By Sam Dimmer
‘It’s not rocket science – it’s just consensual sex between adults’
As police in Coventry continue their seemingly never-ending battle with sex workers and their clients in the city’s red light district campaign groups are calling for a radical change in tactics.
They believe that crackdowns like Operation Scarlet – the name for police efforts to tackle prostitution in Hillfields – actually make things worse and drive sex workers underground.
In New Zealand it’s been nearly 12 years since prostitution was decriminalised.
Cari Mitchell, a spokesman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, explains.
“In New Zealand the law that has been put in place is on the basis of health and safety,” Cari said.
“The laws offer regulation and cover in the same way you would with pubs and clubs.
“If you think about it it’s not rocket science – it’s only sex.
“And consensual sex too, between adults.
“When prostitution is forced it’s rape and the police have to treat it as rape.
“The problem is when women are attacked they are too scared to come forward. If they are immigrants they fear they will be deported and if they are from the UK they fear being criminalised.
“I‘ve heard of women working indoors who have complained to the police about an attack and the next thing you know their property is being raided. It’s unbelievable.
“It’s outrageous that police are cracking down on sex workers and clients because it’s widely accepted that police crackdowns drive sex workers underground and into more dangerous situations.
“Many sex workers are mothers raising children.
“In Coventry you have appalling poverty, with one in three children living in poverty.
“Because of various circumstances women are facing a very bad set of choices and one of those choices is going out on to the street.
“The last thing women need is to be criminalised for it.
“Then women are being arrested for breaching engagement orders and finding themselves in court where they often end up being fined.
“Then they go back on to the street to pay that fine.
“And what happens if a sex worker is arrested on a Saturday and they can’t be seen by court? They could find themselves in prison for a couple of nights.
“It’s outrageous when women are only trying to survive.
“The most shocking thing is that the new CCTV cameras in Coventry are not being used to protect sex workers.
“There was a time when CCTV cameras would be used as a place to meet clients, because all the details would be caught on camera if something was to happen.
“The CCTV has to be used for women’s safety, not as a deterrent or a way to secure prosecutions.”
The key aspects of the New Zealand law are:
1 – Making it illegal to arrange or receive commercial sexual services from a person aged under 18.
2 – The introduction of strict health and safety requirements.
3 – Brothel operators have to have an operators certificate if there are more than four sex workers.
4 – The prostitution laws are regularly reviewed.