The government disappointed survivors and Justice For Magdalenes campaigners yesterday by not apologising for being complicit. Perhaps if more people realised that the Ruhama Agency which is currently advising the government on sex work is run by the same people who ran the Magdalene Laundries, they would be even more outraged. The Magdalene Laundries were started for sex workers, then later began preying on unmarried mothers as well, and on women who committed minor crimes like taking a night off work or not paying for a train ticket. Sex workers were abused and died in the laundries, and now those same people are advising the government on policy which directly affects sex workers. And sex workers weren’t allowed into the Dail hearing where Ruhama was giving evidence to the government.
The Ruhama Agency was started in 1989, and its trustees continued to run both Ruhama Agency and the laundries together, until the last Magdalene laundry closed in 1996. Ruhama have refused to meet with Magdalene Laundries survivors and say they can’t pay compensation. Allegedly, they’ve also silenced sex workers online by taking down sex worker rights ads and paying for Ruhama ads that intercept search engine terms used to find sex workers’ activism sites. They also allegedly censored tweets about Ruhama abusing girls from an abolitionist parody Twitter account, which was suspended three times until yesterday when the Magdalene Laundries report came out. On the day when Ruhama feared the parody account would tweet about the report (or that people would be more interested in the parody), the account was suspended for a fourth time. Ruhama also replied to tweets about abuse, saying they were “serious allegations” when we all know – and the Magdalene Laundries survivors know – that it was all too real.
The next sex work hearing will be secret and will not be streamed, according to Pat O’Neary, as reported by individuals who emailed and phoned him. This is wrong – all policy must be made in the open and sex workers must be included as they’re affected most of all.
The Ruhama Agency is still being listened to and valued by the government while survivors are ignored (the Magdalene Laundries investigation was only started because the UN Commiitee Against Torture required it) and sex workers are not allowed to influence policies which affect them the most out of everyone (or even witness the hearing).
Even now amid the Magdalene Laundries controversy, those responsible are still excercising their power over fallen women – just not confining themselves to a few thousand women in the laundries. This time, the whole of Ireland is their playground. There has been little change – this is just Round Two of their state-sponsored attack on fallen women. Only, now sex workers have replaced the mix of sex workers, unmarried mothers and minor criminals who made up the “magdalenes”, and instead of enslaving women in convents, they’re actually lawmakers now.
Ruhama are contributing to making laws about sex workers by advising government. And the law they’re pushing for is the Swedish model which will result in more rape, murder and trafficking in the sex industry and expose sex workers to unsafe working conditions, abuse by police and control by pimps. And, funded and listened to by a state which excluded its victims from the hearing, they might just succeed.
Interested? Here’s more…
Ruhama won’t meet with survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and claim they can’t pay compensation – even though they’ve recieved over 14 million euros since 2006 from the Health Service Executive alone. http://www.paddydoyle.com/laundry-orders-run-sex-workers-aid-group/
Media reports that Ruhama is run by those who ran the laundries, and is funded by TWO government depts! http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2011/0625/1224299584327.html
A sex worker’s rights blog on how Ruhama are harming sex workers: http://www.stop-the-lights.com/old/times.htm
Ruhama does very little work; last year Ruhama only helped 241 women (some of whom were ongoing cases) and none of which were trafficking victims. (They say a few are “suspected” trafficking victims, but list no figure for women who said they were trafficked). Do they really need all that funding from taxpayers? http://www.thejournal.ie/ruhama-reports-18-per-cent-increase-in-demand-for-support-services-567797-Aug2012/ And last year was already a large increase in the numbers!
Ruhama try to silence sex workers online by taking down sex worker rights ads: http://www.turnoffthebluelight.ie/2011/06/08/ruhama-paying-to-stop-people-seeing-what-sex-workers-have-to-say/
Follow #sexworkhearing, #sexwork and #JusticeForMagdalenesNow on Twitter for live tweets of the hearing and more on Ruhama, the laundries and sex work politics.