Despite acknowledgement that at least 60 prostitute women have been murdered in the last 10 years, the government is today announcing that it is abandoning its consultation and proposed review of the prostitution laws in favour of increased enforcement. This goes against all the evidence which shows that criminalization and crackdowns make sex workers more vulnerable to rape, other violence and even murder.
Measures being announced include increased clampdowns against kerb crawlers – no doubt in the name of equality. Yet, in Sweden, legislation introduced to criminalize the buying of sex has had a devastating effect on prostitute women.
Neither the poverty which forces women into prostitution to support themselves and their families or any of the grave injustices in the existing legislation have been addressed:
* The discrimination that labels a woman a “common prostitute” before trial (guilty before proven innocent) continues.
* The law which criminalises child prostitutes remains despite opposition from children’s charities, the Magistrates Association and many others.
These measures are in addition to:
* Anti Social Behaviour Orders which have reintroduced prison sentences for loitering and soliciting. Women leaving prison having lost their housing (and in some cases custody of their children) have little choice but to go back on the game.
* Police and immigration raids on premises using anti-trafficking legislation to step up deportations of immigrant sex workers
* An increase in the sentence for brothel-keeping from six months to seven years — a measure which is now being used to intimidate and threaten the maids whom prostitute women working from premises rely on for safety (see below).
This punitive approach is disguised by the announcement of the extension of (compulsory) services. Arrest referral schemes don’t work – they don’t meet women’s needs and where they exist women complain of abusive and judgmental treatment.
English Collective of Prostitutes, 28 December 2005
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