UK men who use prostitutes could soon face a fine or even jail under new plans to make it illegal to pay for sex.
Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman, who is also womenís minister, confirmed the Government is studying the law in Sweden, where prostitution was recently made illegal.
Speaking on Radio 4ís Today Programme , Harman said she supported criminalising men who use prostitutes as a means of tackling the rising problem of sex trafficking.
She went on: I think we do need to have a debate and unless you tackle the demand side of human trafficking which is fuelling this trade, we will not be able to protect women from it.
That is what theyíve done in Sweden. My own personal view is thatís what we need to do as a next step. Do we think itís right in the 21st century that women should be in a sex trade or do we think itís exploitation and should be banned? Just
because something has always gone on, it doesnít mean you just wring your hands and say thereís nothing we can do about it.
Home Office minister Vernon Coaker and junior womenís minister Barbara Follett are due to visit Sweden and Amsterdam to examine the systems there.
And a powerful group of Labour MPs have tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which comes before Parliament in the New Year, giving local councils the power to declare certain areas no-go zones for prostitution. Men
who paid for sex with prostitutes within the zones would be liable for prosecution.
The amendment is being sponsored by former Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart, along with senior Labour backbenchers Denis MacShane and Barry Gardiner.
The English Collective of Prostitutes attacked Harmanís support for the Swedish system and urged her to look at New Zealandís system of legalising brothels instead.
Spokeswoman Cari Mitchell said: The 1999 law introduced in Sweden which criminalised men who buy sex, who on conviction face six months in jail, has forced prostitution further underground, made women more vulnerable to violence, driven women
into the hands of pimps and made it harder for the police to prosecute violent men and traffickers.
Ministers are visiting Sweden and Amsterdam but New Zealandís experience of decriminalising prostitution, where women are now more able to come forward and report violence, is being ignored.
Liberal Democrat spokesman David Howarth said a ban was not the answer, arguing that it could put women in more danger: Evidence from Sweden in making prostitution illegal has shown that it doesn't help in reducing human trafficking. It, in
fact, increases violence against women and makes the practice of prostitution far more risky for all involved. Outlawing prostitution completely will mean that men will be far less likely to come forward to help with prosecutions for fear of
Alan Gordon, vice chairman of the Police Federation, also spoke out against further criminalisation: A move towards legalising state-run facilities would certainly be something which could be examined, as they could possibly eradicate
underground prostitution and therefore have a knock-on effect on human trafficking.
Have you seen the colossal hostility on the
Daily Mail comments site re Hormone's "criminal to pay for sex proposals". It shows how totally out of touch this ban everything regime are now-no wonder they are going into opinion poll meltdown.
At least every police state law seems to be another nail in their coffin.
Melon Farmers comment on criminalising paying for sex
Thanks to Alan
You may be interested to know that some modest efforts have been made to treat prostitutes like any other workers: attempt to defend/improve their working conditions by organizing them in a trade union.
The union which has attempted to do so is the TGWU (now merged into Unite). A leading full-time official is none other than Jack Dromey, hubby of Harriet Harman. Do they ever talk at breakfast?
It's bizarre to see the career trajectory of Harman, who started off as a (rather good) civil liberties lawyer.
Wow! Didn't expect such a reaction from Daily Mail readers, but it certainly does show just how much Harman has lost the plot. I found the following comment very moving:
"I am disabled and I buy sex through an escort agency. If this was to be made illegal, what would I, and others like me, do to be able to have sex? This is the only way! Aren't my needs the same as anyone else? It's
just that, in general, the females of this country, aren't interested in you if you are disabled. Or, perhaps, this, if made into law, is just another way of hitting the disabled community".
Yes, the government who claim to introduce laws to 'protect' the more vulnerable members of our society aims a huge legislative kick at the MOST vulnerable and shamefully under-assisted minority group in the country. Well done, Harriet, I hope
you're really fucking proud of yourself. I assume our prisons will now be equipped with wheelchair access facilities for the forthcoming surge of disabled criminals whose only crime has been wanting to experience sexual intimacy with someone? I
am absolutely DISGUSTED with this rotten, vindictive government...
...But having unleashed a society which reveres sex and denigrates thought, the government seems to think it can undo all the carnage by passing a law: as if by divine miracle, we can become born-again Puritans.
Cromwell's apparent heir is Harriet Harman. Her latest campaign is to outlaw prostitution. Has she not learnt that any attempt to use parliamentary instruments to stop people having sex has mildly less chance of success than a law against rain?
And even if she could stop men paying for sex, I wish the other New Puritans luck stopping young women providing it for free.
Let me concede that often one feels like siding with the New Puritans. Looking at a provincial high street on Saturday night, I imagine my own daughter in a few years' time and want to weep. The horror is multiplied by a million when I think of
sex-trafficked women being brutalised in towns across Britain.
But surely government has tested to destruction the fantasy that you can change society by banning stuff. Isn't the real problem with trafficked prostitutes that, first, we have virtually no border police so smugglers can operate with impunity,
and, second, because prostitution is already underground, it can't be regulated? If the ban is simply about 'sending a message', then Harman should realise it is a message that will be ignored, as with hunting.
And, for all the hideous vulgarity of modern life, would we really rather return to an England where young women committed suicide out of shame or visited back-street abortionists? Between Cromwell and Assess My Breasts, is there not a third way?
Education changes people; censoriousness just irritates them. Try to take away their figgy pudding and people rebel, eventually. The Lord Protector learnt that the hard way; so, it seems, will Gordon Brown at the end of this long parliament