The Debate: Should brothels be legalised?

Laura Davis

71899789 300x200 The Debate: Should brothels be legalised?A recent report by City Hall found that 80 brothels had been shut in Newham over the past 18 months.

Concerns have been raised that barring prostitutes from certain areas leads to more women taking risks to avoid arrest.

Miriam Merkova, manager for Toynbee Hall’s Safe Exit, said:

“We are concerned that in the run-up to the Olympics, increased levels of enforcement and new bail conditions imposed on women have made them more vulnerable to crime and violence.”

While some will hold the sex workers should be respected in their resistance to the upheaval, it is the argument surrounding the legalisation of brothels that should come to the forefront of discussion.

Should sex be regarded as a service that can be sold, with the legalisation of a safe space in which it takes place?

Mary Dejevsky makes the case for the legalisation of brothels, commenting that this would provide a safe place for women involved. Julie Bindel disagrees, arguing that this would ultimately lead to the expansion of the industry, as legalisation has not proven to be beneficial in limiting exploitation for women.

Which do you agree with? Leave your comments below.

FOR: Mary Dejevsky

Prostitutes’ groups are complaining that the crackdown will expose them to even more danger than they are currently in. But this is no argument for keeping the status quo, where the police seem to have unofficially designated certain streets and areas as red light districts beyond the law.

Prostitution is not going away, so it has to be accommodated, and the best way to do that is within a legal framework. Street prostitution is dangerous for those plying their trade. It blights neighbourhoods. It brings with it other crimes (drug trafficking, extortion, violence), and it makes life unpleasant for local residents, especially women. Legalising, and regulating, brothels – ensuring the safety of the women and ensuring decent health standards – would be part of a solution.

Those whose addiction has driven them on to the streets would probably not find a welcome there, as legal brothels would require their prostitutes to be ‘clean’. But legalisation could encourage some to seek treatment, and it would draw a clear line between a legal and an illegal trade. Legal brothels would leave the police no excuse for ignoring the nuisance of street prostitution.

AGAINST: Julie Bindel

I favour decriminalisation of the women, men and children in prostitution. No-one should be punished for being exploited. But we should never decriminalise pimps, buyers, procurers or brothels. Decriminalisation or legalisation of prostitution does not control the sex industry. It expands it.

Legalisation of prostitution in the State of Victoria, Australia, has led to massive expansion of the sex industry. Other forms of sexual exploitation, such as lap dancing,  phone sex, and pornography have all developed in much more profitable ways than before. Sex tourism has expanded and is much more visible.

Legalisation increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution. Since brothels were legalised in Melbourne, Australia, almost 30 years ago, the number of unlicensed brothels has trebled, and street prostitution in the St Kilda area has increased fivefold. The majority of women do not want to register as prostitutes because of the resulting stigma. In Melbourne, more trafficked women have been discovered in legal establishments than in illegal ones.

In the Netherlands, women in prostitution point out that legalisation or decriminalisation of the sex industry cannot erase the stigma of prostitution but, instead, makes women more vulnerable to abuse because they must register and lose anonymity. Thus, the majority of women in prostitution still choose to operate illegally and underground.

The real growth in prostitution in Australia since legalisation took effect has been in the illegal sector. Since the onset of legalisation in Victoria, brothels have tripled in number and expanded in size; the vast majority having no licenses but advertising and operating with impunity.

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International (CATW) has conducted two major studies on sex trafficking and prostitution, interviewing almost 200 victims of commercial sexual exploitation. In these studies, women in prostitution indicated that prostitution establishments did little to protect them, regardless of whether they were in legal or illegal establishments. The only time they protect anyone is to protect the customers.

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  • itwasmonkeys

    Well, I googled and found a lot of extremely racist sites. I’m not sure I want to wade through them.

    Anyway, my point was that when discussing New Zealand, you immediately decide correlation is causation and draw a link between them, but surprise surprise, when it’s Sweden, you suddenly become interested in alternative propositions. It makes you look silly and not a little biased.

  • Another Person UK educated

    itwasmonkeys ;- Pardon me for being attentive to the fact that God allowed different creeds and cultures to evolve on different continents. I am not one to argue with the decisions of God; but you? You are over-inflated at best; are you sure you belong in Europe? Your argument dictates you belong in hotter climates.

  • Jennifer Shaw

    I notice that Ms Bindel doesn’t mention New Zealand. I think the New Zealanders have got it right. I wouldn’t believe any of the statistics that she states, somone ought to check them out.

  • Jennifer Shaw

    You could make an argument that nannying and childminding commercializes motherhood and are therefore bad. It would be a silly argument but no more silly than saying prostitution commercialises sex and is therefore bad. 92% is a figure that could be true for the world as a whole but not for Britain.

  • Jennifer Shaw

    Prostitution is not a crime like murder, rape and theft. I don’t believe that in Britain most prostitutes want out of prostitution and didn’t want to be in it in the first place. I could believe that most prostitutes in Britain think of it as a temporary way of making money, they can’t continue forever. Many women would be traumatized if they became prostitutes, so they don’t do it. Different jobs affect different people in different ways. Some people just don’t think sex is that big a deal. You and lots of social conservatives do, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it, but don’t force it on everyone else.

  • Jennifer Shaw

    People always talk about heroin but in fact the main problem is crack cocaine. Street girls spend most of their money on crack. But people don’t mention that because it’s easier to have sympathy with heroin addicts than crack addicts. Addicts make up 15% of prostitutes, according to research. The Ipswich guy sought out street girls; women working together from flats are safe from cowards like him.

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