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172 J.P.N. 1 (2008)

handle is hein.journals/cljw172 and id is 1 raw text is: 



It is one of the grimmest and  most
disgusting trades of modern times. It is
not confined to the UK, but the problem
is apparently particularly severe here. I
refer to the trafficking of women, mainly
young  and  from former  communist
countries, to work as prostitutes. They
are lured with promises of a glamorous
life into sex slavery. In the unlikely
event that they manage to escape their
captors, they face the near certainty of
being forced to return to their homes
covered  in undeserved  shame   and
disgrace. It is imperative that we tackle
this evil business in any way that we
can. But this is a complex problem with
many  dimensions. Unless solutions are
very carefully thought through, matters
could be made  even worse  for these
unfortunate people.
   This brings me to the proposal by
Dennis  MacShane,   former  Europe
Minister, with the support of two other
former ministers, to tackle the demand
side. Under proposed legislation which
he and some colleagues have introduced,
police chiefs and councils will be given
powers to bring men who  pay for sex
before the courts. This appears to have
the support of the Minister for Women,
Harriet Harman. In a radio interview on
December  21, she stated: 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. Ms Harman believes
there should  be a  debate. I agree,
provided that all who take part keep
their feet on the ground.
   There  is no  analogy  here with
prosecuting  those who   view  child
pornography. The  production of this
stuff is illegal, and its customers share
that illegality. Prostitution, on the
other hand, is legal (albeit everything
associated with it is prohibited). It may
be unattractive to many that people
(of both sexes) take this up as a career,
and tragically, these days, the reason is

often to pay for drugs. It is also ripe
for criminal exploitation, as with the
traffickers. I doubt whether there are
many  prostitutes who are happy with
their lot, even where they entered this
profession willingly. The fact remains,
however, that if a man or woman wants
to go down  this road, should they, let
alone their customers, face prosecution
in the absence of some  aggravating
factor such as public nuisance? And
how  can proper limits be set? Payment
for sex can take all sorts of forms. Will
keeping  a lover in fine clothes and
jewellery be prohibited?
   It seems likely that the preference will
be for some sort of zonal enforcement;
ie, local authorities and police forces
will identify particular problem areas
for action. But if that is the chosen
solution - and  it seems to be the
only practicable one for the reasons
mentioned above - how  will this assist
the plight of sex slaves? We will have
strayed far from the criminality that
prompted  the debate in the first place.
Moreover,  there must be a risk that
prostitutes will be exposed to even
greater dangers.
   If they are forced to abandon their
preferred territory and are not given
sufficient chance to assess prospective
customers  their safety could be at
greater, rather than less, peril.
   The  answer, I suggest, is to go
further than the Council  of Europe
Anti-Trafficking Convention (which we
are yet to ratify), which gives support
to those who escape from their pimps
and identify offenders. There should be
official rewards and generous immunity
for all who give helpful information,
even if they were deeply implicated.
Prosecuting  customers,  who   may
be quite unaware  of the prostitute's
background, serves only to strike a soft
target in the speculative hope that it will
quell demand which will in turn reduce
trafficking. It could, in fact, drive the
trade even further underground with
consequential greater dangers for those
who  ply it.                   AJT

Volume 172  JUSTICE  °fte PEACE



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