‘Choice’ for the majority of women who enter this industry is an illusion; in reality it is a perceived lack of viable alternative choices which drives women into prostitution.
Tellingly, even Cari Mitchel, of the English Collective of Prostitutes, exposes the ‘free choice’ myth in her response to the cross-party report in favour of the Nordic model in March last year: ‘We are appalled that at a time when benefit cuts and sanctions, lowering wages, increased homelessness and debt are forcing more women, particularly mothers, into prostitution the best that MPs can come up with is to increase criminalisation.’
In 2015 in the UK, are we really expected to accept prostitution as a viable safety net for vulnerable women forced into it through desperate circumstances?
In spite of this the Liberal Democrats state that decriminalisation would ‘help foster a positive culture where the importance of informed and enthusiastic consent is paramount.’
A world in which women are expected to enthusiastically consent to selling their bodies to men is only a ‘positive culture’ if you happen to be a pimp, brothel owner or buyer; the true beneficiaries of decriminalisation. The reality is that a prostitute is paid to fake consent to sex which she does not desire; she puts up with it, bears it or suffers terribly through it because the transaction has been made and she has no choice. Her ‘consent’ has been bought.
The Nordic model, uniquely, recognises prostitution for what it is: a form of violence towards women rooted within a context of structured gender inequality. The model transfers culpability to the men who buy women and recognises that the only way to tackle the global trade in women’s and girls’ bodies is to structure policy to reduce the demand that fuels it.
Legitimising the business, on the other hand, leads to growth, increased competition and the driving down of prices. Expansion creates increased demand which creates more trafficking because there are never enough women who want to do this job. Decriminalisation hands the power to the sex industry.
Which party has the political will to ensure that the UK doesn’t go down that route?