20 December 2007
Lynne Jones MP has responded to Harriet Harman's announcement that ministers are to look at bringing in a ban on paying for sex.
"I am disappointed that ministers are not making use of the Government's own extensive research on this issue. After a lengthy consultation period starting in 2004, the Government responded in January 2006 in the document A Coordinated Prostitution Strategy, with a commitment to amend the definition of a brothel so that two to three individuals may work together discretely. The aim is to make it safer for women whilst avoiding the problems that larger establishments would create for local residents. Despite this, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill omits this commitment and instead brings in measures to coerce women to cease prostitution.
The Government's own research has shown that exit strategies based on coercion don't work. Yet the Government's proposal is for compulsory rehabilitation for prostitutes, requiring anyone arrested for loitering or soliciting to attend a series of three meetings with a supervisor approved by the court. Failure to comply attend will result in a summons back to court and a possible 72-hours imprisonment.
It will not help to have women jailed for non-attendance of a compulsory exit strategy (and where women do want help, three meetings would be wholly inadequate). The proposal will lead to a waste of police, court and prison resources that could be better spent on well-funded voluntary measures to help women who want to stop working in the sex industry and, where relevant, address addiction problems. We know that drug addiction is a significant barrier to routes out of prostitution. The Government's Prostitution Strategy recognised that it takes a great deal of support from a dedicated support project before an individual has the confidence and self-esteem to contemplate treatment for drug addiction and ultimately a route out of prostitution. I am therefore supporting Amendment no. 11 to delete all references to the proposal for orders to promote rehabilitation in Clause 105 of the Bill.
I will also be supporting New Clause 13 to change the definition of a brothel and I hope that the Government will consider using this opportunity put its commitment on this issue into effect.
On the ban on paying for sex in Sweden, there is evidence that violence towards women in the sex trade has increased in Sweden. Though Sweden may be less of a destination for trafficked women, the measure has merely diverted the trade to adjacent countries. If minister's are to be carrying out further research, they should also consider going to New Zealand where prostitution has been successfully decriminalised and a legal framework established for the sex industry.
After the Ipswich murders, there was public recognition that driving prostitutes away from places they can operate more safely was a contributory factor to the vulnerability of these women. Ensuring women have more control over their lives and that prostitution is not sent further "underground" than is already the case, is the best way of countering exploitation of vulnerable people - whether trafficked or not.
back to top