Julie Bindel’s obsession with male sexuality hides that it is women’s poverty and lack of viable economic alternatives that keep prostitution alive (Not a service like any other, January 16). Most sex workers are mothers and young people struggling to survive. Even government research found that “74% of women working indoors cited the need to pay household expenses and support their children”.The proposal to criminalise clients arrogantly assumes that researchers know what’s best for those they research. It disregards prostitute women’s experience of such criminalisation. Swedish sex workers describe being forced underground, hunted by police, social workers, media and even anti-prostitution feminists. Women are now more apprehensive about seeking help and therefore more vulnerable. Even supporters of the Swedish model admit that promised resources for women to leave prostitution have gone mainly to the police and criminal-justice system.
While the Swedish model is promoted, New Zealand’s experience of decriminalisation is ignored. Yet prostitute women there report being more able to report violence without fear of arrest, crucial to decreasing violence against all women. Some have come off the streets and are working indoors.Whatever anyone thinks about men paying for sex, safety must be the priority. Enabling all women to report violence and tackling the shameful 5.3% conviction rate for rape are crucial. Or are police resources to be diverted again into dealing with consenting sex rather than violent crime?
English Collective of Prostitutes
Letter in Guardian
Wednesday January 24, 2007