Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Borderline Reporting

From today's Independent:

Firstly, how did the press get hold of this story? It's in a number of papers, Mail, Telegraph, etc so it's not that a journalist happened to be at customs at the time of the incident. Someone's written a press release. It's unlikely to be the woman herself since no version of the story has a quote from her explaining her actions. It does however have quotes from the border officials. Which means it must be them who let on to the press about the story. Why? Did they think it would boost their image? Or did they think it was funny? Either way a bit sick and screwed up.

Secondly, the piece seems to be saying that the woman was coming of her own free choice to the UK to seek sex work and was turned away. But imagine if you were going overseas to take on a job that required a specific type of clothing. Would you pack only the specialist clothing (wet suits? bee-keeping gear? workmen's overalls?) you were planning to wear while working? Or would you also pack some "normal" clothes to wear when you went shopping or for a night out? I think I would.

So it's possible they totally misunderstood, that she's actually a model only visiting for a one-day photo shoot and she's brought a range of clothes for the job and they haven't bothered to listen to her story. If so she's been unjustly denied entry and had her time and money wasted.

But more likely is that she's being trafficked to the UK to do the kind of sex work where you're not allowed out of the house at all. In which case refusing her entry is going to make no difference because whoever is trafficking her is just going to keep trying. What they should have done of course is found out who was controlling her and how (drugs? money? threats?), found a safe place for her to be rehabilitated either here or at home and then chased down the organisers of the racket and jailed them.

It's really irresponsible of newspapers like The Independent to treat the issue of sex work as a saucy "and also" space-filler. This is about women's lives and wherever you stand on the subject you have to accept that many sex workers are working under duress. How to deal with that problem and make sure women who want to get out of the industry can do so is - or should be - the real story here.


Grace said...

This is just stupid - I can't believe they didn't even say anything about her apparent reasons for being in the country. Like you say, common sense would suggest that she would have day clothes. Do they go through everyone's luggage at immigration? It ALL seems suspect to me, and I would have expected a lot better from the Independent.

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