Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Whores of the world unite

Paying for sex is not what's damaging society. Keeping it underground is.

Its attitude to civil liberties may appear erratic at best, but there's no doubt the Blair's government is making unprecedented inroads in modernising the approach to canons and customs.

Like many other issues (i.e. cannabis, homosexuality), the attitude towards prostitution is more a matter of acknowledging reality than holding on to abstract moral smokescreens. And so the facts speak for themselves: stuck within an illegal regime, prostitutes make easier prey to molesters and criminals.

Of course, there is no quick-fix. Indeed some would actually argue that prostitution isn't a problem as such, given that trying to combat the law of supply and demand is like trying to get water to run uphill. The problems arise when the trade is buried under the sand, making it illegal in the names of pious moralism.

The Government is now looking at the model already in place in Australia and New Zealand where brothels are state-licensed. The UK law is to be changed to allow two prostitutes and a receptionist or maid to work together legally in brothels, whereas currently only lone prostitutes can offer sex from flats or other premises without breaking the law.

The strategy seems on the right track, based on the assumption that working in groups would be safer for women. Hopefully Blair will ditch his proto-christian hang-ups and go all the way to stop criminalising prostitutes. As well as many other benefits, it would make it more difficult for prostitutes to jump in the car with people they don't know, something that is obviously very difficult when there's a crackdown going on.

Religious zealots can talk about "zero-tolerance", but centuries of giving clients and prostitutes criminal records never eradicated the issue.
It is not paying for sex that is damaging society. It's keeping it underground that is none other than contracting it out to criminal organisation.

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