Should prostitution be treated as a criminal matter?
This question, long a source of bitter infighting among feminists, is now being debated in Parliament.
A new Private Member's Bill, introduced by Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, aims to reduce sex-trafficking and make the law less cruel to exploited women.
Sounds sensible, you might think. And, indeed, major charities and lobby organisations are lining up to take a stand – but not on the side of trafficked women.
On the contrary, these groups – which include Labour's hard-Left caucus Momentum, Amnesty International, the GMB trade union and feminist group Sisters Uncut – are sticking up for the punters who pay to rape trafficked women.
Should prostitution be treated as a criminal matter, asks MARY HARRINGTON. This question, long a source of bitter infighting among feminists, is now being debated in Parliament
For make no mistake, sex with an unwilling woman is nothing less than rape.
What happened to the belief that prostitution is a form of violence against women?
The statistics are telling. Of the estimated 72,800 sex workers in Britain, 88 per cent are women.
And between 1990 and 2016, about 180 prostituted women were murdered.
All sides agree that prostitution is dangerous to women, but they disagree on how to tackle that danger.
On one side are advocates of the decriminalisation of selling sex, who claim the proverbial 'world's oldest profession' will never be eradicated.
They argue that repression drives it underground, making prostituted women more vulnerable.
They propose prostitution should, instead, be made safe, legal and subject to regulation.
A new Private Member's Bill, introduced by Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, aims to reduce sex-trafficking and make the law less cruel to exploited women
On the other side are those who agree with Dame Diana and recommend the so-called Nordic Model, named after the Scandinavian countries that have adopted this approach.
It tackles sexual exploitation by criminalising the punters. Thus, selling sex is decriminalised but buying it is punishable by fines or imprisonment.
Crucially, supporters of the Nordic Model argue that most women only join the sex trade out of poverty and desperation and that these unhappy women shouldn't be punished further.
Of course, this still doesn't mean society should tolerate or condone this abusive racket. So the Nordic Model tackles the demand.
Dame Diana's Sexual Exploitation Bill seeks to introduce a version of the Nordic Model to this country.
If it becomes law, selling sex would be decriminalised but paying for it would be a criminal offence.
And a new offence of 'enabling or profiting' from another's sexual exploitation would target traffickers and pimps.
Dame Diana, the MP for Hull North, says her goal is to 'bust the business model of sex-trafficking'.
According to a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Commercial Sexual Exploitation in 2018, the monstrous practice of trafficking for sexual exploitation takes place in Britain on an 'industrial scale'.
Dame Diana, the MP for Hull North, says her goal is to 'bust the business model of sex-trafficking'
Most of the women in UK brothels are from overseas, with 75 to 90 per cent coming from impoverished Romania.
Many thousands are trafficked, having been lured overseas with promises of work as au pairs or barmaids, only to find themselves trapped in the living hell of forced prostitution.
In 1999, Sweden banned paying for sex.
Almost a decade later, a study showed that the number of prostituted women there was a tenth of the total in neighbouring Denmark, where buying sex was, and still is, legal.
Research suggests sex-trafficking, too, is lower in Sweden than in comparable nations, because traffickers focus on other countries where the 'market' is less constrained.
Researchers also found that after Norway introduced a ban on buying sex, street prostitution fell between 45 and 60 per cent, with no evidence of it moving 'underground'.
By contrast, in Germany, selling and buying sex have been legal since 2002. But this hasn't caused trafficking to disappear – in fact quite the reverse.
By 2007, the UN had recognised Germany as a top destination for victims of trafficking.
A 2012 study of 150 countries showed that decriminalising prostitution results in more prostitution – which means more trafficked women.
Whenever something is legalised, the implication is that society condones it and so more people do it. And the need for reform is not just about trafficking.
Today, prostitution in Germany is an industry thought to be worth about £11 billion a year. Ten-storey 'mega-brothels' offer a queasy kaleidoscope of sexual 'services'.
And the number of prostitutes has mushroomed – there are an estimated 400,000 women working in the German sex industry, attracting punters from all over the world.
When something is suspiciously cheap and plentiful, it's often thanks to miserable workers in cruel sweatshops. So it is with Germany's supposedly safe and decriminalised sex industry.
Groups – which include Labour's hard-Left caucus Momentum, Amnesty International, the GMB trade union and feminist group Sisters Uncut – are sticking up for the punters who pay to rape trafficked women
The country's 'brothel king', Jurgen Rudloff, owner of a chain of 'mega-brothels' and once a regular pro-prostitution guest on TV chat-shows, is now serving a five-year sentence for sex-trafficking.
Court documents report that the women in Rudloff's brothels were treated like animals and beaten if they didn't make enough money.
Nor has decriminalisation delivered much safety in Britain's first legal red-light area – the Holbeck 'managed zone' in Leeds.
This was established in 2014 to create a safe, regulated place for prostitutes to work. But the outcome hasn't been greater safety – at least not for local residents.
It has seen drug-addicted women injecting themselves in phone booths, elderly woman being flashed at outside their homes, needles and used condoms littering the streets, and schoolchildren propositioned by kerb-crawlers.
Locals hold protests at the impact that Holbeck's supposedly safe and regulated sex trade has had on their quality of life.
So far their outcry has been ignored. It's a safe bet that the residents of Holbeck (especially schoolgirls) would support criminalising the punters who make their lives a misery.
Today, prostitution in Germany is an industry thought to be worth about £11 billion a year. Ten-storey 'mega-brothels' offer a queasy kaleidoscope of sexual 'services'. Pictured: The Reeperbahn red light district in Hamburg
But not so the 150 prominent organisations, academics and activists, including Stonewall and Amnesty International, which have signed an open letter opposing the Sexual Exploitation Bill.
These people believe themselves to be on 'the right side of history': that of personal freedom, labour rights and the removal of all stigma and shame.
But the brutal truth is that the main beneficiaries of decriminalisation aren't women.
They are pimps and punters. And there's nothing feminist about supporting such men, whatever the social justice warriors say.
Even Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Momentum has joined the campaign against criminalising those who pay for sex.
These hypocritical Leftists claim to oppose untrammelled capitalism and stand up for the exploited.
Yet they have come out all guns blazing in support of an industry whose central 'product' is the industrial-scale rape of impoverished women for the profit of monsters like Jurgen Rudloff.
The experience of Germany shows decriminalisation creates a nightmare of trafficking, violence and misery.
Holbeck shows the devastating effect on communities of legalised street prostitution: squalid litter, unsafe streets and frightened schoolgirls.
And that's before you get to the hell endured by the prostitutes themselves. And yet, for these culture warriors, anyone who doesn't abide by the mantra 'Sex work is work' is a bigot and reactionary.
These self-righteous activists are happy to ignore the outcry of ordinary people forced to live amid the squalor of legalised prostitution and turn away from the misery of Romanian girls lured overseas and then forced into sex slavery.
For anyone concerned about tackling street crime and the abuse of women, the Nordic Model works.
And if we adopted it in Britain, it would make a very clear statement about what we, as a society, are willing to tolerate.
Men who use prostitutes and pretend it's all fine, because they paid, should be punished as the rapists they are.
And if the Sexual Exploitation Bill becomes law, it would be a significant step in the fightback against those activists who want to bully communities and smash civilised values in the name of a 'freedom' whose real-world consequence is barbarous exploitation.
But, sadly, these people have an institutional stranglehold in today's Britain. They've mobilised to kill the Sexual Exploitation Bill, making full use of the woke domination of media and culture. Now its second reading has been postponed, with no date set for its return.
MPs answer to us, not to woke lobbyists and hard-Left noise-makers. I've written to my MP asking him to support the Bill and I urge you to do the same.
Let's make our voices heard.