News: Green Party of England & Wales
22 February 2008
In the wake of the life sentence handed down today to the Suffolk strangler Steve Wright for the killing of 5 prostitutes in Ipswich, Green Party Norwich councillor and prospective MEP for the Eastern Region Dr. Rupert Read calls for the complete decriminalisation of sex work so that the focus of police efforts can be redirected to protecting the most basic human rights of prostitutes: their life and their health.
Green Party policy called for the complete decriminalisation of prostitution on the “New Zealand model”, so that the focus for sex workers moves from evading arrest to their safety and wellbeing.
Dr. Read, a lecturer in moral philosopher at UEA, said: “The current system that criminalises prostitution just pushes street sex workers further into the twilight, further from traditional areas of relative safety and further into danger.
“Decriminalisation could mean that instead of hearing about prostitutes being murdered and attacked on the streets of our cities and towns, we would instead be talking about health and safety in sex work premises, which are already 10 times safer than working on the street.
“Criminalisation of actions associated with prostitution leave workers vulnerable to violent clients, and encourages police and other authorities to treat them as criminals even when they are in fact victims of serious crimes.”
Dr. Read also attacks the new Clause 124 of the Labour government’s Criminal Justice Bill, which introduces a new ‘order to promote rehabilitation’ for the offence of ‘loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution.’
He noted that this was effectively re-introducing imprisonment for the offence of soliciting, which was abolished by a Tory government in 1982.
He said, “The government with this Bill is treating prostitution as though it were an illness, and one for which women and men should be punished. Of course we would hope that sex workers who want to get out of the industry, and who need help with that, should find it immediately – and for that the government needs to provide greatly improved funding for, for example, drug addiction treatment programmes. But women and men arrested for soliciting should not be forced into ‘treatment’ against their will.
“And the government should note that it is often its own policies – inadequate support for women with children, the withdrawal of recourse to public funds for failed asylum-seekers, that is forcing women and men into the industry.”
Dr. Read added: “Centuries of criminalisation have not wiped out, or even reduced, the level of prostitution. Instead it has left on our streets, and our consciences, the bodies of many murdered women and men.”