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 throughlegislation are in danger of falling between two stools unless theintention of the legislation is kept clear. The kind of legislationthat is being proposed here will not ensure that communities andsex workers will be safe from violent and abusive clients and pimpsnor does it ensure that the authorities will also not judge sexworkers and treat street workers as criminals. In our imperfectworld safeguards must be in place to protect the mostvulnerable.

'There are many reasons why prostitution is on our streets. Whilstit is impossible to condone these behaviours in settings thatdemean and damage, there are strong arguments for a properprovision for prostitution in certain circumstances.

'Whilst it is pleasing to note that the Government's proposals areattempting to make it safer for women, by allowing two or threewomen to operate from one venue, and that there will be a tougherresponse to those found 'curb- crawling,' there is a sense in whichthis change is simply tinkering at the edges. Until pimps and humantraffickers are rigorously tracked down and apprehended, localcommunities and individual women will not be safe and the mostvulnerable 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 tolocal authorities to make proper and caring provision for sexworkers. Developing an exit strategy for those wishing to leaveprostitution as well as ensuring the locality and the terms andconditions of their work was properly regulated would help overcomethe criminal element associated with prostitution as well as makingit a safer place of work.

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