By Jonny Roberts
The alarming case of murdered prostitutes in the news at the moment, echoing the Ipswich murders years before, is bringing out some ugly feelings amongst the British public. The response from many is to express sadness at this tragedy but quickly move on, uncomfortable to stick on a subject that centres on such a taboo as women who offer their body in exchange for money. An even worse response comes from a few who mutter about these women ‘asking for it’ by taking the decision to enter prostitution.
Its always dangerous to stereotype and indeed many women selling sex in this country do so because they know they can earn a pretty good wage from a task that takes up much less time than 40 hours a week in a mainstream job and every now and then can even be relatively enjoyable. However we cannot escape the fact that many, quite probably the majority, of women who engage in prostitution (or ‘escorting’ as our society demands we call it to make it more acceptable) do so because they find themselves unable to cope with financial problems whether this be simply covering rent as they cannot get another job they would prefer or dealing with spiralling debts from two decades of British society’s laissez-faire attitudes to credit or worse, from the cost of drug addictions – addictions which of course hold them back from engaging in the aforementioned ‘mainstream’ employment.
With the terrible story of these poor women in the news at the moment now is the time for our politicians, and indeed our media and society, to stop pretending this industry doesn’t exist or making villains out of the women who engage in it when they do recognise its existence. The time has come for a full debate on how best to find and support the women caught in debt, drugs or other problems so bad that prostitution is their only alternative by ensuring an amnesty to all sex workers thus taking away their fear of turning to police, health and social workers etc. It is also the time to debate legalising the formation of so-called ‘co-operative brothels’ where sex workers would be able to operate in safety instead of the street.
There’s a long way to go to sort out all of society’s problems that lead women to desperately engage in prostitution but this is a moment for change that begins supporting those who have fallen into these situations.