December 11, 2006

Prostitutes in Ipswich

Ellee Seymour on her blog has recently highlighted the deaths of two prostitutes in Ipswich, she has added her voice to those calling for a temporary amnesty for prostitutes in the city so as to enable them to give evidence without fear of arrest. Given that it seems that a third body has now been found, the situation seems even more grave than when Ellee made her call. It seems more likely there may be a serial killer on the loose, targetting prostitutes.

I don't want to get here into the argument for or against criminalisation of prostitution. There are important arguments both for and against, and some of the academic evidence for example about the way that strippers are abused makes one stop and think about what would happen if prostitution were legalised. Having said that prostitution is a self regarding act, or a contractual one, and it is difficult therefore to justify its prohibition. It certainly can't be said to be in the same class as murder and if we were to justify its illegality I wonder whether the criminality of a prostitute is more like the criminality of someone who sells themselves into slavery than that of a murderer. But we must not, whatever we think of that question, believe that prostitutes are anything other than, in the majority of cases, incredibly vulnerable women who live lives of danger and exploitation. By virtue of being prostitutes they do not lose their humanity.

Its impossible to know at this point in time what form this murder inquiry should take without more intimate knowledge of the case or of policing methods, but if an amnesty would be helpful, there is no argument that I can see against granting it temporarily until this bloody murderer or these bloody murderers are caught.

LATER There was a brief item on the Today program this morning which contains some new details. I am no expert in this case but I would reccomend anyone who is interested in this case to go over to Ellee's blog as she has covered this for longer and in much more detail than I have.


dreadnought said...

I thought prostitution was legal. How can an agreement and act between 2 consenting adults be otherwise? Is it not the act of soliciting that is illegal? I don’t therefore understand what Ellee Seymour is talking about. A prostitute can already give evidence without fear and even more so when or if a serial killer is on the loose.

Gracchi said...

I think the problem is that soliciting is illegal so though technically you are right prostitution isn't illegal the actual business of prostitution soliciting for clients is. Not to mention the fact that brothels are illegal.

Ellee said...

Hi Gracchi, I have written on this several times now and not repeated all the same points each time, hoping the links would add the clarification and full details.

But yes, I am referring to having legalised brothels that are registered with local authorities which would bring prostitutes off the streets, as well as ensure they had health checks. It is the soliciting that is illegal, as you say, as well as living off immoral earnings. Hopefully, having registered brothels would mean that soliciting was no longer necessary and the taxman would get his share.

I understand another 2 prostitutes are missing too, a terrifying situation so close to us.

Gracchi said...

Yes I saw that- I know you've written brilliantly and eloquently about this case and the fact that another two maybe missing makes it even more terrible. I rather leaped on your bandwagon here- but I do think its something where us citizen journalists can show through repeating the fact that an amnesty is a good idea can make the police see that there won't be a public negative reaction to having one.

Ellee said...

Gracchi, Lots of bloggers are writing about it now, it's a subject that can't be ignored.

Did you realise a large number of killers have escaped from prisons in Suffolk in recent years? How safe does that make local people feel?

Gracchi said...

I'm glad maybe I'm just myopic- someone got to me yesterday and we were the only hits on the subject. The London evening paper had the rumour that the police were looking at a man who called himself uncle and drove round looking for prostitutes and taking them to dealers. That may just be a lead though to someone who is innocent. You'd imagine that those murderers will be the first people looked at, though I'm not sure about this but most people who murder don't do so again- its a small minority who do again- I might be wrong about that.

Liz said...

I only heard about this news last night, having not been in the country. I've written fairly extensively on my blog about the prostitution issue - my view being that it should not be 'legalised' (i.e state regulated with discriminatory health checks and all). There are also problems as legal bosses are prone to exploit. I believe it should be decriminalised (i.e treated as a private matter). Public policy should onlu come into it in terms of keeping the peace, so there may be a case for regulating street prostitution in terms of tolerance zones, but to leave indoor prostitution as an individaul thing, contractual sex, whatever. Also sex wrkers should have access to services, including non coercive medical care. And the ability to register as self employed and pay taxes with what that entails. Perhaps licensed sex establishments could be an option but with the option of letting women work from home freely if they want, with the abolition of the 'immoral earnings' charge so that their partners will be left alone too. I believe prostitution is decriminalised in New Zealand,

Gracchi, I hope that in our era few people would believe that the women who have died have 'asked for it' or are any less of a human being than a 'respectable woman'. I don't have the time to go into all my views - but strictly speaking I regard marriages of convenience to be inherently the same thing as prostitution, difference is that one is for rent, one is for permanent sale. In and of itself I don't think renting sexual services is inherently different than renting out another part of yourself for 'wage slavery'. I don't think one can define prostitution as 'slavery' while letting regular wage slavery and exploitation of workers off the hook as if one is better or worse than the other. In my view it isn't.

However, there is no doubt that most ( I won't say all) prostitutes are vulnerable due to their criminalisation and the fact that it is normally vulnerable or desperate people who take on work which they know they will be socially villified by 'respectable' people and society for doing. But I think people should avoid assuming they are all like Nancy out of Oliver Twist, although a few may be.

Gracchi said...

Thanks Liz as you can probably gather from my comments I'm ambivalent about legalisation, decriminalisation sounds attractive but honestly I'm not sure I know the issue enough to comment seriously. I'll definitely come over and look through your arguments and thanks for commenting.