The Oxfam scandal in Haiti: why does it matter to Leeds?

The Oxfam scandal in Haiti: why does it matter to Leeds?

Opinion:

 

The Oxfam Haiti scandal: why does it matter to Leeds?

If you’ve listened to the national news over the last couple of days you’ll have heard the media outrage regarding the story of several Oxfam staff being sacked for choosing to visit local prostitutes whilst on aid work in Haiti.  This may seem a world away but the story has a relevance to our lives in Holbeck. 

 

Firstly, we understand the Oxfam staff used their own money to buy sexual services from women who were adults and seemingly willing to participate. Why were these women willing?  It’s easy to see that their poverty made them willing… perhaps we could even say that poverty forced them into prostitution?
In Leeds we have a similar situation: we know that 90% of prostituted women working the streets of Holbeck are drug addicts.  They are under a financial pressure to perform sexual services, it’s the only way they can afford their drugs.
Can we agree that both the Haitian women and the Holbeck women are essentially in the same situation?  Both are “choosing” to work as prostitutes but it’s not a real choice.  It’s their only choice.
So this brings us to the matter of the media coverage.  Hmm… what a difference!  In Leeds we are told by the experts at Safer Leeds and the Police that prostitution is a “proper job” the world’s oldest profession… so the City should give the sex industry a zone in which to operate freely to make work better for the women.
The same experts teach us that there is nothing wrong with men paying for the services of the women who choose to engage in these “proper jobs.”
Those in the community who oppose the “managed approach” are criticised as unsympathetic to the women, NIMBY’s or overly moralistic.
Yet compare that to the media coverage of the Haitian issue.  If there is nothing wrong with men paying for sexual services then why did Oxfam sack the men involved?  The same men would have been welcomed to abuse Leeds women for money.
The UK government is threatening to withdraw funding to charities that allow their staff to abuse women overseas.  Yet the UK offers an abuse zone in the heart of Leeds?  It seems the government are working on a 2-tier system when it comes to morality. On the one hand they are damning in their criticism (and rightly so) regarding the abuse of women in troubled zones who when presented with the chance to earn money so that their families can eat they take it. On the other hand the government legislates a legal prostitution area where the women who are in this sad existence are encouraged to carry on instead of being given help to lift them out of it.
It doesn’t make sense.  We believe that people should be opposed to the sexual slavery of women all around the world OR support it all around the world.  Holbeck women deserve the same rights as Haitian women. The abuse of women is wrong, no matter where it happens in the world.
– Laura Walton.
Laura is a Holbeck resident and runs a business in the area.  She is standing in the Leeds City Council elections as an independent candidate to try and improve the situation in Holbeck.