What do we do about street Prostitution?
One of the interesting and possibly positive side effects from the horror story in Ipswich is the dialogue and debate about the legal status of prostitutes.
The soft underbelly of Britain today is occasionally exposed to public gaze and this case is one such time when ordinary members of the public have to face the reality that -even in a secondary town like Ipswich- there can be hundreds of girls out on the streets in danger every week.
Why do they do it? What makes perfectly sensible people risk their lives to make their living in this way? Risking not just violent abuse but sexual diseases, arrest and imprisonment, and complete social exclusion?
In a word, hard drugs.
Estimates vary, but around 70% of prostitutes are thought to be drug addicts and most of those are the street girls who face the biggest danger.
Should we legalise prostitution? Well I do believe those who argue that the current legislation works against those most vulnerable by outlawing brothels and forcing more girls to streetwalk but otherwise I am not convinced that their legal status is the problem.
The issue, like so many others today, comes back to drug addiction.
Unless and until we can bring ourselves to accept that blanket prohibition simply acts an an incentive for criminality - addicts push hard drugs to others to finance their habit in a kind of pyramid selling scheme- we can never begin to tackle the problem properly.
Sure, a massive increase in rehab schemes as we propose will help, but will it solve the problem?- I don't think so.