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 women’s minister, confirmed the Government is studying the law in Sweden, where prostitution was recently made illegal.
Speaking on Radio 4’s 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 they’ve done in Sweden. My own personal view is that’s what we need to do as a next step. Do we think it’s right in the 21st century that women should be in a sex trade or do we think it’s exploitation and should be banned? Just because
something has always gone on, it doesn’t mean you just wring your hands and say there’s nothing we can do about it.
Home Office minister Vernon Coaker and junior women’s 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 Harman’s support for the Swedish system and urged her to look at New Zealand’s 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 Zealand’s 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 criminalisation
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
The usual Labour nutters have proposed a typically mean minded amendment to the Criminal Injustice Bill currently passing through parliament.
To move the following Clause:
A local authority may designate any part of its area as a zone of safety.
A chief officer of police may, with the approval of the Secretary of State, designate any area as a zone of safety.
The Secretary of State may approve a designation under subsection (2) if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the incidence of prostitution in the proposed zone has contributed to an increase in criminality in the locality.
It, in a zone of safety, a person (A):
(a) intentionally obtains for himself the sexual services of another person (B),
and (b) before obtaining those services, has made or promised payment for those services to B or a third person, or knows that another person has made or promised such a payment, the local authority or the chief officer of police may apply to a
magistrates’ court for an order forbidding A from doing those things again anywhere.
In subsection (4)(b) “payment” means any financial advantage, including the discharge of an obligation to pay or the provision of goods and services (including sexual services) gratuitously or at a discount.
The Secretary of State may by regulations made such supplementary provision about orders under subsection (4) as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
Regulations under subsection (6) are to be made by statutory instrument and are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
A person who is the subject of an order under subsection (4) and who fails to comply with the terms of that order is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale or to a community
punishment order or to both.’.
Re the Criminal Injustice amendment to ban the buying of sex in designated zones:
It is not a piece of legislation yet. Just a few batty amendments from a few batty MPs. And Harriet Harman, who isn't the responsible minister, attempting to create a policy where none existed before. For me, the telling point is that Coaker and his
colleagues have not associated themselves with Harman's suggestion. In fact the department was fairly quick off the blocks to pour cold water on it (in the friendliest way).
The thing is that none of these ideas are new. The CJIB amendments would apply some odd version of a control order to people buying sex in designated areas. Total batshit, and the police would not be in favour in the slightest. Designating "areas of
safety" would have the effect of making the non-designated areas into "red light zones". That idea has been thought through before and rejected.
The department knows there are only three choices:
a) Do nothing and leave the current hotch-potch of legality/illegality in place.
b) Criminalise the trade in sexual services.
c) License and regulate the trade in sexual services.
The department is studiously not saying what their prefered approach is, which is, as I've said, telling. About 12 months ago there was a similar fact finding visit to the US to look at the implementation of a "Megan's Law" for notifying the
public as to the whereabouts of sex offenders. At that time, the Home Office, including the Home Sec. was saying that they did intend to copy the US and have a "Sarah's Law" in the UK. The fact finding visit would simply be a means of
determining HOW to implement it. There was lots of press trumpetting and N of the W headlines raising expectations that lists of paedos would be pasted up outside your local Town Hall. But I think the junior minister who went to the US must have seen
just how badly Megan's Law works at actually protecting anybody, because in the event we have had no such law here in the UK and the whole thing has disappeared from view.
If anything, Harman's pronouncement, and the odd set of amendments from these publicity hungry MPs suggest to me that the government is looking at anything but a suggestion like Harman's. Most rational heads seem to think that the experiment in Sweden
has done little if anything to protect sex workers and that since the law change, prostitution in Sweden is just as widespread but not as visible.
We will see as this thing unfolds, but my money is on; a) Do nothing.
I loved the cheeky answer from the Times. It suggests that an alternative to prostitution is for men to opt for knowingly exploitative one night stands. A very non politically correct solution, but maybe it has a grain of truth that surely would not
impress the fem nazis.
Nevertheless surely every one knows what a strong urge sex can be and hence people should very very carefully consider the effects of denying people sex. (For instance look what a denial of sex does to good men of the cloth).
Britain's minister for women wants to make it illegal to pay for sex - but there's no way such a law could be enforced.
Earlier this month Harriet Harman, the minister for women, signalled a new government offensive against the freedom of the individual. On December 20, Harman announced that she was considering the introduction of legislation to criminalise payments for
sex: Do we think it's right in the 21st century that women should be in a sex trade, or do we think it's exploitation and should be banned?
Well, of course, put like that it's easy to see what answer Harman is expecting to the "very big debate" she has now apparently promised to launch early in the new year. No one - surely - is in favour of "exploitation", so - surely -
we must all favour making it illegal for a man (or, less commonly, a woman) to pay for sex. An open and shut case - surely.
But the issue is much more complicated than Harman wants us to believe.
Sex is - like it or not - a commodity and paying for it is an economic transaction which, like any other economic transaction, involves a buyer and a seller. A man wants to enjoy a woman's body, and once he finds a woman willing to sell her body,
temporarily, for this purpose the two parties to the transaction strike a price. The price is paid and the service is delivered. This - basically - is what prostitution involves.
I am not for one moment ignoring the exploitation that prostitution might involve. It might involve, as Harman says, the international trafficking in women by criminal gangs. It might involve slavery. It might involve sex with persons under 18 years of
age. However, all these activities are already prohibited by law, as they should be.
But prostitution itself is not at present illegal. An indeterminate number of women - and men - in this country appear to follow successful careers as professional prostitutes. That is entirely their business, and the business of their clients. The state
has no right to intervene, save to collect the tax due on the income lawfully generated.
The criminalisation of prostitution is most unlikely to be enforceable. The history of prohibition in the USA (1918-28) shows us that where there is a demand for a commodity, otherwise law-abiding people will go to any lengths to ensure a supply. If Miss
Harman has her way, the police in this country would be engaged in a war they could never win, and would soon lose public sympathy, as in the USA, which no doubt explains why the Police Federation is so lukewarm to Harman's initiative.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith, in endorsing this initiative, claimed to recognise "that there is considerable support for us to do more to tackle the demand for prostitution". I know of no such "considerable support" but, in any case,
"the demand for prostitution" emanates (does it not?) from basic sexual instinct. Exactly how does Miss Smith propose to tackle this "demand"? By adding bromide to our drinking water? I think not. But I do fear that some men, unable
to cope with their sexuality, and facing prosecution if prostitution is criminalised, will engage instead in acts of unspeakable violence.
Is that what Smith and Harman really want? If so, they are certainly going the right way about it.
Jack Straw dropped measures to overhaul the law on prostitution yesterday to ensure that a Bill that prevents prison officers from
striking is law by May.
It means that the Government has also abandoned a plan to scrap the term “common prostitute” from the statute book — 184 years after it was first used in the Vagrancy Act 1824.
He withdrew the clauses to ensure that the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which re-imposes a ban on prison officers going on strike, is passed by May 8. The deadline is crucial because the Prison Officers' Association withdraws from a
voluntary no-strike agreement on that day. If the union were to take strike action it would cause chaos in the overcrowded jails of England and Wales.
The clauses in the Bill that the Government dropped would have meant that women who were persistently found loitering for prostitution would be given a rehabilitation order. Offenders would have had to attend at least three meetings of a
rehabilitation course or face arrest and detention for up to 72 hours before being brought before a court.
The compulsory rehabilitation was to apply to those who were convicted of loitering or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution and would have been an alternative to a fine, which is widely seen as counter-productive because it forces
prostitutes back on to the street to earn money to pay it.
The clause to remove the term “common prostitute” from the statute book came after a consultation that showed the phrase was regarded as stigmatising and offensive.
John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes & Harlington, welcomed the move. He said: I hope it signals a future approach towards prostitution underlined by welfare measures rather than criminalisation, putting the needs and safety of
prostitutes above the desire for moral condemnation.
Update: Why Not the Dangerous Pictures Clauses
1st March 2008
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (Liberal Democrat) noted the dropping of the prostitution clauses with a pointed criticism of the Dangerous Pictures clauses:
I also make a plea to the Government that they think again about the extreme porn clauses. They would benefit enormously from pre-legislative scrutiny, which would enable us to discuss them in a far more considered and necessarily sensitive
atmosphere before they were brought on to the Floor of the House.
The criminalisation of payment for sex would dissuade sex workers from reporting violence against
them, Brooke Magnanti, the former London call girl better known by her alias Belle de Jour, has told a group of MPs.
Appearing before a home affairs select committee hearing on prostitution and the sex industry, Magnanti said:
If you criminalise buying sex, the prostitute knows she becomes the evidence. Police will be instantly suspicious, they ask to see your papers, examine your premises. She might be coerced by police into giving evidence against other people.
Magnanti said MPs needed to focus on the root causes driving people into sex work:
Things like migration policy and the social safety net. You have people who are marginally in the black going into red because of the bedroom tax, and the failure of the social system to catch them.
Magnanti appeared alongside Paris Lees , a journalist and equality campaigner who has also previously been a sex worker. Both were critical of the witnesses the select committee had called to question as part of the inquiry. Of the four sex
workers you've spoken [to] face to face, three of us aren't doing it any more, Magnanti told the committee's chair, Keith Vaz
The committee is nominally looking into the way prostitution is dealt with in legislation, and in particular whether the balance in the burden of criminality should shift to those who pay for sex, but the selection of those participating in the
debate suggest that the committee is biased towards criminalising men who buy sex.