Sex slaves, not street girls, are real problem

Some of the women working in the city’s brothels are being  forced to make money  for organised crime
VICTIMS: Some of the women working in the city’s brothels are being forced to make money for organised crime
Some of the women working in the city’s brothels are being  forced to make money  for organised crime
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MONDAY’S Evening News reported, accurately of course, on what Chief Inspector Brian Plastow said about the effect on street prostitution in Leith of the new law on kerb-crawling.
The officer in charge of policing north Edinburgh said there hadn’t been a single report to suggest that women are working elsewhere in the city, or that more of them are working indoors.I believe him, but I don’t necessarily draw the same conclusions as the Chief Inspector, on the behavioural change achieved by the new law. It’s true that fewer women are to be seen on the street in Leith. This trend was established some years ago, and has continued, not because many fewer women turn to prostitution either regularly or intermittently, but because more of them work from flats or houses, making use of mobile phones and the internet.

The kerb-crawling law on its own won’t end prostitution, even though it may appear to have discouraged some drivers from frequenting a known red light area. But I wonder how many members of the public expect anything more from the kerb-crawling law other than that it should end the nuisance, alarm and embarrassment caused by sex being offered for sale in residential or business streets?

In Aberdeen, street prostitution was confined to a docks area with a handful of residential properties adjacent to warehouses and depots that close around tea-time. As a result, kerb-crawling has not been an issue, unlike the area in Glasgow’s East End in which residents were inconvenienced and annoyed by kerb-crawlers, as were residents around, and adjacent to Leith Links, when prostitutes moved there on the discontinuation of the managed zone centred on Salamander Yard business development.

Having spoken to many, many members of the public on their attitudes to prostitution itself, to kerb-crawling and their expectations of laws relating to both, I believe that, while there’s practically no approval of the oldest profession as a career, this is matched by the almost universal belief that it’s part of the human condition and will continue in some form.

So if you notice that a woman living near you has an exceedingly wide circle of men friends who drop in for a visit with great regularity, will you report your suspicions to the police? Or, if your neighbour’s visitors don’t alarm or annoy you, and if she herself behaves in a quite unremarkable fashion, how likely are you to live and let live, since your neighbour’s activities don’t invade your privacy or property?

There are, of course, some people, like the MSPs who pushed this law through, whose personal morality is so offended by prostitution that they’re blind to the unexpected consequences of getting tough on street prostitution, even when it isn’t invasive of the privacy of home-owners etc.

This kerb-crawling law may deter some drivers from using street workers (although experience elsewhere shows a reduction, not an elimination), but there’s nothing to prove they stop buying sex .

And if clients do continue to find ways, in what circumstances and at what risk to their safety are former street prostitutes working?

Experience after Edinburgh’s managed area was dropped shows the difficulty experienced by Scotpep, for example, in contacting women with the health, safety, financial and information services they require.

It’s also impossible to build the trust required to help them get out of prostitution when they’re ready to try.

Instead of tying up police and court resources in pursuing an activity that can fairly be described as marginal in three out of four of Scotland’s big cities, I believe the attention should focus on the women working indoors who’re not exercising free choice, and who may have been trafficked here.

These women are out of sight, and for most of us, out of mind. They’re no better than slaves and they’re forced to make money for organised crime networks from punters who’ve deserted the outdoors red light districts.

These women are victims. Is it not ironic that their much less victimised sisters under the skin who work in hotels, casinos and nice restaurants as escorts, should be able to go about their business as usual?


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