Monday, December 18, 2006

Ipswich darkened by murders

The murder of five prostitutes in Ipswich in recent weeks has had one effect - it seems to have seen official attitudes to prostitution change. At one time the murder of a prostitute was a "lesser priority", as if women who sell their bodies for sex were less deserving of protection than anyone else. In this case, there is every indication that the police, local authorities, even local churches have all been working in sympathy for the victims and prostitutes in the town. The murders have terrified local women understandably, and shed light on the sad and dangerous lives of prostitutes in Britain (or more specifically the regions - prostitution in London is an altogether different world, with trafficking being a major problem).
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British prostitution laws are not entirely dissimilar to NZ's old laws. With prostitution itself not illegal, but soliciting is, keeping a brothel is. There are suggestions of implementing Swedish laws to legalise prostitution but criminalise being a client. However this is passing moral judgment on a business activity that will never be eliminated.
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No doubt few women (or indeed men) choose to be prostitutes as a preferred profession. It is largely a career of desperation, one they can choose because they are men equally desperate enough to have a guaranteed sexual encounter with a women, on their terms. A minority of prostitutes do so with pleasure, Xaviera Hollander perhaps being one of the most well known example. However, human sexuality is far more diverse than most of us ever care to know, which is why it is remarkably foolish and even dangerous to make any assumptions about men, women and sexuality, except that which is personal to yourself and that which should form the basis for laws to protect people from force. Similarly, the (mostly) men who partake of prostitutes may be the bored businessmen, the shy virgin, the partying students, the wheelchair bound loner, the old widower. Prostitutes know this, they know they get clients who scare them, and those who are easy to please.
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This is why prostitution should be legalised for adults in Britain, enabling prostitutes (and indeed clients) to be able to rely on the protection of the law from those who may hurt them or steal from them.
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I sincerely hope the murderer/s of these prostitutes is caught before Christmas Day and before he (more than likely a he) hurts anyone else. It is a sad and terrifying Christmas period for the women of Ipswich, but perhaps most forgotten - a rather poor and fruitless one for its prostitutes. I doubt many are helping them as they are unable to earn the desperate income they usually seek.
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However, if anything positive is to come from this, it is an awakening in Britain that prostitutes are entitled as much as anyone else to feel safe engaging in their business, and as distasteful as are the motives of those involved (whether it be those prostitutes desperate for money to fuel a drug habit - another issue - or clients wanting to get off), as long as they both parties act peacefully, it is not for the law to judge either of them.
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The world would be a better place if no one felt they needed to be a prostitute, and no one felt they needed to use one. However, it is a worse place when those who choose to be a prostitute and those who choose to procure one, on mutually agreed terms, are persecuted. It is time for this to end in Britain. Legalised prostitution can then see police efforts put onto underage prostitution and trafficked women, who no doubt number in the hundreds in London alone, working as slaves. This is the true horror - hidden by a law that is archaic, blunt and does no one any good.

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