A dystopian zone of tolerated prostitution closes in Leeds, England
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June 18, 2021 (LifeSIteNews) — Since 2014, the local police and city government have allowed a slab of the city of Leeds in England to become a crime-ridden nightmare, in the forlorn hope that other parts of the city would benefit. This bizarre policy has finally been scrapped.
The U.K.’s laws against prostitution are far from satisfactory, but they do exist. It is illegal to solicit for paid sex, and this includes what is known as “curb crawling.” It is also illegal to “live off immoral earnings”, which outlaws brothels. The city council and the police of Leeds announced that these laws would not be enforced in a certain mainly non-residential area of the city between 8pm and 6am. The area was nevertheless heavily monitored — or so it was claimed — and the scheme cost the city and police around £300,000. It should have come as no surprise that the designated area, and increasingly areas around its borders, became a kind of enterprise zone for criminals engaging in rape, sex trafficking, drugs, and even murder. I hesitate to reproduce descriptions of what it was like, but a lot of physical cleaning-up had to be undertaken every morning at the city’s expense, the problems continued 24-hours a day, and people who lived nearby were far from happy.
The claim, as always with these ideas, is that it would be safer for the prostitutes. The same argument is made in favor of “needle parks” where people can abuse drugs without being molested by the forces of law and order. By some measures such schemes can sometimes claim to be successful — in this case, the “success” was simply that prostitutes felt able to report more crimes committed against them—but these measures of success tend to miss the point. The problems can be summarized under three headings.
First, zones of toleration of illegal activity invariably create a haven for a wider range of crimes. This is because prostitution is not, in general, just a matter of a woman selling her services to a man: it tends to involve pimping, trafficking, and drug abuse: the last of these being, very often, the incentive for women to undertake this degrading occupation, or of men to force women to do so. If the police have been told to leave prostitutes alone, how are they going to go after the illegal people-smugglers and drug-dealers who are so closely involved with them?
Actually, it is worse than that. One woman told a journalist:
One night I was screaming my head off when a nasty punter got really rough with me, but these two coppers just walked past. All they want is to shove us away from the city centre so we don’t put off the tourists and those going out for meals.
Again, a resident was able to observe a brothel which the women, apparently, never leave. Do they move in and close it down? Apparently not.
Second, immunity from prosecution increases the number of prostitutes. Even if it is true (which I doubt) that the average prostitute is safer, the total amount of harm being done may still be dramatically increasing. This is particularly obvious if the low-level prostitution typical of a city like Leeds is transformed into an industrial-scale phenomenon with women being trafficked into the area specially.
Third, the policy of toleration is not only an alternative to helping women escape prostitution, but it also makes such efforts more difficult. The incentives to leave the life of prostitution are reduced; the power of the police and social services to intervene in some really terrible situations is nullified; and the whole ideology of de-criminalization refuses to see prostitution as something women should be helped to escape in any case.
“So what?” they say, “if prostitutes are being trafficked, imprisoned, robbed, raped, and killed, by their drug-addicted pimps or by their clients?”
“Prostitution is a legitimate career-choice,” this ideology asserts, “and the women should be allowed to get on with it — with free health-checks and someone cleaning up the mess on the pavement at regular intervals, ideally.”
The way that it has come to be seen as “progressive” to tolerate the utter degradation and exploitation of some of the most vulnerable members of society — who are very often immigrants — is extraordinary, but as I have argued before, it has appeal to some people as a way to attack the traditional conception of femininity.
It is good to see that the desperately grim reality of this particular experiment has finally brought it to a close, though I see that some of its supporters are trying to save face by saying that the COVID-19 epidemic has reduced demand for it, and that this is the reason for its closure. In fact, however, the creation of areas in which prostitution is tolerated has also been tried in The Netherlands, and these zones have also all been closed. Local residents, at least, are capable of learning from experience, even if progressive ideologues are reluctant to do so.