It is a tragedy that it has taken the murders of countless sex workers, including five young women in Ipswich and three women in Bradford in the last few years, for the police to suggest that the prostitution laws are not ‘fit for purpose’ and that New Zealand type decriminalisation should be considered. New Zealand successfully decriminalised prostitution both indoors and on the street eight years ago. There has been no increase in prostitution since and sex workers find it safer.
Any measures on prostitution should be first of all judged by whether they make sex workers safer. Street workers hounded by police crackdowns, including in Ipswich, are driven further underground and into more danger. Self-help safety networks are broken up. Brothel keeping laws criminalise women working indoors together for safety. Fear of arrest (and for immigrant sex workers, deportation) deters women from coming forward to report rape and other violence. In some high profile cases where women have reported violent attacks, they have been arrested for prostitution while their attackers go free.
ACPO is right to ask why New Zealand’s decriminalisation is not being followed, especially at a time when cuts in benefits, homelessness, lack of jobs, student fees and rising debt are driving more women especially mothers in to prostitution to survive and support their families.
The government should act before more sex workers lose their lives.