Earlier I linked to a piece from Meghan Murphy about the decriminalisation of prostitution. Here is Finn McKay’s take.

Debates over legal approaches to prostitution have been awakened once again following recent comments from Simon Byrne, the ACPO lead on prostitution and sexual exploitation[1]. His comments promoting the legalisation of brothels are based on the example of New Zealand, which introduced this approach in 2003. Prostitution has long been a contentious issue in the Women’s Liberation Movement, splitting Feminist individuals and groups. This is largely because the debate is often reduced to an either/or argument between harm minimisation and abolition, with those veering towards the latter view accused of moralism, conservatism and, worse, of a disregard for women’s safety. It is perhaps timely then to revisit the Feminist understanding of prostitution as a form of violence against women, and this article will attempt to address some of the contemporary challenges to this political stance[2].

Readers are probably familiar with the argument that prostitution is work like any other, that the decision to enter this industry is a matter of individual choice, with which the state or anyone else should not interfere, but only facilitate that choice to be enacted as safely as possible.

Groups like the English Collective of Prostitutes (part of Wages for Housework) are calling for what is known as brothelisation, the state legalisation of brothels, similar to that in Australia and New Zealand, describing prostitution as “consenting sex” which “should not be the business of the criminal law”[3]. Groups like the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW)[4] also advocate the New Zealand model, and promote prostitution as a legitimate business.

There are some things I’m sure everyone would agree on, for example, that those involved/exploited in this industry should not be criminalised. Feminist groups are calling for decriminalisation of those exploited in prostitution; for the crimes of loitering and soliciting to be removed from the statute and for any records for these offences to be wiped, as having such a record only further inhibits women from entry into the formal labour market, training or education and unfairly brands them a criminal. Feminist groups are not calling for women in prostitution to be criminalised, and Feminist groups do not support the fining or imprisoning of women or the serving of anti-social behaviour orders.

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