We Don’t Tolerate Murder/paedophilia. Why Are We Tolerating Prostitution/sex Trafficking of Women and Children

Question by Emeralddove: We don’t tolerate murder/paedophilia. Why are we tolerating Prostitution/sex trafficking of women and children
*Perilous Times and Decaying Morality
Prostitution in Britain: The sordid society*
By David Harrison, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 2:36am GMT 18/12/2006

The killings in Ipswich have shone a dismal light on the extent of
prostitution in Britain today. The figures are horrifying: more than
100,000 girls working in brothels, massage parlours and on the streets,
while the number of men using their services, particularly in younger
age groups, has doubled. As David Harrison reports, the stark truth
behind the sex trade is abuse, violence, exploitation and addiction
The Evening Star in Ipswich summed it up succinctly: “Things like this
are not supposed to happen in our part of the world.” Serial killers are
meant to strike in big, edgy cities, not in an unassuming agricultural
town whose last claim to national fame was the fleeting success of the
local football team 25 years ago.
The murders of the five prostitutes have shone a disturbing light on
Britain’s dark underbelly, a seedy world of desperate, drug-addicted
women who sell their bodies for their, or their pimps’, next fix of
heroin or crack cocaine. And they have highlighted an explosion in the
availability of – and demand for – “sexual services” in 21st-century
Britain.
If it goes on in Ipswich, with a population of 140,000, number 38 on the
list of Britain’s biggest urban centres, then, you might think, it must
be happening everywhere. You would be right. There are an estimated
30,000 street prostitutes in Britain, and police and drugs charities say
they can be found in every city and town. “Where there are hard drugs,
there are pimps and street prostitutes, and there are hard drugs all
over the country,” says a senior Scotland Yard officer.
Ninety-five per cent of street girls are addicted to drugs or alcohol or
both, according to the Home Office. Most have been violently or sexually
abused as children and groomed for prostitution by boyfriends, members
of their own families or predatory pimps they meet when they run away
from their miserable homes.
The drugs come early too: most are offered heroin by their abusers (many
of whom are also addicts) in their early teens. Once hooked, the girls
have a choice: steal, deal, or go on to the streets to make money to
feed their habit and pay their pimps. For some, the forced prostitution
comes first but the drugs always follow. “On the game, they call it,”
said one outreach worker. “But this is certainly no game.”
The girls are usually “launched” as streetwalkers at about the age of
14, though some are as young as 12, says Wendy Shepherd who runs a
Barnardo’s project in Middlesbrough. Some will already have been abused
by family members and “hired out” to paedophile friends from the age of
eight.
Street prostitution is highly dangerous. The girls have to make instant
judgments about complete strangers before deciding whether to get into
their cars. The craving for drugs drives them to take enormous risks.
About 90 prostitutes are known to have been murdered in England and
Wales in the past decade but the real figure is almost certainly much
higher. Street girls are easy prey for violent psychopaths because
anonymity is part of the commercial pact and the girls’ disconnected
lives mean they can go missing for days, even weeks, before anybody notices.
Murder is a risk prostitutes face, but violent assault is almost a
guaranteed part of their lives. More than half of all UK prostitutes
have been raped or seriously sexually assaulted, and three-quarters have
been physically attacked, according to government research. The figures
for streetwalkers are even higher. “Nearly every woman I have dealt with
has suffered some form of abuse from punters,” says Ms Shepherd. “I’ve
dealt with girls who have been punched, kicked, raped, kidnapped and
dumped on the motorway. It’s a grim, seedy life.” A study by The British
Journal of Psychiatry found that nearly seven out of 10 prostitutes met
the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, the same as victims of
torture and war veterans undergoing treatment.
The street girls are the most desperate and vulnerable “workers” in
Britain’s expanding sex industry. In 2004 the number of prostitutes in
the UK was officially estimated at 80,000 but the real figure has
increased significantly since then and is now believed to be over
100,000. The rise has been fuelled by an influx of thousands of women
from eastern Europe, most of them trafficked into this country and
forced into sexual slavery. Brothels, thinly disguised as “massage
parlours” and “saunas”, have sprouted up in even the smallest market
towns, while a bewildering array of sexual services, as prostitution is
euphemistically known, is offered on the internet.
Demand, almost entirely from men, has risen sharply too. There are male
prostitutes and “escorts” who cater for female clients, but the
overwhelming majority of punters are male. A typical male user of street
girls is white, often middle class, in his 30s or 40s, frequently
married with children, and in search of anonymous and untraceable
encounters, according to a study by researchers at Sunderland
university. The punters come from all walks of life. “You get factory
workers and labourers but also doctors, judges, policemen — and they can
all be violent,” says Ms Shepherd.
n a recent survey of 11,000 men, the British Medical Association found
that the proportion of men who have had sex with prostitutes has nearly
doubled in 10 years from just under one in 20 of the male population to
one in 10, with single university graduates more likely to have paid for
sex than married men and non-graduates.
The figures reflect a recent trend for younger men, in their late teens
and twenties, to use prostitutes, albeit mainly those in massage
parlours and other brothels rather than street girls. “Sex without
strings” is seen as part of their night’s entertainment. Diana Marshall,
who runs the Poppy Project in south London, Britain’s only
government-funded refuge for trafficked women, blames society’s
“normalisation” of the sex industry.
“It used to be taboo to go with a prostitute, something to be done
furtively, something that brought shame if you were found out,” she
said. “But now it has become something to do on a stag night or a night
out with the boys. It’s considered a bit of a laugh to go to a
lap-dancing club or a brothel and pay for sex.”
Other indicators, she says, include the rapid spread of lap-dancing
clubs, “lads’ mags”, internet pornography and “punters’ websites” on
which hundreds of prostitutes are “reviewed” in graphic detail in the
manner of a mock theatre or restaurant review. “It’s disgraceful that
this has been allowed to happen,” says Ms Marshall. “This is basically
society saying it’s okay to exploit women in the 21st century.”
Pole-dancing is a sensitive topic. “It is inextricably linked to
prostitution and the exploitation of women,” she says. The BBC scrapped
plans for a programme called Strictly Come Pole-Dancing in July after
objections from women’s groups, and Ms Marshall complained
unsuccessfully to Tesco when the supermarket chain began selling a
“pole-dancing kit”, complete with pole and fake dollars to put into the
dancer’s garter. Tesco says it is for “people who want to improve their
fitness”.
No woman chooses to be a prostitute, the charities say, least of all a
streetwalker, and there is always coercion. The world’s oldest
profession is really the world’s oldest oppression. “A job in which drug
addiction, homelessness, rape and murder are occupational hazards is
hardly a career choice,” says a spokesman for Women for Justice. The
reality is a brutally far cry from the romantic film Pretty Woman, in
which Julia Roberts plays an implausibly beautiful street hooker
“rescued” by a millionaire businessman played by Richard Gere.
Most groups say more must be done to target the men who use prostitutes.
They want the law to be changed to make it a criminal offence to use a
prostitute – though not to be a prostitute — a reform that in Sweden has
helped to cut the number of street girls by two-thirds. British police
carry out occasional undercover operations to arrest kerb-crawlers but
admit they have limited resources and “competing priorities”.
This situation is not helped by the UK’s muddled laws. Prostitution is
not illegal but soliciting for purposes of prostitution, keeping a
brothel and kerb-crawling are. Prostitutes fined for soliciting simply
return to the streets to make money to pay the fine, while still, of
course, having to feed drug habits costing hundreds of pounds a week. As
a result, they will take even more risks. A woman can “work” from home
or visit a client in a hotel room, but a flat or house where two or more
women are so working is deemed an illegal brothel. In a review published
last January, the Government announced its intention to allow up to
three women or men (two prostitutes and a “maid”) to work in
“mini-brothels” to give them better protection, though the plan has met
with fierce opposition and there is no sign of it being implemented.
Ministers are more likely to push through a less controversial proposal
to send kerb-crawlers on “education courses” rather than fine them up to
£1,000 as at present.
The search for solutions has produced bitter divisions between advocates
of “zero-tolerance” and supporters of “tolerance zones”, similar to
those in Continental cities such as Amsterdam. Middlesbrough has led the
way with a “zero-tolerance” approach allied to attempts to get
prostitutes into drug rehabilitation. The scheme has reduced the number
of girls on the streets from 250 (including 14-year-olds) in 1999, to
about 15 today, and there has not been a murder of a prostitute for
three years.
Opponents say that zero-tolerance simply displaces women to neighbouring
towns. Bolton has taken the opposite view and has created a de facto
tolerance zone between 7pm and 7am, when prostitutes are given condoms,
clean needles and advice on getting off drugs. Officials say the scheme
has helped some women to leave the trade. Brian Iddon, the MP for Bolton
South East and chairman of the parliamentary Misuse of Drugs group, said
the women should be given free drugs to get them off the streets and, in
the meantime, brothels should be legalised. “Criminalising these women
will drive them underground and make them even more desperate,” he says.
The Association of Chief Police Officers recognises prostitutes as
“victims” but is opposed to “decriminalisation” and “tolerance zones”.
Ann Lucas, the chairman of the Local Government Association’s
prostitution task group, said: “We don’t tolerate murder or paedophilia.
As a local authority we don’t want to manage prostitution. We want to
eradicate it.”
A growing body of doctors, drugs charities, social workers and some
senior police officers, however, agrees with Dr Iddon and wants all
addicts to be given hard drugs free on prescription. A “maintenance
dose” taken under supervision, along with counselling and safe houses,
would help addicts start to lead a normal life and, they say, wipe out
much of the crime linked to hard drugs. Such a radical initiative would
cost much more than the £597 million the Government has allocated for
drug treatment this year but proponents say the extra funding would be
more than recovered in savings made by the criminal justice system as
the drug-related crime rate tumbled.
For some there is a more immediate solution: keep men off the streets.
“It makes me furious that the police are telling women to stay in
because of what happened in Ipswich,” says Diane Marshall. “Women are
not the problem. It’s men who should be under curfew.”

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