is far, far more to be done.

The UN estimates that 5 million women and children are trafficked each year. This means that every three years, as many people are sold in slavery in the modern world as were sold during the 315 of the Atlantic slave trade. Nobody knows how many are trafficked in the UK each year — itself a damning indictment of our failure to begin to tackle the problem.

Key factors in the growth of sex trafficking in Britain include the following. First, in tackling prostitution our legal system has tended to penalise sex-workers while failing to go after pimps, and doing little to discourage the clients. Secondly, the growing tolerance for building-based prostitution creates an environment where traffickers can easily control their victims. Third, the UK heavily penalises people who are illegally in this country, even where they are victims of human trafficking. Chillingly, in yesterday’s raid, several of the girls are being held by police while their immigration status is checked. However, the most important factor is a failure by local authorities and central government to take the issue seriously.

While working for charity I was involved in counselling and assisting victims of sex-trafficking in Belgium. It is a long and depressingly fragile process. Belgium has a bad track record for its toleration of this industry. But it has developed some effective support mechanisms for victims, which we would do well to emulate in Britain. There are systems in place for victims to gain immigration status, and help mechanisms to assist them into social housing, language learning and the social security network. All these are missing in Britain.

Ultimately, the Belgian approach is based on the acceptance that sex-trafficking is a crime perpetrated on the victims by Belgian society. It is therefore for Belgian society to redress it.

For as long as we continue to penalise victims, with the occasional foray against the perpetrators to salve our conscience, we in Britain will continue to nurture the conditions which make this trade flourish.

And that is sickening.

The terrorists failed

BBC NEWS | UK | London bombs killed ‘at least 50’

The nation mourns as the predicted death toll from yesterday’s bombing is expected to reach fifty.

And yet, and yet. The atrocity has failed to scar our national psyche. The government is not set to fall. The stock market closed at barely below the limits of normal trading. London is coming back to life. Hospitals were able to cope with the situation.

We are shocked, but we are not terrified. We mourn, but our national resolve is strengthened.

The terrorists have achieved nothing of any worth to themselves. Instead they have revealed that their reach is shortened, and their planning weak. They have done nothing to disrupt the G8 summit. All they have done is to unite the leaders and raise Tony Blair’s reputation as a statesman. They failed to capitalise on the moments of national celebration %u2014 Live8 and the Olympic Games %u2014 where they might have done so much more damage.

There will be lasting repercussions. Families are without fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children. Colleagues will look at empty chairs, and remember. Lives have been cut off short. Survivors will face weeks, months, years or a lifetime of injuries.

Let the murderers take these on their consciences for the rest of their lives.

But in terrorising Britain, they have failed.

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