Just before I left for a long stroll to our local AGM last night, there was a bit of a furore on Twitter about a new piece up on Lib Dem Voice. The palaver wasn’t really about the piece as such but more the title. The original title by the author was to be As Liberals We Must Stand Up For Sex Workers but instead the editorial team used the title Opinion: As Liberals, we must stand up For sex workers instead. Now I didn’t get to read too much more for a couple of hours so I don’t know if the contents of the article ever got truly discussed.
The basics of the article seem to be about standing up for sex workers and allowing them the freedom to do with their own bodies what they please without the state calling them a criminal for it. I have long been a supporters of legalising the prostitution business and ensuring safer practices for both the buyer and seller as it were. I wrote about it three years ago in a piece entitled It is time to fully license and legalise Prostitution which essentially nobody read, but that isn’t exactly an abnormality for my blog. You come here for pictures of Take Me Out Girls, to agree that Yodel sucks, to find out what happened to Nick Halling and Mark Bolton and then maybe, just maybe you’ve come here for political opinion.
I firmly believe that if a woman (or a man) want to sell their own body for sex then they should be free to do so. However I am a strong advocate of street prostitution remaining illegal. This cannot be regulated and it can be dangerous for both parties. It is also decidedly uncomfortable for people. I was accosted at Liberal Democrat Conference in 2011 by a prostitute asking is I was looking for her services. I can tell you this for nowt, it left me extremely uncomfortable.
Regulating prostitution and having centres where people can buy and sell sex in safe environments is surely a step-forward in allowing people to trade in their bodies of free will, but also with legal sex being available it will push the illegal sex slave trade to the fringes. If people can buy sex without fear of criminal prosecution then why would they go to someone where they wouldn’t be immune from this. The sex slave trade would surely overnight become far less profitable for gangs who force people into this line of work and they would then have to look elsewhere to earn a criminal dollar.
James in his piece references Australian states that have legalised prostitution and I remember seeing a documentary on this a few years back. Everyone who comes into the brothel is checked for visible signs of STIs (or STDs as they were in my day) and anyone who fails this inspection is turned away. The girls are regularly screened for these infections and if they are found to have one then they are unable to work until it is cleared up completely. If it is an STI that doesn’t go away then they will be unable to work as a legal prostitute any more. This surely helps with public health as STIs are rapidly growing as people (apparently) like having sex and are becoming more flippant about the health dangers.
The truth is people are going to have sex. People are going to want to buy sex. People are going to want to sell sex. That is the long and the short of it. Many of us probably can’t comprehend the idea of selling our bodies for a living but there are people out there who do it by choice. Not every prostitute does it because they were forced into it by criminals or by circumstances. Some people do choose to do it of their own free will and at what stage do people not have control over their own bodies for fear of breaking the law?
Legalising and licensing prostitution is never going to be a popular policy even if their is overwhelming evidence that it will help on many fronts. Drug addicts will be less able to turn to prostitution for money and therefore will have more incentive to get off drugs. Illegal sex workers who are forced into it will become a less profitable venture. Red light areas will be cleaned up as street prostitution would go down if there were licensed brothels for people to work in. The spread of STIs would in theory be slowed down. Liberals would rejoice as we allowed people to do what they wanted in a safer environment and think about this, if it was fully regulated and licensed then the tax man would get his cut!
It is time to stop thinking of prostitution as bad and that people who buy or sell sex are bad people. We are all free to make our own judgments in life and if it doesn’t directly effect you or me then who are we to decide how someone else should live their life? Sex will always be bought and sold. No-one will ever stop that until the concept of money is in the past. So until then lets find the best way forward to this problem that will ensure the safety and freedoms of most and that is not by keeping the status quo.
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