03 4 / 2012

Yesterday I went to a debate with a friend, held by a student led forum that deals with women’s issues in law at UWE’s main campus in Bristol. 

Some really interesting comments were made, encouraging me to think differently about what legalised prostitution would look like were it introduced in the UK.

Both the for and against camps agreed that, as I imagine most people in the room would, sex workers themselves should not be committing a crime by selling sex.

The current situation is such that the women (and of course men and children, but mostly here we are talking about women) selling sex are the ones that get a criminal record while those that buy it walk scot-free. I agree with Julie Bindel (see http://www.juliebindel.com)’s proposal that it is those buying, not selling, sex that should be punished - via a public caution. Research she has been involved with showed it would take very little in terms of punishment for men to stop buying sex, as long as it were public they would stop.

It’s a difficult issue and not one easily resolved. Other countries have decriminalised prostitution as a whole but every country needs to be considered in its own context and we certainly need to start debating the issue rather than just pretending those ‘saunas’ and ‘massage parlours’ are nothing else and excluding prostitutes from society, making them the ‘forgotten women’ as Julie put it.

A women centred issue that midwives and student midwives should certainly be engaged with.