Blog of Feminist Activism

The feminist activism of charliegrrl and co

Pressure on DWP to stop advertising sex industry

Posted by charliegrrl on August 9, 2007

The Dept. of Works and Pensions has recently been criticised by Eaves, for allowing escorting agencies to advertise at the Job Centre. Browsing through the Job Centre website, one can find loads of ads for escorting, modelling…and even BDSM work. Last year, a young woman went to the job centre to sign on, to be asked if she had ever considered nude dancing (aka lapdancing). Eaves state that the DWP is providing women with an avenue to fall into the sex industry and urges them to withdraw such adverts.

Watch the report on Channel 4 here.

The DWP argue that once Ann Summers won their court case in 2003, to be able to advertise at the Job Centre, this means they are legally obliged to accept adverts from escorting agencies and such like. But there’s a world of difference from selling vibrators in a high street shop to going on ‘dates’ with men or lapdancing. The difference is ultimately selling your body as a sexual service.

Can you imagine this..? You are unemployed and go into the Job Centre to sign on. Every two weeks you have to go into the Job Centre to sign on to get a measly £46.85 a week. This involves sitting with a Job Centre Advisor who asks you what jobs you’ve applied for this week, and tries to help you look for jobs. Time goes on, your overdraft is increasing, you’re getting worried cos you can’t live off £46.85 a week and the council won’t give you enough money to cover your rent. You’re getting stressed and desperate for cash. Then at the Job Centre you see adverts for escorting, that offer £100s straight up…

The sex industry advertising in the Job Centre is taking advantage of vulnerable women. The DWP is legitimising the sex industry as a career choice for women, and is providing women avenues to take employment in environments with risk of sexual harrassment and violence. They justify themselves by stating no person is obliged to apply or take up employment in the sex industry, (unlike other jobs). But that isn’t the point. They should be sensitive to know that poverty and unemployment can be stressful for people, and in this situation women are more likely to consider such jobs as they’re desperate.

Recently the DWP published The Jobcentre Plus Diversity Challenge as part of their legal obligation to The Gender Duty. They state that the DWP is committed to upholding the Gender Duty, and ensuring that the service of the Job Centre is ‘accessible’ and ‘appropriate’ for women. The Equal Opportunities Commission states that The Gender Duty requires public authorities to promote equality between women and men and eliminate unlawful sex discrimination and harassment’. How does providing women with an avenue into the sex industry, help to promote gender equality?

In support of Eaves’ pressure on the DWP to no longer advertise the sex industry, please write to Lesley Strathie, the Chief Executive of the Job Centre.

Jobcentre Plus
Room 607
Caxton House
Tothill Street
London
SW1H 9NA

Lesley.strathie@jobcentreplus.gsi.gov.uk

And also to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions MP Peter Hains.

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6 Responses to “Pressure on DWP to stop advertising sex industry”

  1. Michelle said

    I’ll write some letters, mentioning the gender equality duty.

    The Job Centre getting away with advertising jobs in the sex industry is completley unacceptable. If a woman does accept one of these jobs, how likely is it she’ll ever get back out of that industry? It’s alarming to see the extent of this normalisation of the sex industry.

  2. hairylesbian said

    Well if you can hang on to be over 25 and unemployed JSA goes up to over £50 – not much over though. Which has always puzzled me since we’re always being told that state pensions which are considerably more than that aren’t enough to live on – which they aren’t of course. My most basic household bills – electricity, gas, water, insurance – (excluding council tax) before I’ve even bought food or paid for transport are about £150 a month so if I was on JSA I’d probably not even be able to afford the bus fare to the job centre or luxuries like new clothing or a TV. So you’re right to say that if you’re unemployed you’ll consider doing almost anything. And if you’re not a new graduate credit for people on benefits is almost impossible to get.

    I’m lucky and have never had to sign on for more than very brief periods in my life, when I had savings to back me up. But there are millions of women in Britain living in dire poverty. And if the government, via jobcentres, is encouraging them to enter the sex industry, most of which has links with violent crime (somebody told me – I don’t know if it’s true – the other week that the lapdancing club in Manchester is/was run by one of the city’s gangs), then it’s acting as a pimp and pushing women into a life where they’re likely to become involved with drugs and prostitution. Of course in Germany, where prostitution is already legal women can be told that they HAVE to take jobs as prostitutes or lose their benefits. See

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/01/30/wgerm30.xml

  3. That’s just it Linda- pensioners are told that the minimum income they should live off is £119 a week as a single person- but people under that are given a ,measly £50 odd quid. And those under 25, £46. It’s agesim, presuming that under 25s need less money to live off than over 25s, and have less rent to pay. But the point here is to pay us so little to push us into employment- they’re happy for the over 60s to rely on benefits, but not the under 60s. And yes, it worries me sex industry advertising at the job centre as people are already ‘forced’ into taking employment, so could it be soon in Britain that women have to take a job as an escort or a lapdancer if they are offered one? I know that New Deal for Lone Parents is being privatised- with private companies taking over job centre services, and with them advertising sex industry, I feel this is a worrying development for unemployed women and mothers seeking work.

  4. Rachel H-G said

    Those Jobcentre “advisors” can be quite persistent. I had one refuse to believe me that I had work lined up and was just waiting for a start date – he then tried to coerce me into accepting an interview at a call centre miles from my house, when I had stipulated no call centre work in my JSA agreement. If sex industry ads are allowed to be on the JC system, then that leaves the door open for unemployed women to be coerced into accepting this line of work, for fear of losing their benefits.
    The JC is already quite sexist in that some of the advisors will discount entire areas of potentially suitable jobs because they are seen as more “male”, such as van driving, gardening and the like. Where I was living at the time, it was more sensible to do delivery driving or landscaping if you could, because the pay and conditions were better.
    If the advisor in question is reading this – yes, I did get the games company job and I’m still here nearly 18 months later.

  5. Michelle said

    I received a reply from the Job Centre, saying they were “legally obliged” (this was printed in bold) to offer these kinds of jobs and how they don’t force women (although they kept saying “people” not women) into taking them.

    I did ask quite specifically about how advertising these jobs complied with the Gender Equality Duty, but they must not have read that bit, because they didn’t mention it once in their reply…

  6. polly styrene said

    I have now had a reply back from the diversity manager of the jobcentre (I mentioned the gender equality duty too)as follows:

    “Thank you for your email of 28 August to Lesley Strathie, Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, regarding vacancies advertised by Jobcentre Plus. This has been passed to my team to reply on behalf of Ms Strathie.

    We are currently considering the issues you raise and I am writing to apologise for the delay in responding. I would like to assure you that a full reply will be sent as soon as possible.

    In the meantime, should you have any further enquiries, please contact me”

    Given that it has been an entire month, I do wonder what is so difficult deciding whether adverts for what is clearly prostitution breach the gender equality duty. If there is any doubt, this is the website of the ‘escort agency’ that was advertising in jobcentres:

    http://www.sweetdreams-escorts.co.uk/

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