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Sex work danger: what’s the solution?
It remains a widely debated issue.
Prostitutes plying their trade on Bradford’s streets is something that has been going on for a very long time, and while there are ongoing initiatives to tackle the issue it remains a cause of concern.
Perhaps more worrying is the potential danger these women put themselves in as they go about their business, and while services and organisations within the city are assisting sex workers in staying safe, the perils of this activity are constantly prevalent.
Alarmingly, the deaths of three sex workers, murdered by Stephen Griffiths – who christened himself the Crossbow Cannibal – when he admitted murdering Susan Rushworth, Shelley Armitage and Suzanne Blamires, at Leeds Crown Court in December 2010, haven’t curbed the activity which is still blighting the city’s red light areas in Thornton Road, City Road and the streets between.
Locals have already aired their concerns to the T&A about the activity they see occurring in their community, begging the widely debated issue whether or not prostitution should be legalised.
During his tenure as Bradford’s city centre priest, the Reverend Chris Howson, now a chaplain at Sunderland University, worked closely with the Sex Workers’ Union to emphasise the rights of working women.
Rev Howson also led prayer walks within the city and helped to rebuild Bradford’s tarnished reputation in the aftermath of the Crossbow Cannibal killings.
He believes decriminalisation rather than legalisation should be the focus.
“Decriminalising working women would work because it would mean they are not facing arrest or being charged for activities they are being forced to do,” he says.
One Bradford businessman, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the blight of prostitution in the city has been bad for business: “It has been terrible living among it all these years, but I think the police have clamped down on it a bit.”
He believes it can have a negative impact on businesses and believes the area where he trades has suffered.
“It has not developed in the way it could have done because of the blight of the red light area,” he adds.
While he appreciates what the police have done, he believes more resources should be put in to to deal with it. If not, he says he may support legalisation.
“The law is the law and the police have the right to take action, but if they cannot sort it out I think that is the next step.
“I would agree rather than it going underground. If it was done like the American style with a proper organised place, then I would have thought it would be the best thing.”
Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe, who was involved in the Home Office’s Prostitution Strategy launched in 2006, says: “I have always been a strong supporter of legalisation on the basis that you want to get young and vulnerable young women off the streets to make sure they are looked after.
“My view is it should be legalised and they should be protected.”
For some women prostitution is a profession and it is also a way of life. The majority of street sex workers are feeding a habit. For them needs must.
To help protect sex workers from potentially dangerous perpetrators, the National Ugly Mugs Scheme launched initially as a pilot scheme in July 2012 in Manchester.
The scheme’s aim is to improve the safety of sex workers by warning them of dangerous individuals who target sex workers, increase their confidence in reporting incidents to the police and enhance the level of intelligence regarding crimes committed against sex workers throughout the UK.
Alex Bryce, manager of the National Ugly Mugs Scheme, which is part of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, says: “In areas where street sex work causes tension in a local community, rather than arresting sex workers, further stigmatising them and exacerbating some of the problems that have contributed to them working on the streets in the first place, engaging with them and encouraging them to throw condoms in the bins or work in a particular area which might be less residential is a far more effective approach.
“Excessive enforcement of either anti-kerb crawling or anti-soliciting laws just forces sex workers to work underground, have less choice over punters and makes them more likely to be targeted by dangerous offenders and less likely to engage with police and health services.”