For immediate release
28 May 2010
From Denise Marshall, Eaves Chief Executive
“How many more murders will it take for politicians and policymakers to
understand that women in prostitution must be decriminalised, urgently?
Punitive action against those who sell sex has been shown time and time
again to be a futile exercise. These women have no options, and no choice.
Fining them today for “anti-social behaviour” just means they need to bring in
even more money tomorrow. And how do they do that? By selling sex.
Punishing a woman for selling sex does not take away her drug addiction, or
the pimp who controls her. It does not give her the opportunity to exit
prostitution and get herself off the street. It simply makes her more vulnerable.
We call on Home Secretary Theresa May to fully decriminalise people working in prostitution.
We must not confuse decriminalisation of those who sell sex with legalisation
or decriminalisation of an industry which sexually exploits people for profit.
Legalisation would NOT have helped the women in Bradford.
Legalisation would not help the vast majority of people in prostitution. What it
would do is allow punters and pimps (including some IUSW members) to
operate with impunity. It would have no impact at all on those who work on
the streets; it would simply consolidate their vulnerability.
We need to stop pandering to the opinions of a very small minority of people
who work in the sex industry out of choice and who call for legalisation to
make their lives easier and boost their profits. They do not have the interests
of the majority at the heart of their campaign.”
Why legalising prostitution would NOT have helped these women.
1. No country in the world has legalised street prostitution
When the ECP and IUSW campaign for the legalisation of prostitution,
what they mean is the legalisation of brothels. On-street prostitution is
not legal ANYHERE in the world. There are only “tolerance” zones (see
point 3 below). Therefore referencing other countries’ legislation (eg
the Netherlands) in relation to the vulnerability of those working in onstreet
prostitution is IRRELEVANT.
2. They would not have been allowed in a legal brothel
The murdered women in Bradford, as in Ipswich, were all addicted to
hard drugs and had ‘chaotic’ lifestyles. These women would not have
been permitted by brothel owners to use their premises to sell sex to
punters because women with drug addictions would struggle to adhere
to the ‘house rules’ of set shift patterns, fines for lateness and the
payment of ‘fees’ which go straight into the pockets of those profiting
from the industry.
Comment illustrating this from Ms A, a survivor of on-street prostitution:
“Women on the streets need their money for drugs. They can’t afford to
share that with a brothel owner – sometimes you end up paying them
more than you make. And in brothels you work shifts; most women on
drugs can’t wait 12 hours before their next fix. They’d have to go out,
and then they lose their job. Legal brothels wouldn’t take on women
from the streets.”
3. Even in well-policed “tolerance” zones, women in prostitution are
still open to attack
In Glasgow from the late 1990s until her retirement in 2002 Detective
Chief Inspector Nanette Pollock ran an unofficial tolerance zone for
women in prostitution, because she wanted to be able to see them and
know they were safe. In that time, there were still seven murders of
women in prostitution.
Utrecht has the oldest tolerance zone in Europe. In 2004 the officer in
charge of policing the zone, Jan Schoenmaker, said “I am
recommending that the cubicles [in which sex takes place] are painted
different colours, so a woman could say ‘I was raped in the red cubicle’,
which would make DNA testing easier.” This shows that prostitution is
inherently harmful, even when regulated.
4. There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ punter.
One of the arguments for legalisation is that women do not currently
have the time or the opportunity to assess whether a punter is ‘safe’
before agreeing to his demands. However, as in the case of the
Ipswich murderer Steve Wright, Stephen Griffiths was a regular punter
and had been for some years. The former was well known to the
women he murdered, and the latter may have been also. In both cases
the men were seen as ‘safe’ for years by the majority of the women
they bought. This shows that there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ punter
and that human judgment is not infallible.
5. Those who would benefit from legalisation are in the minority
The small minority of women and men who work in prostitution and
who clamour loudly for it to be legalised do a great disservice to those
disenfranchised individuals who do NOT operate from a position of
privilege. Those who have serious drug or alcohol addiction or who are
controlled by pimps – the majority of people in prostitution – do not
have the opportunity to tell the public of their feelings. Eaves advocates
for many of these women and they overwhelmingly tell us that they do
not want to work in prostitution; that they would exit if they could, and
that they do not see legalisation as a solution.