Tameside’s Lib Dem Euro-MP is calling for brothels to be made legal to provide greater security for prostitutes who work from them. Chris Davies claims that the killings of Suzanne Blamires, Susan Rushworth, and Shelley Armitage in Bradford highlight the urgent need for a new approach.
He said: “It is appalling that two or more prostitutes cannot work together under the same roof for their mutual protection without fear of criminal prosecution.
“The law does nothing to help keep them safe.”
His comments follow those of Prime Minister David Cameron who said last week that the issue of decriminalising prostitution-related offences should be “looked at again.”
Prostitution is legal in Britain but soliciting and the keeping of a brothel where two or more people may work as prostitutes is not. The 2003 Sexual Offences Act increased the maximum penalty to seven years imprisonment.
Criminologists claim that as many as 90 women working as prostitutes may have been murdered over the last ten years.
Davies says that local councils should be required to treat the licensing of brothels as a planning issue, following national guidelines to ensure minimum disturbance to any residents who may live in the vicinity.
“It’s not a matter of morality, but of practicality,” he said. “An open approach based on licensing and regulation will be more effective in curbing crime and exploitation.”
The MEP admits that the licensing of brothels would not stamp out all street prostitution, which he claims is almost entirely associated with drugs use. But he argues that it will reduce demand from clients and the consequent scale of the problem.
Brothels are legal in Germany, the Netherlands and Greece and Switzerland.
Last year the Royal College of Nursing called for the legalisation of brothels to reduce rates of sexually transmitted diseases and protect women from violence.
A study of 247 sex workers in Australia found that 52% of street prostitutes had experienced violence as against 12% who used premises.