Philobiblon: Blair's police state takes aim at morality

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Blair's police state takes aim at morality

The Blair government, rather than reforming the 50-year-old law on prostitution, has decided to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to street prostitution. (Thus employing, again, one of its favourite phrases.)

This is supposed to be linked to services to help the sex workers off the streets - the government says 95 per cent of those on the streets are drug addicts. In theory, fine and good. Ditto that male clients are supposed to be as much the target as the primarily women workers.

Except, what is easier? To swoop along the street and pick up women leaning against telegraph poles dressed in fishnets and miniskirts, or to pick up men who stop - men often who will have the money for top lawyers, and a neat cover story about being lost and asking for directions. Who do you think is most likely to be nicked, and convicted?

And what will be easier, fining those women (where WILL the money come from?) and locking them up for a few days or weeks, or meeting their complex needs for addiction treatment, counselling, support, accommodation, etc? Will the government really put in the money to make that happen? What WOULD the Daily Mail think?

Reading through a chronology of London history I came to 1506, the headline "Brothels suppressed". "A royal ordinance this year suppressed the 'stews', or brothels, of Southward, but 12 of the 18 were allowed to reopen shortly afterwards." (From The Annals of London John Richardson)

It seems governments never learn.

An anniversary worth noting: 30 years since the British Sex Discrimination Act.

That link is to a reasonably positive view, but the Indy has gone for the negative:

Women working part time today earn nearly 38.4 per cent less than men performing equivalent work. In 1975 the figure was 42 per cent. For full-time workers the gap is 17.2 per cent compared to 42 per cent 30 years ago. ... each year about 30,000 working women are sacked, made redundant or leave their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination.

I tend to think we should be celebrating; there's a lot to do, but one hell of a lot has been achieved in three decades.


Anonymous Pip said...

A fairly typical Blair action. His monochromatic view of the world, from his Christian beliefs, is a simplistic choice between good and evil. And of course he knows what is evil and therefore must protect us from it resulting in the erosion of civil liberties, more and more suppression and the entrenchment of the police state in a supposedly democratic country.

On your other point about sex discimination I like you would prefer to look at the postives. However, I still think we have a long way to go even here in the UK. From a wider perspective it seem from this post at gendergeek that we have only taken the first few faltering steps?

12/29/2005 11:05:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's shocking really how unlevel the playing field still is. If this were an issue about race or religion there would howls of outrage across the land. People who campaign for women's issues are dismissed in that way feminists often are.


12/29/2005 11:27:00 am  
Anonymous Antonia said...

Natalie, I don't think anywhere in that article there are any implications that the zero tolerance policy is focussed on women, but instead on the men who pay for sex. This looks to me like the floating of a positive set of proposals from the Home Office...

12/29/2005 12:55:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

This story is carefully slanted that way, in a very Guardian manner, but it doesn't say that the women will be left alone, and the statement of the figures - "the number of women cautioned for soliciting fell from 3,323 in 1993 to 732 in 2000" - suggests the direction in which this is headed.

I also heard several BBC radio interviews in which the targetting of the women was more clearly admitted.

It is clear the government intends to tighten enforcement of a law that has been drifting out of use, which means the women will be arrested, and as I say in the post, the women are much easier targets than the men, and we know the police like easy targets.

12/29/2005 02:12:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Pip, women's progress is a bit of a half-empty/half-full thing. I tend towards the positive, because taking say the perspective of 2,000 years, we have come a hell of a long way in a short time. My negative view is that we must recognise that progress can be reversed, and we have to fight to keep what we have, as well as to make progress.

12/29/2005 02:14:00 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Prohibition works! After all, they made drugs illegal, and just like that you couldn't buy drugs any more.....right?

Alternatively, this is just a buncha Murdoch/Powellite populist-and-ACPO empire-building bullshit in a New Labour feminist coating. Worse. The economics of it are pure Tebbit. Enough jail and those whores will have to Get On Their Bikes and Go Back To Work.

The logic is that 1) prostitution is a form of abuse and 2) prostitutes are compelled by economic and social desperation to be so. Repression is always easier than change, so presumably they will (still being damaged by abuse, desperate etc) take to more acceptable professions? Or perhaps freeze and starve?

12/30/2005 12:16:00 am  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

It's shocking really how unlevel the playing field still is. If this were an issue about race or religion there would howls of outrage across the land.

You should not take these figures at face-value, mainly because they do not compare like with like. In fact, they are a fiddle; a lie, if you like.

See Chris Dillow here, and Tim Worstall here and here (to start with).


1/02/2006 02:22:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Women working part time today earn nearly 38.4 per cent less than men performing equivalent work.

I agree the way these figures are presented are less than transparent - classic newspapers going for the maximum impact. Nonetheless they are factual.

I don't know if there are any figures on this, but I'd suspect part-time workers are probably more productive than full-time, (most of us probably do more in the first 20 hours of the working week than the second). Yet we all know they are paid less (as these figures confirm) and treated as less than full professional colleagues.

1/02/2006 10:52:00 am  
Blogger Samara said...

The punishmant for provider vs consumer in this type of issue is consistent with other types of crime- drugs, for example, where the dealer's sentence is harsher than that of the buyer/possessor.

1/05/2006 09:09:00 pm  

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