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Socialism Feminism and Prositution

Socialism Feminism and Prositution

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Published by Mhairi Mcalpine

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Published by: Mhairi Mcalpine on Jul 11, 2011
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Socialism, Feminism and Prostitution
Mhairi McAlpine, Falkirk Branch
Introduction
Prostitution is currently a live issue in the Scottish Parliament with Margo McDonald anindependent MSP proposing a bill which would legalise prostitution within recognised“Tolerance Zones”. These zones would be established by the local authority following noticeand consultation with the police local health board, property owners in the area residentsgroups and the community council for the area. These would be in place for up to three yearsand designate the times that it would operate and a code of conduct for anyone using thezone. Setting up any such area would effectively legalise prostitution within its geographicaland temporal boundaries.The SSP’s six MSP’s were signatories to the first reading of this bill (which enables it to goforward for further discussion) appreciating that the current laws victimise poor women and assomething which should be actively considered within the Scottish Parliament. At SSPconference 2004, this issue was debated with three main positions being presented inmotions and amendments…1.To support the Tolerance Zones Bill as presented.2.To decriminalise prostitution3.To criminalise the users of prostituted women.Conference agreed to remit this debate for further discussion including a day school on theissue. This paper is submitted as a contribution to that debate.Position 1 supports the legalisation of prostitution within certain boundaries, while position 2calls for decriminalisation. It is unclear in which precise respects these would differ apart fromthe geographical and temporal boundaries. This paper considers the effects of legalisation incertain countries, only in New South Wales (Australia) was it decriminalised, which seems tohave combined the worst aspects of legalisation (increase in violent attacks, trafficking,under-age prostitution) with a lack of ability to enforce even the most basic health and safetylegislation.While it is acknowledged that there are significant numbers of prostituted men, this paper refers to male clients and prostituted women, as this is the most common form. Women buysex infrequently, usually from women and usually at the instigation of a male partner.However, criminalisation of clients would cover all who purchased sexual “services” whatever their sex or sexuality and whatever the sex of those who sold it.
Context of Prostitution in Scotland
Prostitution itself is not illegal in Scotland however many of the activities surrounding are.Street prostitution is dealt with under the Civic Government (Scotland Act, 1982, Section 48-1), which states that:
“a prostitute (whether male or female) who for the purposes of prostitution either 1.loiters in a public place2.solicits in a public place or in any other place so as to be seen from a public place or 3.importunes any person in a public placeshall be guilty of an offence” 
Socialism, Feminism and Prostitution1
 
These offences are not imprisonable, but are instead subject to a fine (£50 - £500). However many women end up in prison for non-payment of fines. Prostitution is classed as a “crime of indecency”, a sex offence in the same category as sexual assault. As such it must bedisclosed to potential employers and can act as a barrier to employment – particularly child-care and related sectors. The same legislation gives local councils the power to issuelicences to premises for public entertainment. This has been used by Edinburgh city councilto issue licences for “saunas” in which many are in reality brothels). However runningbrothels and “living off immoral earnings remain criminal offences.There is no specific legislation directed at clients in Scotland in contrast to the “kerb crawling”offence n the Sexual Offences (England and Wales) Act 1985.EdinburghThere are an estimated 1000 women working in prostitution in Edinburgh, with approximately75% working in indoor prostitution through saunas, escort agencies and private flats. Saunas(brothels) are regulated through entertainments licences granted to these establishments thisinvolving the local council the management of prostitutionStreet prostitution was tolerated in the area of Leith for approximately 20 years, where thepolice did not target prostituted women, but worked to ensure their safety. Specialist servicesfor prostituted women were also provided in the locale. It was promoted as a model of prostitution management - no under-age girls were working in the area and there was noopen drug dealing occurring. With the increased use of the area for residential purposes andin particular the gentrification which occurred in the 1990s, objections to the prostitutionincrease, and the policy of non-harassment by the police ended in 2002. Attacks onprostituted women have increased, and there has been a return to the targeting of the womenby the police. Edinburgh has a very large and quite public prostitution industry – althoughstreet prostitution is less visible now than when the non-harassment policy was in place, thebrothels are well known and quite visible – there is also a large sex-industry in Edinburghbeyond prostitution. There is evidence of domestic trafficking of women from Glasgow toEdinburgh to work in the brothels.Glasgow.Glasgow City council has taken an opposite route to Edinburgh. They have a “Zero-Tolerance” policy towards prostitution, although there is an unofficial red light zone in the citycentre, where women choose to wok because of the presence of cameras. There areapproximately 1000 women working in street prostitution95% of whom are estimates to haveaddiction problems and additional 100 are estimated to work indoors in “saunas” or privateflats. There is evidence of non-UK women being trafficked to Glasgow to meet the demandsof the industry.Until recently Glasgow city council had ignored prostitution as an issue however with thespate of murders in the 1990s a new approach was required. This has three aspects, anorganisation to assist women exit prostitution; a drop in centre to facilitate harm reduction andan interventionist policing strategy which has involved targeting the women. There areregularly 60 women from Glasgow in Corton Vale Prison through the non-payment of finesreceived whilst working in prostitution.AberdeenThere is estimated to be 175 women working in street prostitution in the industrial docklandsarea of the city where prostitution is tolerated. The women are given strict guidelines suchare when they can congregate and how many people are permitted in the area.Approximately 90% of the women are estimated to have addiction problems, and issues havearisen with drug dealers congregating in the area.Socialism, Feminism and Prostitution2
 
Experiences of Legalisation
The Netherlands.Over the last decade, as pimping became legalised and brothels decriminalised in theNetherlands, the sex industry expanded by 25%. The sex industry now accounts for 5% of the Dutch economy.In 200 the Ministry for Justice argued for a legal quote of foreign prostituted women to meetthe demand. The government has also recognised prostitution as an economic activity –allowing women from the EU and former soviet bloc countries to obtain working permits for prostitution. It is estimated that 80% of the women in brothels in the Netherlands aretrafficked, of which 70% are from central and Eastern Europe using this ruling to mask thetrafficking which remains illegal.Child prostitution in the Netherlands increased dramatically in the 1990s, estimates suggestfrom 4, 00 children in 1996 to 15,000 in 2001. It is estimated that at least 5000 of the childrenin prostitution are from other countries with a large segment being Nigerian girlsProstituted women (but not their clients) are regularly checked for contagious diseases – apractice which ensures that the state plays its party in providing disease free women fropurchase to gratify male sexual demand.Victoria, AustraliaLegalisation of brothel prostitution in the State of Victoria, Australia, has led to massiveexpansion of the sex industry. Whereas there were 40 legal brothels in Victoria in 1989, in1999 there were 94 along with 84 escort agencies. Illegal prostitution has also flourished,including illegal brothels and street prostitution. Other forms of sexual exploitation such astabletop dancing; BDSM clubs, peep shows , phone sex lines and pornography have alldeveloped in more profitable ways than before. The occupational health and safety codes,drawn up by the government, brothel keepers and prostitutes rights organisationsdemonstrate the amount of violence which has become a routine part of the prostitutedwomen’s lives by recommending training in the use of branding irons, whips canes andpiercing instruments, giving advice on how to be fist-fucked and how to deal with conflictsituations.Legalisation has normalised the industry with the pimps being considered legitimatebusinessmen and sitting together with the police and lawyers on the Prostitution ControlBoard. Rather than controlling prostituted women individually, they now do so with the fullbacking of state regulation. There is a culture in Victoria which is accepting of prostitutionwith an estimated 60, 000 men a week using prostituted women and one in six of the adultfemale population working in the sex industry. Brothels are listed on the stock exchangeallowing those with money to profit from women’s exploitation and abuse with out getting their hands dirty.The reasons given for legalising prostitution in Victoria were to limit the extent of a flourishingunderground industry and protect more vulnerable women. This has not happened in thecountry report on Australia it was noted “ Trafficking in East Asian women for the sex trade isa growing problem in Australia…lax laws – including legalised prostitution in parts of thecountry make [anti-trafficking] enforcement difficult at the working level. Child prostitution hasrisen dramatically in Victoria compared to other Australian states where prostitution has notbeen legalised. Of all the states and territories in Australia, the highest number of reportedincidences of child prostitution came from Victoria.
International Socialist Responses to Prostitution.
Russia, KollonkaProbably the most prominent female Bolshevik wrote extensively on the situation of women.She took a primarily materialist stance on prostitution; however acknowledged that theexpectation of economic security in return for sexual favours was enshrined in BourgeoisSocialism, Feminism and Prostitution3

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