Prostitution: historic vote in Parliament to tackle the sex-slave industry

On 12th November 2009, in an historic decision, British law was radically changed. From now on, men -not women- will be obliged to accept responsibility for the abuses of trafficked and coerced women forced to work as prostitutes. It has been a long, slow-burn campaign headed by Labour women ministers and MPs. Until now it has been women who have been arrested, questioned, or deported as if the victims of the sex trade should be held responsible for their plight.

Now men who pay for sex with a trafficked or coerced girl or woman may be arrested and charged. They will have to explain to magistrates and the press why they think putting a few pounds down gives them the right to insert their penises into the orifices of young women brought to Britain to serve the ever-increasing demand for paid-for sex.

The Daily Mail chooses to celebrate this legislative assault on the sex-slave industry with a two-page spread under the headline “The Myth of Britain’s Foreign Sex Slaves.”. It is a powerfully argued piece written with the customary brio and well-presented facts that one can expect from the Mail which, whatever one thinks of its politics, is a magnificent journalists’ product.

The Mail’s argument is that the plight of foreign girls being brought to Britain to act as prostituted women is in essence not true. It quotes the English Collective of Prostitutes as saying the problem does not exist. The ECP was set up along with the Wages for Housework campaign by the International Marxist Group in the 1970s. It is very hard to find out any information about its finances, its membership, its internal operations and organisations. But its spokespersons are treated by the BBC and now the Daily Mail as authoritative. “In all the years, we have come across only two women who fit the classic description of someone who has been trafficked,” says the ECP to the Daily Mail.

But let us turn to the Daily Mail itself to see if this is true. In 2007, a Daily Mail headline was: “Women for Sale in the Gatwick Slave Auctions” and reporter Charlotte Gill wrote: “Women are being sold into prostitution in modern day ‘slave auctions’ at Britain’s airports.” Quoting a senior Metropolitan Police officer, she went on “Young women from all over the world are trafficked into Britain after being promised well-paid work in bars and cafes…Women are frequently raped, locked in flats and given no money to prevent them running away from their captors.”

In another story in 2007, the Mail headline was “Global Prostitute Ring Boss Jailed for Luring Teens From the Families for Vice.” The story began: “The mastermind behind a £1 million global prostitute ring who preyed on terrified teenagers and turned into sex slaves, was jailed for eight years today. One of Virginjus Sucholdolski’s victims was just 16 when she was lured from her family in Lithuania to be plied with cocaine and advertised on the web as a ‘European Angel’”.

Last year the Mail headline was “Gang Who Lured Slovakian Teenager into sex slavery in Britain jailed for 52 years.” It gave details of “The 16-year-old virgin from Slovakia who was repeatedly raped and made to work in brothels in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Middlesex.”

So which Daily Mail should we believe? The one that reports gruesome cases of sex slave trafficking or the one that today says such stories are a “myth”?

To be sure, there are problems over figures. I am chastised for quoting a Daily Mirror headline which talked of 25,000 prostituted women who could be categorised as sex slaves. Out of a total estimated of 80,000 prostituted women said to be working in Britain that may be a reasonable figure. But everyone who works in this field knows that in the underground world of this sub-criminal industry with links to globalised trafficking networks, the accurate figures are impossible to establish.

As with rape arrests and convictions which are shamefully low in Britain, the police with their deeply embedded masculinist and patriarchal culture are not very good at dealing with sex crimes.

But on balance I prefer the Daily Mail’s court and police reporters to its claim today about “The Myth of Britain’s Foreign Sex Slaves.” NGOs who work with victims of pimps have endless cases stories and the pretend that this is just a myth got up by politicians is silly. I pass over the abuse in today’s Mail heaped on brave women ministers and politicians who have tackled the complacency of Whitehall and the boys in the Cabinet who to begin with were reluctant to embark on this reform process. I refuse any comment on friends in the liberal-left media and on Newsnight who have rubbished this problem in the manner of today’s Daily Mail.

Instead I salute a remarkable assault on modern slavery which MPs - and to their credit in a debate and vote on November 3rd, peers, have now begun. If we can reduce demand, we will reduce supply. It is now men who have to accept responsibility after centuries in which women were made to pay in all senses for the belief that men can have such sex as they wish as long as they have money to pay for it. And Britain should not hesitate to take the demand-reducing aspect of dealing with the global sex-trade and seek to persuade other countries to follow suit.

UK-Ukraine relationship, Russia, and the Black Sea states

At the invitation of the British-Ukraine Society, Denis MacShane gave the annual YALTA MEMORIAL LECTURE in Parliament on 30 november 2009.

Here is the text of his speech:

"From Malta to Yalta we shall not falter" intoned Winston Churchill as he and President Roosevelt dragged their weary bodies across the world to meet Stalin in the early weeks of 1945. Then it was to seal the compact of war that had begun when German Nazism shook hands with Russian Communism in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

The third partition of Poland followed. As after their secret talks at Rapallo in 1924, Berlin and Moscow made common cause against democratic Europe. The Rapallo temptation is always there and one of the supreme tasks of the new European High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Cathy Ashton, will be to wean Berlin off the view that Germany today has a "special relationship" with Moscow which prevails over the common European interest.

In his speech in Kyiv after the Russian invasion by land, sea and air and subsequent occupation of much Georgian territory in August 2009, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, recalled George Kennan's remark that Russia is only capable of seeing its neighbours as vassals or enemies. Sir Rodric Braithwaite, a former and most distinguished Ambassador from Britain to Moscow, has pointed out that contrary to the conventional wisdom, Russia has done far more invading and occupation of neighbouring countries in the centuries since Peter the Great than the other way round. No foreign troops have ever occupied Moscow. But Russian boots have marched into the capitals of European nations thousands of miles from Moscow.

Ukraine knows of what Foreign Secretary Miliband speaks. Ukraine seeks neither to be a vassal nor an enemy of Russia. Instead Ukraine wants what all European states want and those in the EU have achieved, namely normal, friendly, open relations with neighbouring states, big or small. Germany, once much feared, has learnt to be friends with its neighbours. What stops Russia?

Can this be achieved? In today's Financial Times (30 Nov), an editorial in what no-one would consider a populist or anti-Russian paper states the following:

"The authoritarian state created by Vladimir Putin, the prime minister and former president, has allowed officials to see themselves as above the law. Corruption and abuse of power have flourished, as has a woeful neglect of the rights of ordinary citizens. Imposing the rule of law on this self-serving bureaucracy would mean tearing it down. The governing elite will simply not destroy its political and financial power in this way."

This is an extraordinary indictment. If made by a European political leader it would provoke a crisis. The Financial Times is not a neo-Conservative, nor anti-Russian paper. The FT does not see Moscow from the perspective of say, revisionist historians, in the Baltic states who seek to downplay collaboration with Nazis in World War 2 or revisionist politicians in Poland like Felip Stanilko who works for the policy think tank of Poland’s PiS Party. Mr Stanilko told Canada’s Globe and Mail last month that Jews control Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s main liberal daily. He also linked Communism and Jews and said of pre-war Jews in Poland: “The faction of this society were predominately Jew, from Jew origins. You’ve got a Zionist path, you know, the people who created Israel, and you’ve got a communist path, because of the influential model of Marxism as a model of Talmudic thinking. And these people emigrated to the Soviet Union, they returned, they were very well educated by postwar standards, and biographically they are the crucial part of Gazeta Wyborcza.”

This obsession of some on the Polish right of making a link between Jews and Communism is distasteful. But then we read Sir Oliver Miles, a former senior diplomat, drawing attention to the fact that two members of the Chilcot inquiry into antisemitism are Jewish. In the 18th century Thomas Jefferson insisted that religion should be no bar to holding any public office of state. Today in Poland or amongst the upper ranks of retired diplomats in London “Cherchez le juif” is still politics. Professor David Kotz of Vilnius University, in an important article in the current Jewish Chronicle, has highlighted what he calls (and I quote) “revisionist historians (masquerading as centrists but actually of the far right) (and) their efforts to persuade the European Union into adopting a revised model of history that deletes the Holocaust as a category (without denying a single death) and goes for the model of “Double Genocide” (Nazi and Soviet “equality.”)”

So just as there as Russian historians and politicians who defend the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and who treat the Holodomor as an incident of history that is regrettable rather than a systemic politically driven and well-organised mass-murder of Ukrainians by the Russian state under Stalin in order to extend the central control of the Kremlin over the people of Ukraine, we now face the downplaying of the murder of Jews in WW2 for ideological ends.

I have always admired the gesture of Willy Brandt when he kneeled at the Warsaw Ghetto to make atonement for what the German Nazis did to Jews in the extermination camps the Germans established on Polish soil. I believe Prime Minister Putin or President Medvedev could usefully come to Ukraine to apologise for the mass murder of Ukrainian citizens in the Holomodor. What a gesture of reconciliation that would be! Like Tony Blair saying sorry for the Irish famine that killed millions of Irish people in the 19th century on account of political decisions taken in London or Ronald Reagan apologising for the imprisonment of all the Nisei, the Japanese-Americans rounded up by the FBI and put in concentration camps after December 1941, sometimes saying sorry is an important political act.

Thus the first duty of the politician as he seeks to make sense of the Yalta era since 1945 is to tell the truth. In fact, there is an argument to be made that the Yalta era or perhaps the Yalta mind-sent has not come to an end, as we have heard so many statements in recent months that Russia is entitled to its zone of influence. Prime Minister Putin, when president, said that the end of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century when most people would think it was one of the greatest liberations of the 21st century. And today policy-makers have to look at Russia and ask why it is impossible for the Kremlin to allow Ukraine to be Ukraine, Georgia to be Georgia, or the Baltic States to be the Baltic States, without this steady grind of pressure and, sometimes as over energy supplies, a direct assault on the sovereign integrity of Russia’s neighbouring states.

In his fascinating account of the Bulgarian Agrarian politician, Alexsandur Stamboliiski - just published by Haus publishing in its admirable series on the key figures who signed the Versailles Treaty -, Professor Crampton of Oxford University, concludes that it took Bulgaria more than 8 decades after Versailles to accept that its territorial ambitions to control Macedonia and other parts of the Black Sea and Balkans finally had to be relinquished. “It was not, perhaps, until Bulgaria joined the European Union in January 2007 that territorial expansion was given up as a national aspiration.”

Ukraine and the Black Sea’s tragedy is that Russia has not yet given up its desire to be the dominant power in a way that its soldiers could exercise by right of conquest at Yalta in 1945 but which the 21st century can no longer accept as a guiding principle of inter-state relations.

And that is why I believe we need to give more urgent consideration to the politics of the Black Sea as, rather faster than global warming, the temperature rises in that region of the world to that the Black Sea becomes a Hot Sea.

The fault lines are clear. It is over the Black Sea region that much of Europe’s oil, gas, drugs, and trafficked people flow. The Black Sea has seen Europe’s first shooting war and full-scale invasion since 1945. We can all agree that President Saakashvili of Georgia ordered artillery fire to be opened in August 2008. But as the EU report produced by a neutral Swiss diplomat showed, the degree of provocation and military build-up and aggressive acts by Russia in the period leading up to the open fighting were extraordinary. 20,000 Russian troops and 2,000 Russian tanks – more than those who arrived in Prague in 1968 - were massed on the border and moving through the tunnel and pass ready to enter sovereign Georgian territory. What was Saakashvili to do? Wait like the Czechs in 1939 and 1968 and offer no armed resistance? Accept the Anschluss of part of Georgian territory fully into Russia?

I am glad it was his decision not mine. Whatever the arguments over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the full-scale attack by land, air and sea of Georgia was evidence of how the Black Sea can heat up instantly. In May this year I went north of Tibilisi to see the new frontier inside a member state of the UN and the Council of Europe. Just north of Gori I could see the Russian flag flying and Russian military units pointing their guns at me. I felt again as I did at the Berlin Wall in years past that something ugly and unacceptable was happening in Europe.

Today, Russia is hoping to buy a warship from France that carries helicopters and will increase the tensions in the Black Sea. As Russian naval chief Admiral Vladimir Vyssotski said: “If we had this warship in the war with Georgia, the Black Sea fleet could achieve in 40 minutes what took us 26 hours.”

I hope President Sarkozy vetoes this sale as we do not need enhanced naval tension in the Black Sea. We have the Winter Olympics at Sochi in 2012 and then the decision on the continuing occupation of part of the Crimean peninsula, at Sebastapol, by the Russian fleet. This is not like Kalingrad which belongs to Russia by treaty. Ukraine’s permission to allow the Russian fleet to be based on Ukrainian territory runs out in 2017 – less than a decade away. It is vital that Moscow and Kyiv find a way to better relations so that the handling of what happens after 2017 is done on the basis of agreement and mutual consent. The last thing Europe and the world needs is any build-up of tension on this issue.

Look south and we have Turkey, still not sure if it wants to keep looking West or whether to turn its back on Europe and seek to be a regional power player. We have the deplorable evidence of hostility to European Muslims, most of whom shun ideological Islamism, as evidenced in the vote in the Swiss referendum yesterday. In the 1930s it was plebiscites to endorse anti-Jewish politics. Now it is plebiscites to endorse anti-Muslim politics. There is a problem, a serious problem with the ideology of Islamism which denies the rights of women, gays, democracy, a free judiciary and freedom of expression. At its sharpest expression Islamism turns violent and is used to create so-called jihadi suicide terrorism which now plagues us.

But Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan has spoken of “minarets as the bayonets of Islam” and if such metaphors, which turn faith into instrument of death, gain ground, then the language generated from the Black Sea will further destabilise Europe.

Turkey has always demanded the unconditional support of the democratic world for its combat with the terrorism and murder of extremist PKK ideologues. Yet when Israel asked for support as it sought to combat the terror and murder of Hezbollah and Hamas, Turkey adopted a double standard and as we have seen this year launched a verbal and political offensive against Israel. I do not want to comment on Israel but I am concerned that Turkey can demand condemnation against PKK terror and support for actions taken to deal with the PKK but refuses to extend the hand of solidarity to an Israel which faces equally ugly terror attacks on its citizens from Hamas.

I welcome active Turkish diplomacy in helping effect a rapprochement with Armenia and other efforts Turkey undertakes to promote stability. But Turkey stations 35,000 troops in occupation of northern Cyprus, far beyond what is required for its own security, let alone the security of the Turkish community in Cyprus. If we want the Black Sea to be a sea of peace and increased cooperation we need a new approach from Turkey.

I will continue to support Turkey’s EU aspirations and I believe it is the responsibility of sensible Europeans to make the case for Turkey. But we would be helped if there could be a clear rejection of Islamist ideology from Turkey’s leaders and a clear commitment to the common struggle against terrorism of any sort in the region.

Together with Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania and other Black Sea states, Turkey helped set up a Black Sea Cooperation Council in 1992. It is not active and there is now a case for more regular contacts between the Black Sea nations and their fellow European states further west and north. The kind of cooperation between Baltic Sea states is a model. It would be helpful if Black Sea states could speak as one on key European issues instead of the opposing policies of Romania and Bulgaria on the question of recognising Kosovo for example. Do we really need South Stream and Nabucco, for example? How quickly can Romania and Bulgaria move off the Transparency International list of countries where corruption is a serious problem?

I saw first hand the democratic resistance of the people of Ukraine to the bullying of the Russians during the Orange Revolution. Who can forget the bravery and defiance of the ordinary citizens of Ukraine who turned the freezing centre of Kyiv into a tented city of democracy as they insisted that they and not the Kremlin should decide who the elected leadership of Ukraine should be.

That those elected leaders have turned out to be incapable of finding common cause and instead have squandered the five years since the Orange Revolution in bickering and personal positioning has not helped. But in a curious way I find the open hates and back-stabbing of Ukrainian politics rather more normal and like the politics of democracy than the controlled non-democracy of Russia, where journalists and lawyers can be gunned down in the streets, opponents killed in London and those businessmen who refuse to pay off politicians find themselves in prison or exile.

If Russia represents the unholy trinity of Autocracy, Nationalism and orthodoxy, Ukraine represents the European soul of Liberalism, Reason and multi-confessional faith. Let us not forget that in the 17th century Kyiv had a university when none existed in Russian cities. I sit with Russian and Ukrainian parliamentarians on the Council of Europe and the Nato Parliamentary Assembly. To listen to the Russian colleagues is to hear the Kremlin line repeated as if there was no difference between the government executive and the legislature of the Duma or Council of the Federation in Moscow. By contrast, the Ukranian parliamentarians have differing and opposing views, as it should be from a proper democratic parliament.

Ukraine needs more support and engagement from the rest of Europe because it has a greater chance of accepting its European destiny than sadly Russia has.

After the Kuchna years politics in Ukraine has been frankly a mess. The squabbling politicians of France's fourth republic would have been at home. I cannot say as an outsider if Ukraine needs a strong presidential or a coherent parliamentary system but as with other democracies reborn after 1989 it is taking a long time. Don't forget it is only now that Poland has the chance of electing the same party to power for two successive terms.

None of the Black Sea states have found their way to the historic compromises of democratic politics with its give and take and an acceptance that power does change hands as part of the process of strengthening democracy.

After 2004 Ukraine should perhaps have focussed more on Europe and less on Nato. Ukraine will join Nato one day and the sooner the better. The attempts by Moscow to dictate or veto who can and cannot be a Nato member are not acceptable.

But the priority for Ukraine should be getting closer to the EU in economic, social, political and cultural terms. Sadly the clumsy handling of visas by the German embassy in Ukraine at the time when Joschka Fischer was German Foreign Minister has slowed the goal of creating visa-free travel between Ukraine and the EU. We have the example of the Polish nationalist populist political leader, Michal Kaminski, handing out leaflets at Warsaw railway station urging Ukrainians to go home, when the affinities between Ukraine and Poland, like those between say Canada and the US or Ireland and Britain, are obvious and should be encouraged.

But has Europe done enough? Does Europe have a coherent, policy for Ukraine? Do our top leaders visit Ukraine often enough and make clear their belief in Ukraine’s European destiny? I represent the Labour Party on the presidency of the Party of European Socialists. Sadly, there is little well-rooted social democratic politics in Ukraine. The main players are parties of the centre-right. Here we have a very British problem: our Conservative Party, in its own wisdom, and I make no more comment, is no longer part of the European family of centre-right parties known as the EPP.

As a result I am not sure if British politicians, either Labour or Conservative, play a sufficiently engaged role on a regular basis with Ukrainian counter-parts. Ukraine needs more investment from the UK and more encouragement to send its students to our universities. The Know-How Fund set up by Lord Hurd, the Foreign Secretary in the early 1990s, did a fine job in building support for a younger generation of Ukrainian politicians. Now the UK puts all its foreign policy support cash into development as well as, sadly but necessarily, into intelligence and security related overseas work. We need to find ways of helping our near abroad as a prosperous, rule-of-law, stable Ukraine would send out a powerful message: that the values of our common European home, whether we link them to the EU or the Council of Europe, are taking ever-deeper root in Ukraine.

Ukraine menaces no-one. Its soldiers in due course can make an important contribution as a member of the Nato alliance and many already do in cooperation with British and other EU and North American units in different parts of the world.

Ukraine needs a peaceful Black Sea in which the ideological temperatures are lowered and Sochi Winter Olympics will take place against a background of economic prosperity and stability.

At some stage the Yalta syndrome will have to end as the people of the Black Sea region no longer fear invasion, or economic pressures, or political interference or the threat of Islamist ideological extremism.

Getting from here to there will not be easy. But Ukraine will be part of the solution and I am content to count myself as a friend of this great nation which I hope will stay a friend of all of us in the United Kingdom.