Is adding occupation as a protected characteristic, a double edged sword?


“Many Vids have backed a petition to the UK government. The petition is for “Occupation to be made a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.” “We’re urging the Government to ensure the Equality Act 2010 includes occupation as a protected characteristic, in order to safeguard adult entertainers from discrimination in the UK.”

Sounds great, but the sex worker Rights groups see it to be a double edged sword.

Sex Work is still fighting to be recognised as an occupation rather than a crime, so the move could divide current Rights campaigning. At the same time porn has been declared “a public health crisis” in some areas of the states, in other areas it is already labelled as an act of violence. All of this highlights that having government continually recognise adult entertainment as an occupation could easily become more slippery then it seems.

Sex Worker Rights groups notice that the  wording focuses on adult entertainers rather than aiming to support anyone who is part of the sex industry, this includes some of the most needy. The move is also considered poor timing as industry sympathy is scarce, however the sympathy that is there could be best used supporting hardship funds instead. Hardship funds are certain to support people in the sex industry in urgent need. By comparison this petition could result in inaction even if successfully supported.

A lot of activists are looking at this petition with mild interest at best, as even in the best outcomes there is no commitment the government would devote time to it in the current climate. At the time of writing,  the petition stands at 83 signatures, yet 100,000 would be needed for it to become a debate in parliament in a government operating in normal conditions. Successful petitions almost always begin with a strong start and the effort is to maintain interest while approaching the deadline, which for this petition is 16th September 2020.

If this petition is successful, well even then there is an interesting problem. If it succeeds, then discrimination to someone in the adult industry could be seen as a hate crime. We know that hatred does motivate actions against our community, however, a hate crime is largely a tool for police to use against public behaviour. These tools often function poorly against the police or government themselves when they are the perpetrator.

In adult industries, the government and police can be the worst offenders; for instance, officers taking advantage of performers, or police claiming money from brothels at police raids. Having the definition of what counts as a hate crime, or even bad behaviour toward our community, be so locked up within the legal system leaves us vulnerable to governmental and police abuse. This is the double edged sword.

There are also parts of the freedom of speech movements that state all hate crimes are simply the government exploring ways to gain extra punitive tools..perhaps in future sex work itself would be defined as a hate crime, at which point the confrontation becomes back at square one or worse.

It is a truth that our community is a vulnerable minority, one greatly marginalised; but who controls the definitions is really important in a time where there is a lot of prohibitionist feeling within parliament. What defines our vulnerabilities if often used to invalidate our voices and our own experiences even currently. So it is understandable that people are cautious to give this type of community silencing more ammunition.

The image of the empowered sex worker, in or out of porn, has it’s own problems with erasing victimhood or lessening support for the community. It is a rock and a hard place choosing to show us as either a victim or independent because all of our lives are more complex then that. This petition is simply seen as a shift to a parallel position, from independence focus  to victimhood, parallel movement rather than progress actually land more safety for the community.

One thing is agreed on, progress is achieved by groups working together and reaching consensus about how and when political moves are made. This is so enough momentum can be given to each political move so they can be successful. Right now organisations supporting those in the sex industry are united over the hardship funds like the one by SWARM

Hardship funds getting support into the hands of the community fast before evictions happen or people start running out of supplies. Support that arrives in many months is not an option for too many already.

The fact Many Vids is leading this petition feels PR driven despite their welfare focus as an organisation. It is a telling sign that they are unaware of the organisational work to protect the community done by charities like National Ugly Mugs or organisations like SWARM.

Link to the many vids petition