Two experts debate whether cities should be able to have legalised prostitution zones
Police in one British city are turning a blind eye to prostitutes after setting up a legalised red light district.
And from today the controversial pilot scheme allowing kerb crawlers to look for sex between 7pm and 7am becomes a permanent fixture.
Many local businesses have reacted angrily to the prostitution zone, which aims to make women safer when selling sex. But groups representing prostitutes say the plan does not go far enough.
If the initiative in Holbeck, Leeds, is successful, red light districts might one day become a feature of all our major cities.
As the rules stand currently, prostitution itself does not break any laws – but pimping, kerb crawling and keeping a brothel are criminal offences.
Here, a local business leader and a group representing the prostitutes have their say.
‘It’s a step too far’
Greg Adams, managing director of Leeds stationery supply company AB4, owns work premises inside the controlled area and believes the measure is a failure.
I bought this building in April last year and had absolutely no idea it was in a controlled area and that prostitutes were allowed to solicit inside it between 7pm and 7am. Had I known, there is every chance I wouldn’t have continued with the purchase.
The effect is that the people in the area at night are not the type you want to be around. There is drug paraphernalia lying around and used condoms dumped all over the cul-de-sac in which my business is located.
Within the first week someone found a used pair of knickers on the ground. Yesterday I found a condom outside. I’ve been told by some neighbours that prostitutes and their clients go to the toilet down the side of their building.
We have overnight drops from delivery guys who see this and I had to tell the cleaner who wanted to come in at nights that she had to work in the daytime because people driving around at night are looking for prostitutes.
If I drive out of my workplace at night I get eyed up as a punter. You get propositioned. It leaves you with a dirty feeling.
I genuinely feel for the girls. They have major addiction problems – drugs and drink or a combination of both.
It’s a dangerous profession. I don’t disagree with the idea of making them safer. I feel great sympathy for them. All they have done is palm the problem off on to us. They’ve moved it away from being a residential issue and shoved it into a commercial area.
This activity goes on every night. At best, it’s grubby. And they don’t adhere to 7 till 7.
The first time I was aware of it was when I came out of work and a sex act had obviously just been concluded opposite my car park.
The girl ran to the end of the street and the guy drove off. I saw the girl soon after ready to work again.
Why not do this properly and have a council car park and building where the prostitutes and the punters can go? Why should I have to clean up after it?
They shouldn’t encourage street workers, they should do what they do in places like Amsterdam. It should be state operated. The council should clean up on their own land and contain it, then the girls would really be safe.
The girls aren’t safe – one of them got murdered in December.
The following day I’m sure all those other girls were working again.
I don’t think a controlled area is the answer – anywhere in the country.
‘Not far enough’
Cari Mitchell, spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, believes a managed zone is a stepping stone towards decriminalisation.
We believe full decriminalisation is the only long-term solution to this issue.
The managed zone in Leeds should not be an alternative. Dario Pionko, 21, was murdered in this area in December. It didn’t save her from being viciously attacked.
A local, small-scale managed zone is no substitute for decriminalisation.
Some women complain that the police have washed their hands of the area and feel segregated from view and the protection of the community.
Why not decriminalise so that sex workers can come forward and report violence without fear of arrest everywhere?
What happens if you get attacked on the wrong side of the road, outside the zone, outside the designated hours?
Only decriminalisation will improve sex workers’ safety by allowing women everywhere to report violence, exploitation and abuse without the threat of arrest, or if they are an immigrant without the fear of deportation.
As austerity and cuts force more women, particularly mothers, into prostitution, the last thing they need is to be criminalised for it.
Women are being arrested for breaching engagement orders and find 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.
Because of many different circumstances women are facing a very bad set of choices – and one of those choices is going out on to the street. It’s outrageous when women are only trying to survive.
In New Zealand, prostitution is legal on the basis of health and safety, treating sex workers the same as other workers.
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.
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.