Wednesday, 14 October 2009

You cannot change demand for prostitution without first tackling supply

Below is an edited e-mail I have just sent to someone organising the Demand Change campaign: Their calls to criminalise paying for sex, while well-intentioned, would make life more dangerous for many prostitutes. Only by tackling supply of prostitutes by strictly regulating legal supply of heroin and cocaine - and removing the need to prostitute to fund a drug habit - can we produce an environment in which the most horrific instances of sexual exploitation can be effectively tackled.

"Having read further on the issue of prostitution, I also have to say that I cannot support the Demand Change position any longer. Reducing demand without reducing supply has apparently led in Sweden to prostitutes accepting customers they previously would not, lowering prices and generally feeling more at risk. Although I respect greatly the work of Eaves and have been defending you vigorously on the online Lib Dem Voice forum, I cannot support a blanket ban on paying for sex.

I have however settled upon a compromise solution that I hope you will consider. I believe it might be more effective than clause 13 in tackling trafficking and pimping, and it also might be acceptable to those few prostitutes who make considerable money from prostitution and assert they have a right to sell sex.

The starting point of the plan would be to bring about a strictly regulated legal drugs market that would alleviate the need to find considerable amounts of money for drugs that motivates the vast majority of street prostitution. There would also be a considerable reduction in acquisitive crime that would in turn free up many thousands of police for other priorities. I feel strongly that one of these should be a concerted effort to raid and close brothels, providing support to those women and girls who are freed and making Britain a very unwelcoming destination for sex traffickers. This effort could be supported by a toughening of clause 13 to make it illegal for anyone to pay for sexual services in a brothel.

I would hope this plan would reduce the number of street prostitutes, so allowing any remaining to be more careful when accepting clients and to charge higher prices. I suspect though, that many established red-light districts would simply collapse if the number of prostitutes went below a certain level.

I also hope it would be effective in tackling brothel-keepers and pimps whose activites are currently illegal but bizzarrely appear to be being tolerated by the authorities. While street prostitution is dangerous, the worst-case brothel is the site at which the most horrific abuse is being perpetrated and I hope you would agree it should be the focus of our attentions.

This all leaves the problem of where the demand goes for sexual services and whether lone working prostitutes can keep safe. To improve the safety of independent prostitutes I believe the law should specifically allow two women to work from the same premises, ideally with extensive support from social and emergency services. Keeping the number to two I believe should minimise the opportunity for control to be exerted and should allow for clear distinction between a working partnership and a brothel in the eyes of the law.

I hope you'll understand that I deeply respect the work that Eaves does, and that this proposal is a genuine attempt to come up with a plan that will maximise the safety of prostitutes who want to work, while doing all we can to save others from suffering further horrific abuse.

Thanks and best wishes,

Ewan Hoyle.

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