Saturday, 14 July 2012

Legalise Prostitution

Two blog posts in two days! Wow! I’m back on the writing train baby! After my little ramble yesterday about football, I’m back today with something a bit more topical for Ireland. There’s a public consultation which ends in a few weeks and there's been lots of talk here in Ireland currently regarding prostitution and whether or not we should follow Sweden’s path of criminalising the purchasing of sex. I for one am firmly against the idea. I have to admit, I was on the fence a few months back but I wrote an essay (Should Prostitution Be Legalised) for my course that opened my eyes in a big way. Sweden it seems, has never fully investigated the impact their laws have had on prostitutes, or as I prefer to call them - sex workers.  It does however like to throw about stats ‘proving’ that they’ve curtailed prostitution in their country. All well and good I hear you say; but it’s far from the truth. In 2004, prior to implementing Sweden’s exported moral law, a report by the Norwegian justice ministry “cited evidence of an ‘increased fear of attack’ among Swedish prostitutes, who found it harder to assess their clients because transactions had to be agreed hastily or on the telephone.” Even in 2001, (*note* this link will open a PDF) the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern that “the Swedish legislation may have rendered prostitutes more vulnerable, and asked the Swedish Government to evaluate the effects of the law.” 

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NGOs like Ruhama in Ireland who want the Swedish model implemented – (Please note that Ruhama are the main opposition to sex worker rights being established in Ireland and are also a powerful religious anti-sex work organisation. Ruhama is a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters, who have been caring for Ireland’s ‘fallen women’ since 1848 and 1853 respectively) - argue that another deterrent of this style of anti-prostitution law is that it would curtail the trafficking of women. On their website they say that prostitutes tend to be women who “were trafficked into prostitution in Ireland but a significant number were trafficked or prostituted into other countries but escaped to Ireland. Now while living here, they have sourced Ruhama for help.” ‘In Whose Name?’ – the largest study of migrant sex workers in the UK to date raised a few issues. It argued that there is a climate of fear being created amongst sex workers due to increasing police activity that is driven by “hype and misinformation promoted by NGOs who are ideologically opposed to commercial sex.” This claim is backed by the ‘Turn Off the Blue Light’ campaign in Ireland: “There is currently a “Turn Off the Red Light” (TORL) campaign being run by an alliance of organisations. They say they want to end prostitution and sex trafficking and ‘the solution’ is to criminalise the purchasers of sex. We believe the real agenda is to have their own ideology on sex work enacted as law.” The Metro focused on the same ‘In Whose Name’ study and reported “the majority of sex workers who were asked in a study say they prefer working in the sex industry to menial jobs where they are less likely to achieve such a good standard of living.”
Legalising prostitution would offer an honest, societal government driven support system for the sex workers. Not an ideologically, moral, religious driven propaganda machine, but an actual support service to these workers. No system is going to achieve perfection. What you want is a system that protects the people that are going to be involved. Ultimately, they’re the ones that suffer. People have to decide whether they want prostitution to be visible, or if they’d prefer the menace of invisibility. One would hope that society could allocate the resources to take the menace out of it full stop. Legalisation and regulation can mean discreetness and safety.

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