The Debate: Should brothels be legalised?
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.Tagged in: brothel, debate, Newham, olympics, prostitution, sex worker, the debate
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