Thursday, November 20, 2008

After thinking a bit, I support the UK government's new proposal to prosecute men using "forced" prostitutes.

Yeah, it's hard to prove one way or the other whether someone is "forced" eg. by circumstance such as drug addiction. And it raises interesting questions about responsibility and agency (ie. if a prostitute can't consent to sex if she's motivated to pay off her addiction, why is a burgler responsible for a robbery if he's motivated to pay off his addiction?)

But nevertheless "forced" is where you'd like to draw the line. All the cases where prostitution is justified will fall on the "unforced" side. Ignorance is already no defence if, say, you're receiving stolen goods, so why should it be different if you're having sex with enslaved women?

Of course, I think that the corollary is that brothels where women are "unforced" should be legal. (Which would further protect sex-workers.) This shouldn't be seen as a step towards the total ban on prostitution.

And personally, as with other currently criminal activities (such as supplying heroin) I believe that brothels should be legalized but only as non-profit organizations or workers' co-operatives. In other words they should be legal and allowed to provide income for their workers but not provide profits to non-participating shareholders or include too much structural incentive to "grow" the market.

2 comments:

Bill Seitz said...

1. "Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "Help for the victims would be more convincing if the government hadn't slashed the budget for human trafficking investigations last week and shut down the leading unit."

2. Is there a "good prostitute" certification the government provides, that a john can ask to see? It doesn't sound like it.

Thus, this doesn't sound like a serious attempt to reduce trafficking, but either (a) an empty gesture, or (b) really directed at ending prostitution.

phil jones said...

Bill,

1) Agree. Here's the link : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7719662.stm

2) Agree that some way of guaranteeing the "unforcedness" would be good. Doesn't positively *have* to be government registration (maybe independent charity or the prostitute's collective ( http://www.prostitutescollective.net/ ) could offer registration)

I'd suspect this legislation is outcome of a coalition of diverse ends : those who want to protect sex workers and those who want to abolish prostitution altogether. But given that mixed parentage, it's not a bad result.