27 January 2006

Response to the Government's strategy for tackling prostitution

Margaret Sawyer, Secretary of the Methodist Women's Network: 'The Government's attempts at controlling prostitution through legislation are in danger of falling between two stools unless the intention of the legislation is kept clear. The kind of legislation that is being proposed here will not ensure that communities and sex workers will be safe from violent and abusive clients and pimps nor does it ensure that the authorities will also not judge sex workers and treat street workers as criminals. In our imperfect world safeguards must be in place to protect the most vulnerable.

'There are many reasons why prostitution is on our streets. Whilst it is impossible to condone these behaviours in settings that demean and damage, there are strong arguments for a proper provision for prostitution in certain circumstances.

'Whilst it is pleasing to note that the Government's proposals are attempting to make it safer for women, by allowing two or three women to operate from one venue, and that there will be a tougher response to those found 'curb- crawling,' there is a sense in which this change is simply tinkering at the edges. Until pimps and human traffickers are rigorously tracked down and apprehended, local communities and individual women will not be safe and the most vulnerable will be further exploited and damaged.

'The new strategy would seem to encourage a 'not in my back yard' approach from local residents, rather than give encouragement to local authorities to make proper and caring provision for sex workers. Developing an exit strategy for those wishing to leave prostitution as well as ensuring the locality and the terms and conditions of their work was properly regulated would help overcome the criminal element associated with prostitution as well as making it a safer place of work.

'The Methodist Church would urge the Government to look again at the regulation of prostitution, in order to protect the vulnerable, not just those within prostitution but those who innocently encounter it on our streets, on websites and in publications.'

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