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.
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.
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
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.
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