Statement: Response to criticism of the Leeds Managed Area
Women in our network were glad to work in the zone as it meant they could work without fear of arrest. We think that this should count for something, but it doesn’t seem to be considered by those that are criticising the zone.
It’s unfair to label the zone as an example of decriminalisation gone wrong. There is a massive difference between gathering women into one zone when every other way of working remains illegal and decriminalisation where women have the option of getting off the streets and working more safely together in premises. Some people are calling this decriminalisation to deliberately try to discredit it, so this must be answered.
But the zone was only ever going to be of limited use. From what we saw little or no concerted effort was made to help women with problems related to terrible poverty, violence and drug use. It is also situated in an area that has been deprived of resources and where people are suffering from benefit cuts and other austerity measures.
That help, and those services could be provided without abolishing the zone and without criminalising clients (which is the agenda of some of those criticising the zone). If the zone is abolished and sex workers once again face arrest they will have all the existing problems.
But in addition, they will face the added burden of criminalisation – forced into more isolated areas to avoid detection by the police, unable to screen clients who fear arrest, criminal records which bar access to other jobs and prevent women leaving prostitution.
Our initial statement about the zone is here: