As the May election approaches, we should all be considering our individual priorities, and selecting an appropriate party and candidate to vote for. So for me (as you might expect) the erosion of civil liberties is far and away the biggest issue we face at this election, and especially those issues around sexual freedom and free expression.
Which parties are the strongest in these areas? Well to begin with, we can ignore the two largest: both Labour and the Tories have appalling records in these areas, climbing over each other to censor online expression and then insisting that the other side isn’t being tough enough on terrorists/protecting children/[insert your favourite threat to humanity].
UKIP’s libertarian noises have been a clever tactic to attract those who are sick of the politically-correct authoritarianism of the puritan left. But there can be nothing pro-liberty about UKIP in practise: their support comes overwhelmingly from older, socially conservative voters, who would be outraged by a loosening of policy on sex or drugs. UKIP has no mandate for expanding civil liberties, but their anti-immigration policies would require a large investment in the security state. More police with more powers? No thanks.
Putting aside the tiny parties (the Pirates have already featured here), there are two choices remaining: the Greens or the Lib Dems. Many of my sex-positive friends are enthusiastic supporters of the Greens, who are projected as a pro-liberty, left-wing alternative. I have doubts whether the Greens are either especially libertine or left (that discussion can continue elsewhere!) But where do they stand on sex? I was sent a link today to a statement of policy which has left me just as uncertain as before.
On Sexual Freedom
The Green Party believes that the law should not seek to regulate consensual sexual activities between adults where these do not affect others…
– This is a bland statement, rendered of little value by the “where these do not affect others” part, which is a get-out-of-jail-free card. Do the existence of strip clubs “affect others”? Anti-sex campaigners think so, and have long made (discredited) arguments that strip clubs cause an increase in sexual violence. Do lads’ mags or Page 3 affect others? Pro-censorship campaigners say these “objectify women” and make supermarkets and newsagents uncomfortable places for some women to visit. Anti-gay rights campaigners have long considered that the rights of gay people have wider, detrimental (but hard-to-quantify) effects on society. Basically, any sex act that doesn’t happen between two people in private might be said to “affect others”.
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The statement continues:
... restrictions and censorship of sexually explicit material should be ended, except for those aimed at protecting children. The following are direct quotes from our official policy.
RR550 … Adults should be free to do as they wish with their own bodies, and to practice whatever form of sexual activity they wish by themselves or with each other by mutual consent. This includes the freedom not only to engage in such sexual acts, but also to be photographed or filmed doing so, to make such images available to other adults with their consent, and to be able to view such images. That someone might receive payment for any of these activities should not affect this freedom.
– This is a much stronger statement, but heavily undermined by the caveat “except for those aimed at protecting children” (my highlight above). Most UK censorship of sexual expression exists under the “protecting children” caveat. This includes the total ban on hardcore porn on TV – even at 3am, even PIN-protected – because (according to Ofcom) children might know the PIN and have access to a TV at 3am. The filters on home broadband, public WiFi and mobile Internet connections exist to “protect children”, but in practise block a lot of valuable content to both children and adults. ATVOD’s harassment of UK-based adult websites is done under the seemingly false pretext of child protection.
The statement continues:
RR554 Therefore, all aspects of sex work involving consenting adults should be decriminalised. Restrictions and censorship of sexually explicit material should be ended, except for those which are aimed at protecting children. Workers in the sex industry should enjoy the same rights as other workers such as the right to join unions (SeeWR410), the right to choose whether to work co-operatively with others etc. Decriminalisation would also help facilitate the collection of taxes due from those involved in sex work. Legal discrimination against sex workers should be ended (for example, in child custody cases, where evidence of sex work is often taken to mean that a person is an unfit parent).http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/rr.html#RR555
This is a strong, positive statement. It continues…
At the time that the 2008 bill was passed we did not have a Green MP in Parliament so did not have a vote. However our policy towards all forms of sex work is a liberal one advocating decriminalisation with protections against exploitation, abuse and trafficking.
And here’s the BIG problem with the Greens. They have a great sex work policy, and they now have one MP, Caroline Lucas. But Lucas is a vociferous opponent of Green policy on sex work, as well as a leading supporter of the censorious No More Page 3 campaign. Which way would she vote on these issues? We have no idea.
Note also the inclusion of the T-word… “trafficking” here. The blurring of lines between sex work and trafficking is based on the largely mythical idea of “sex trafficking”, which is used to attack the legitimacy of sex work. Not good.
We will try to carry more party-based coverage in the run-up to the election. If party supporters and representatives would like to provide us information on their policies related to these subjects, or write a post for this blog, please contact us.