The calls for legalised brothels reflect increasing public concern with prostitute women’s safety and civil rights. It may also reflect the Government’s drive to cut the unemployment figures.
Legalised brothels usually go hand-in-hand with police crackdowns against street workers – the most vulnerable women whose protection the police have rarely prioritised. As with other workers, women without alternatives must accept the worst conditions from employers. Unless women are able to work collectively from their own premises without being subject to regulation, licensed establishments can impose conditions which are more exploitative than at present.
Where legalisation exists, it has further trapped women on the game and made it harder for women to keep their earnings, institutionalising state pimping. The prostitution stigma remains.
Most women prefer to break the law, and keep their earnings and independence – only an estimated 12 per cent of women work in Germany’s legalised areas. Recently in Amsterdam sex workers threatened to go on strike over licensing proposals which discriminated against immigrant women.
Legalised brothels by themselves would protect neither safety nor civil rights. What is needed is for the exchange of sex for money between consenting individuals to be removed from the criminal law.
Niki Adams Nina Lopez-Jones
English Collective of Prostitutes, London NW6