Fri Dec 15th, 2006 at 03:18:44 AM EST
The most disturbing thing about Ipswich is its ordinariness. A middle sized county town, much of the English population lives in or around somewhere similar. But a serial killer is on the loose;
the bodies of five women, (three identified as Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol and Anneli Alderton, and two believed to be Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls) have been found in the last two weeks. All were involved in the sex trade.
The latest woman to disappear-Paula Clennell-continued to work despite the dangers. She told an ITN news crew that she needed the money. But it had made her
'a bit wary about getting into cars'.
Brought across from the diaries - afew
According to this study prostitutes have a risk of being murdered of 229 in 100,000: a level approximately 100 times that of the general population in Europe, and 40 times that in America.
In any case, the death of a single sex worker is unlikely to make the national news. In 1991, the kidnapper Michael Sams tested his method on an eighteen year old girl called Julie Dart. There is no reason to suppose she was chosen for any reasons other than her vulnerability working on the streets and the assumption that the death of a prostitute wouldn't create much of a stir.
Sams wasn't far wrong.
Peter Sutcliffe, the so-called Yorkshire Ripper, provoked this statement from the police in 1982:
"...the Ripper, having previously murdered prostitutes, is now seeking victims among innocent women." ('Crime, Class and Corruption: The Politics of the Police', Audrey Farrell, 1992, p128)
I haven't been able to link to the headline of today's Telegraph newspaper, but its chosen term for prostitutes-vice girls-says much about this attitude still existing today.
Protecting sex workers- three models.
It isn't surprising that many models involve getting prostitutes off the streets and into a safe, supervised area.
The Cologne Model
Based on a system already working in Utrecht, this provides a safe zone for prostitutes to meet clients and access services. In a fenced-off area covered by CCTV, sex takes place in cubicles fitted with panic buttons and a second exit.
(Deutsche Welle) But it's estimated that only 300 out of Cologne's estimated 4000 prostitutes choose to work here. Possible reasons include reluctance of clients to come to this area and distrust of the authorities.
The Nevada model
This system legalizes and licenses brothels, requiring health checks and compulsory condom use.
(wikipedia) Typically, the women work as independent contractors. The system, where a man chooses a woman from a line up, obviously makes it much harder for older or less attractive women to make a living. Drug tests would be likely to exclude all five women murdered in Ipswich. If the quoted figure of $300 per half hour is typical, this would seem to cater to the high end of the market. While there's obviously room for a shift downmarket, especially if the cost of health checks were to be picked up by the government, it's questionable whether this could get all prostitutes off the streets. A brothel, which makes its money as a proportion of the prostitute's fee, is always going to prefer to provide space to young, beautiful women who show up on time. Can this model absorb and protect the most marginalized?
The Swedish model
takes a radically different view:
"In Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. It is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children and constitutes a significant social problem... gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them." Swedish government literature
The Swedish approach is to criminalize prostitutes' clients, but not the prostitutes themselves, who are offered support to get out of the profession.
The headline results have been dramatic:
In the capital city of Stockholm the number of women in street prostitution has been reduced by two thirds.....In addition, the number of foreign women now being trafficked into Sweden for sex is nil. The Swedish government estimates that in the last few years only 200 to 400 women and girls have been annually sex trafficked into Sweden, a figure that's negligible compared to the 15,000 to 17,000 females yearly sex trafficked into neighboring Finland.
Unfortunately, I can no longer find the link, but criticisms include the possibility that much of the problem has been exported as sex tourism (according to wikipedia Estonia is one country to make such a complaint), together with the opinion of some prostitutes that (a) the loss of the on-street network, (b) the fact that all clients are edgy, making it hard to spot an excited and potentially violent client, and (c) that decisions about whether to get into cars now have to be made very fast, have combined to increase their personal risk.
Moreover, not every prostitute wants to give up, and eliminating prostitution is the main aim of the Swedish legislation. Insisting that these women don't know what is best for them, and aren't capable of making their own choice is the difficult paradox of the feminist prostitution narrative.
So- what is the best way to stop prostitutes becoming victims of violence? The floor is open...
A note about terms. I've used prostitute as a technical term for a person who contracts to exchanges sex for money or drugs. I'd like to acknowledge the existence and vulnerability of male prostitutes, though most information available relates to women.