Today we hear that the government is planning a 'clampdown' on prostitution. There seems to have been a concerted campaign by anti-prostitution campaigners recently with a number of articles, including a rant from Baroness Warnock, published on the Guardian's Comment is Free (CiF) webpages.
What is going on here? Is this a concerted attempt to improve our society and protect vulnerable women? I don't think so, and here's why. Because of the retreat of the left, we live in a society where reactionaries feel much more confident about pushing their agenda to take us backwards to that mythical age when all was well. You know what I mean - cricket on the village green, people going to church, homosexuals firmly in the closet, foreigners knowing their place, Empire and all that. The kind of thing that would suit rabid Tories and BNP members and religious fanatics down to the ground - Not that there weren't any prostitutes in those days.
The attack on prostitution appears to come from an unholy alliance of right-wingers, religionists and 'feminists'. One of the things that has breathed new life into this essentially bigoted crew is trafficking. Now I have no doubt that women are being brought into the UK by criminal gangs and forced into prostitution. I'm sure that such women lead miserable lives filled with abuse. They must be protected and the gangs who force them into sexual slavery need to be put behind bars for a very long time. That is job for the police. But trafficking seems to be being used as an excuse to clamp down on all prostitution including consensual sex for money.
The government's proposals would make it an offence for a man to have sex with a prostitute being 'controlled' by others. Ignorance on the part of the man will not be a defence. Now that may sound reasonable to some but there is no way we can expect this to be fairly interpreted by the police or courts. Men who use brothels where the women are working freely and consensually, without any coercion can still expect to be prosecuted according to sex workers and brothel keepers who spoke on the Radio Five Live phone in this morning that I listened to - and I have no reason the disbelieve them.
Prohibition doesn't work. The result of this legislation will be to drive prostitution further underground, encourage the criminals and put sex workers in danger. It will have the opposite effect to that which its supporters claim.
I suspect the motives of these campaigners. The position adopted by the 'feminists' I've read and heard seems me to be patronising to women. Of course we would expect a feminist to want to protect women from abuse. But you would also expect a feminist to defend the right of women to be sex workers, if that is their choice, and to want to ensure they could do it legally and safely. In addition, in all the things these people have written and said, including Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on the Today programme this morning, there has been no mention of men? Why? Men are sex workers as well as women but none of these campaigners seems to be interested in protecting male prostitutes. Do they not suffer abuse as well? Are they unimportant? Of course they aren't - but they just don't raise as much sympathy for the emotive arguments about helpless women that the anti-prostitution campaigners love to employ.
And why is it that none of these people listen to the sex workers themselves, who have said that they want the industry to be legalised? Because the real motivation for the anti-prostitution campaigners is not so much concern for women but a bigoted dislike of prostitutes and what they do. This is very similar to the hatred of recreational drug users which I referred to in this previous post.
In a free society consenting adults must be allowed to do what they like as long as no one is being abused. And no moraliser has the right to tell them that they can't do it. The best way to protect vulnerable women, like the ones' who died in Ipswich, is to legalise brothels so that the women and men who work in them can have a safe environment.
There will always be people who object to prostitution. They are entitled to do so. What they are not entitled to do is impose their views on others, and if we allow them to, how long before they start imposing other views on the rest of us?