10/25/2007

A moral obligation?

I see that Paul Goggins has announced that he intends to introduce legislation outlawing kerb crawling next year. He commented that "We are going to change the law to introduce this as a specific offence".

Whilst acknowledging that something must be done to remedy this problem, I am not quite sure that this is the most effective manner to achieve this.

In certain circumstances I can see how it will be advantageous in combating such activity. In the case of trafficked prostitutes this may work. They will no longer be able to stand on street corners touting for punters or walk the streets plying their immoral trade.
However what this legislation will fail to recognise is that many are not kerb crawling out of choice!

Many are duped into coming to this island, then have their passport confiscated and are then effectively held at ransom and pimped out by ruthless gangsters. Will this legislation change the heinous mentality of these bullies and pimps? I do not think so.
If they can find it acceptable to traffic women and children into this country for the purpose of making them sex slaves, I am sure the fact that it is illegal will do little to deter these godfathers.

As someone who can see a lot of the merits of legalised prostitution in certain conditions, I believe that this issue should be tackled in another manner. It fails to account for the fact that many of these women are not selling themselves on street corners out of choice. For those who are not marginalised and forced into it by traffickers and pimps, they are forced into it by destitution, poverty, tragedy and in many cases drug addiction.

Is criminalising these victims of society the correct way to deal with this particular scourge? These people have already been cast aside by society, are frowned upon and now will ultimately be outlawed. Is this morally acceptable?

There are a number of other ways this issue could be addressed. The first is the long running argument that prostitution should be legalised. Exponents of this view argue that this may aid the women who find themselves caught in this trap of despair. This ,they contend, is achievable by removing control of the sex industry out of the hands of ruthless gangsters and into the hands of an independent agency. This they argue, will en sure that the industry is properly regulated and reduces the scope for exploitation and oppression. This may also lead to proper health screening ensuring that the industry remains 'clean'.

They point to Amsterdam as a paradigm of how this may work in practice. Whilst this may carry a certain degree of validity there is also a number of flaws. The first is that even in Amsterdam there are women forced into the sex trade and indubitably oppressed whilst firmly in its clutches. It fails to recognise, also, that there are a number of backstreet brothels in Amsterdam that are outside the remit of regulation and health and safety.

I believe that perhaps the best way to deal with the problem is to follow the Swedish solution. Here it is the man that solicits the kerb crawler that is held culpable under the law. Surely this would be more apt, punishing a pervert hell bent on a bit of titillation instead of the woman forced into this terrible situation?

Outlawing prostitution has failed to dent the massive industry that the oldest profession in history has evolved into, but by outlawing those who attempt to engage vulnerable women in such a manner this may be more effectual.

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