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PROSTITUTION

Ministers are considering a ban on prostitution, Harriet Harman has said.

The women's minister said the government is examining the law in Sweden, where paying for sex is outlawed, in an attempt to tackle human trafficking.

Harman, who is also leader of the Commons and Labour's deputy leader, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we do need to have a debate and unless you tackle the demand side of human traffic which is fuelling this trade, we will not be able to protect women from it.

"That is what they've done in Sweden. My own personal view is that's what we need to do as a next step."

Home office minister Vernon Coaker and junior women's minister Barbara Follett will visit Sweden and Amsterdam to study the issue.

Harman said: "Do we think it's right in the 21st century that women should be in a sex trade or do we think it's exploitation and should be banned?

"Just because something has always gone on, it doesn't mean you just wring your hands and say there's nothing we can do about it."

She said that new guidance would stop small newspaper adverts offering services at brothels believed to be linked to human trafficking.

Published: Thu, 20 Dec 2007 10:56:38 GMT+00

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Vote: Should men be criminalised for paying for sex?

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Members Comments

1in10 12-Mar-2010 21:29
Harman was conflating human trafficking (which Labour accepts when it is called immigration instead) with prostitution. Which is the greater evil?

Prostitution is exploitation. But exploitation is a basic human activity, and relations between humans, especially male and female, are always going to be unequal. The only 'humane' thing that can be done is to regulate it, so its safe and clean for the women involved.

Rather than proposing banning why not explain to men how women end up as prostitutes - though maybe that might be far too politically controversial, particularly considering Labour's (and socialist and liberals in general) views!
MGN2009 3-Jun-2009 23:20
Legalize prostitution and get more VAT and Income Tax in one fell swoop
bulldoguk201 28-Dec-2007 15:18
I think prostitution should be legalised. The workers should be made to have a regular check up (at designated GUI clinics)to earn their licence, These licenses could then be used to fight against the sex slave trade.
Herb 28-Dec-2007 5:19
Harriet Harman's profession is that of lawyer, but frankly, her profession does a great deal more harm and produces a great deal less satisfaction and general sense of well-being - and at much greater cost too - than does the older and more honourable profession of prostitute.

Harriet Harman is a tiresome busybody and is wasting her time.

If she wants to live among people more like herself, she should go and live among the Taliban.
jeffreymarshall 21-Dec-2007 19:8
It seems to me possible to describe prostitution as fundamentally a harmless activity between consenting adults as long as both parties are in fact consenting. While this could obviously never be true where a woman has been sex-trafficked, it might well be true provided she herself has freely chosen this way of doing business. Whether or not she does this legally and pays tax – as in Amsterdam – or does so without the blessings of the state seems to me totally unimportant. In Amsterdam, of course, she has every possibility of working legally, whereas in most other places in the world she has not. (And since you seem to be arguing that paying for sex might be OK in Amsterdam but not OK elsewhere, you’d have a pretty long journey for legitimate sex, wouldn’t you, if you were a punter from, say, Australia?) The basic transaction remains the same just as long as – and I do emphasise this very strongly – the woman does it voluntarily. If she does not - for whatever reason – then the transaction is absolutely immoral.

Secondly, I am aware that most feminists are hostile to prostitution, but then most are extremely puritanical.
Only one feminist comes to mind who in fact worked as a prostitute and that is the obese American theorist, Andrea Dworkin, now deceased. (Isn’t it amazing to think that anyone would have actually paid her?)

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that those who do find it empowering use what sound to me like feminist style arguments. These arguments revolve around making use of men to obtain a heck of a lot of money, thereby acquiring lifelong independence from men. (These arguments appeal to lesbian-feminists especially, I believe, but not only to them.)

Lastly I’m sure the terms consent and adult are complicated, as you suggest. However, unless in the “big complicated mess of real life” you find something harmful - so harmful that it needs to be legislated against - then the messy way people lead their lives (if indeed they do) need not be criminalised, which after all, is the purpose of the question.
goosefat101 21-Dec-2007 9:52
My view is prostitution should be legalised, like in Amsterdam. This would make criminalising people who go to unsanctioned areas and pay unregistered and untax paying prostitutes a fair enough proposition, especially as they would know pretty much for definite that the women they were visiting were part of the sex traffic trade rather than people consenting to exploit male labidos at the expense of their own .

However all that being as it may I'd like to know who are the "feminists" who have apparently viewed prostitution as empowering? This sounds like a very shallow reading of feminist thinking which is very diverse and complex and I am sick of hearing people and more specifically the media being constantly reductive on this issue. I have never read any feminist put such a complex issue in such simple terms and certainly there is very frequently a completely opposite view to this that runs through some feminist work.

It seems to me that any woman or man who puts it as stupidly as "prostitution is empowering to women" is not a feminist (though they may very well enjoy sex and the city and all kinds of post-feminist, burn your brain for the right to wear to wear a wonderbra rubbish). In fact what they are is a completely naive and stupid person. It is not empowering as a blanket statement, it may empower some individuals (whatever empowerment actually is... I guess in modern society it is being able to buy pretty much what you like)
it also ruins others. In the same way it is odd to describe it as a "fundamentally harmless activity between consenting adults" the word harmless and even the words consent and adult are far more complicated than this sentence would suggest. There are no real fundamentals on this one, just a big complicated mess of real life.

It's always happened, it always will, for some people it is terrible for others it is not, it cheapens everyone and brings everything down to a monetary level, it feeds families and drug habits, it helps people feel powerful and powerless, it is reductive... and on and on.

I speak as someone who has used a prostitute (once, legally in Amsterdam) and also as someone who interviewed them also in Amsterdam. I don't judge prostitutes or their users.
pam3 21-Dec-2007 9:49
why do so many people still subscribe to the absurd view that sex has a moral value?

what people wish to do with their own bodies is entirely their own business and any attempt to stop them doing so is an infringement of their liberties (ditto drug laws, the seatbelt law, euthanasia et al) but that won't stop the fascists from imposing their views on the rest of us.
WelshPatriot 20-Dec-2007 20:52
Ms Harman's energy would be better directed by stopping ALL immigration.That would stop human traffiking for sex immediately!
jeffreymarshall 20-Dec-2007 17:48
Human trafficking is a disgusting and wicked trade and should definitely be tackled by the government. However, like so many other evils today, in many ways this is just another consequence of our open borders and lack of any government control – or any desire by government to control – who comes into this country. Now it seems rather than try to deal with the situation, Nu Labour is considering banning anyone who tries to pay for sex. This is unlikely to work as human trafficking is conducted by vicious, though highly professional, criminal gangs, and they’ll no doubt be the very last ones to be affected by any ban. Maybe the careless late-night drunk in Soho who clandestinely attempts to visit a ‘topless model’ (who, of course, will no longer be permitted to advertise) may be penalized, not the gangs.

It does rather sound as though Nu Labour have been in power a mite too long if they’re planning to abolish the oldest profession, especially since in recent years it has been seen as ‘empowering’ by a number of feminists. The Swedish experience would make an interesting comparison, as prostitution has tended to be ring-fenced rather than banned - kerb-crawling, soliciting, pimping - the surrounding activities are banned, but not the business itself. The business then takes its shape from these restrictions. Do it if you must and don’t frighten the horses seems to have been the basic philosophy till now. Yes, a wife can be more expensive than a hooker and some say a prostitute is often better value in the long run. Alternatively, why not pay a husband for sex? I can’t see any objection, though recent findings show that men tend to be less enthusiastic than women about being ‘kept’. Is there a moral here? Perhaps it is that most traditions die hard, the oldest profession included, and Nu Labour certainly has its work cut out if it wishes to abolish it.

Personally, I think the two most effective and intelligent ways to tackle human trafficking would be (a) close our borders (b) legalize prostitution, which is, after all, a fundamentally harmless activity between consenting adults.
timgbull 20-Dec-2007 15:19
This is one of those issues that will never go away - prostitution has existed for thousands of years and Ms. Harman is not likely to succeed in bringing an end to it.

Being one of those inevitabilities of life, if legally 'banned' it will continue illegally. Operating entirely in the shadows, it is most likely that human trafficking will just be more difficult to trace.

This is Ms. Harman raising a red herring to deflect interest from her party funding difficulties.
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