Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
richardhead

prostitution debate on Woman's Hour this morning

4 posts in this topic

There was a discussion of prostitution and new legislation on Woman's Hour this morning, on BBC Radio 4. If you want to hear it, it can be downloaded as a podcast at the BBC website.

Changes in the law will affect prostitution and the licensing of lap dancing clubs in England and Wales. Cari Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes and Anna Van Heeswijk from Object debate the impact of the legislation.

Cari Mitchell stated that police have been given additional powers to arrest and criminalise women who work on the streets.

She also stated that the impact of the legislation is that women going to have to work longer hours and take more risks in order to earn the money that they need. In Scotland where similar legislation has already been introduced there have been nearly double the number of reported attacks on sex workers.

Anna Van Heeswijk was asked about the idea that this type of legislation will force prostitution underground and will make life more difficult and dangerous for the women involved. I have said more than once that I oppose recent legislation for exactly this reason. Anna Van Heeswijk gave her answer and I have quoted it below because it is crucial to the debate. I have given a point-by-point reply to what she has said below the quote.

I think the idea that prostitution will be pushed underground is a genuine concern of a lot of people. But if you think about it actually doesn't work in that way. If punters can find women then so can those who are wanting to provide exit services and support services for those women. If we look at countries such as Sweden and Norway where they have completely criminalised the purchase of sex and completely decriminalised those who are sold for sexual purposes, the women have no fear of coming forward because they are not going to be criminalised in fact they are going to be supported and actually the number of women in prostitution has decreased with more women being helped to exit. And importantly the European police have said that now Sweden is no longer an attractive destination for traffickers. The number of men paying for sex has decreased and it just creates a whole shift in cultural attitudes so that is no longer seen as acceptable.

This is my response to what she said:

1. If punters can find women then so can those who are wanting to provide exit services and support services for those women.

The new legislation will make it more difficult for punters to find women and more difficult for people wanting to provide exit services and support services for them.

2. If we look at countries such as Sweden and Norway ... the women have no fear of coming forward because they are not going to be criminalised ...

As Cari Mitchell stated that police have been given additional powers to arrest and criminalise women who work on the streets. This means that women will be even more fearful of reporting to the police crimes committed against them, including violence. The legislation will not affect the readiness of women to come forward for exit and support services.

Some more women will accept services (if they can find them) because they will have had their choice to earn money through prostitution in relative safety taken away from them. Life will be made so difficult that some women will have to give up prostitution. Others will continue. The ones who continue will be the poorest and the most drug addicted, the most vulnerable ones.

3. ... the number of women in prostitution has decreased with more women being helped to exit ...

If you legislate against something and force it underground then there will be fewer people involved in it. However, the ones who are still involved are harmed. That's the point. No one is saying that the number of women involved in prostitution will stay the same.

The reason why more women are leaving prostitution is not because they are helped to exit. It's because they are being forced to do something that they don't want to do.

You may say that if half of all lap dancers or prostitutes give it up then that is something. However, these women will live in poverty and will no longer be able to pay a mortgage, rent or bills. Not such a good result for them. Why can't they decide for themselves what is best for them?

4. Sweden is no longer an attractive destination for traffickers.

The numbers of women who have been trafficked has been grossly overestimated. It is in the interests of people who want to ban all prostitution to overestimate it, and to talk about pimps and children, as Anna Van Heeswijk did. I object to coercion in prostitution but most prostitutes are not coerced. Anna Van Heeswijk used the phrase "those who are sold for sexual purposes" to imply that all prostitutes are coerced. It is people like her who are doing the coercing.

5. The number of men paying for sex has decreased and it just creates a whole shift in cultural attitudes so that is no longer seen as acceptable.

It is true that the number of men paying for sex has decreased in places like Sweden. I don't think that paying for sex is a bad thing. I believe in the liberal principle that people should decide for themselves what they believe is good or bad, if it does not harm others. It is not acceptable for lobby groups or the state to tell us what to do or to try to control our behaviour. They have no right to 'shift cultural attitudes' and tell us what is 'acceptable'. Especially when we know that they are dishonest. They pretend that they only want to help the vulnerable but they have a hidden agenda. They use false statistics and false arguments. And they know they are doing it.

It is very important for women to have the choice to make money out of what can loosely be describes as 'the sex industry' without having sex. Lap dancing clubs and some massage establishments offer women this choice. By closing lap dancing clubs some women will live in poverty while others will become prostitutes. This doesn't help women, and it seems strange that some feminists want to do things that harm women.

Middle-class feminists don't want to understand how poor and vulnerable women live, and I don't believe they actually care. It is puritanism dressed up as ideology. A nonsensical and dishonest ideology at that, opposed to the liberal values our society is based on. They are more motivated by the idea of restricting men than enabling women.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't listened to this programme but I think your quote shows the mindset.

i.e. Anyone who is a prostitute must have been forced into it.

Not sure I'm in total agreement with all your comments but I'm certainly not in total disagreement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I listened to the programme via the BBC I-Player. It seems like proposed legislation is like many laws over recent years, a bad response to an issue that needs addressed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0