Saturday, 29 May 2010

Cameron Talks Tough On Prostitution

As the nation watches in horrow the events in Bradford, David Cameron calls for laws on legalising prostitution to be 'looked at'.

'Legalising prostitution should be re-examined in the wake of the Bradford sex worker killings', David Cameron said yesterday. He said the issue of decriminalising prostitution-related offences should be "looked at again" and called for tougher action on kerb-crawling and drug abuse.

Speaking to the BBC Look North programme, Mr Cameron said: "I dare say it should be looked at again. I don't think we should jump to conclusions on this - there are all sorts of problems that decriminalisation would bring.

"The first step is learn the lessons of what has worked elsewhere: tough on kerbcrawling, deal with problems of drug abuse, help prostitutes out of this industry, make sure all agencies work together. That would be a good start."

Prof David Canter, a leading criminal psychologist, has claimed that around 60 to 90 prostitutes have been murdered in Britain over the last ten years.

The act of prostitution is not illegal in itself but a number of related activities are. But our odd laws are actually making things worse. Its legal for a sex worker to on the street, where they are most vlnerable. Its legal for them to work from a house if they are on there own, where they are also vulnerable. If sex workers want a friend in the house with them for saftety, then they are breaking the law.

Its too early to comment on the events in Bradford, in time the detals will come out. Cameron should restrain himself from knee jerk responses in order to get a headline.

The Womens Institute looked into this issue, 6,000 members of the WI in Hampshire have just come out with a statement in favour of brothels. Their idea is not to make things easier for men but to force councils to make life safer for those women who live by prostitution, and thereby to improve life on the streets of this country.

We should be asking the street workers what they think. They say sex workers are 10 times more likely to be attacked on the street than indoors, and it is much safer to work with someone else than to work alone. Yet the law expressly forbids this – two or more women working together are classified as a brothel.

Cari Mitchell, from the English Collective of Prostitutes, said: "During Labour there was a government-led moral crusade against prostitution which viewed all sex work as violence against women. Raids are on the increase and women are being forced further underground," she said.

Top of her complaints list is the Policing and Crime Act, which came into force in April this year and aims to make local police forces more accountable to their community. She said the act had increased police powers to arrest and detain sex workers who were deemed to be loitering or soliciting, and coerce them into "rehabilitation" programmes under the threat of imprisonment.

When the Bill was making its way through Parliament, Chris Huhne, then the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman and now a member of the coalition cabinet, said it would "drive sex workers underground, into less safety and greater isolation."

The English Collective of Prostitutes said increased raids had already led to the closure of brothels, forcing women on to the streets to sell sex, often alone and without support. "Everyone is very nervous," said Ms Mitchell. "Women are being driven out on to the streets by these raids."

There are also complaints that new "proceeds of crime" legislation, which enables police forces to seize and use portions of money gained from a criminal activity, has given officers a financial incentive to raid brothels, which in Britain are classified as any place where two or more women are selling sex.

Laura Lee, an escort who works out of her flat in Glasgow, said prostitutes were being discriminated against by the legal system. "The state has blood on its hands. If three female accountants were killed there would be an absolute uproar, the Government would do everything it could to make their work safer. But there will be nothing done about three prostitutes."

In 2002 the Green Party voted overwhelmingly in favour of a radical motion on decriminalising the sex industry to protect those working within it.

Links:
Powerful support for Green Party policy on sex work.
Green Party policies on equality
My blog on decriminalisation and how the street workers have been treated in the Oxford Road area of Reading.

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