By Hilary White

LONDON, January 31, 2005 ( – One of the most prestigious medical publications in the world, the British Medical Journal, has published an editorial calling for the legalisation of brothels. Fiona Godlee, the Journal’s editor said that the creation of legalised establishments in which three prostitutes would work together would reduce child prostitution and sex-slavery, a proposal denounced by anti-trafficking activists.

Godlee is responding to a proposal of the Blair government to change the definition of what constitutes a brothel in order to allow up to three women to work from the same address. A government strategy document said, “At present only one person may work as a prostitute – more than that…and the premises are classed in case law as a brothel.”

Godlee is following the “harm reduction” philosophy that is increasingly popular with dispensers of public health programmes that “sex work” should be protected, not stopped. She writes, “It is surely time for an end to the arguments of moral opprobrium and for some bolder steps towards legalisation if we are to improve public health and human rights.”

Anti-trafficking activists are seeing many governments going down the legalisation path.  Gregory Carlin of the Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition said, “It is not possible to make street prostitution safe.”

“Allowing prostitutes to work in licensed premises has not helped prevent child prostitution, people trafficking and slavery in Holland, Australia, New Zealand or Germany,” Carlin told

Godlee wrote that the present prohibition on brothels “runs counter to advice that women should not work alone in the interest of safety. The Government will make proposals for an amendment to the definition of a brothel so two or three individuals may work together.”

“Child protectionists are trying to identify how many sex offenders are working in the British health service. The BMJ should perhaps invest some learned scribbling towards a solution of that issue,” said Carlin.
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