Today the British courts handed out £600,000 in damages to four prostitutes who were tricked into the profession by Gavril Dulghieru and his wife Tamara. I assume that the couple are to pay from the money they made forcing the girls into prostitution.
Yet again the fact that prostitution is an illegal activity in the UK has contributed to the misery of young women.
I say contributed because despite my fervent belief that many of the problems that prostitutes encounter could be eliminated by making it legal and therefore accountable legalisation would not fix everything.
There are two reasons for that. The pimps and the punters.
The reasons are closely intertwined and revolve around the darkest parts of the human psyche.
Pimps pimp because it makes them money. That wouldn’t be a problem if their girls received something in return that reflected what they do. It’s not just the money, it’s respect as human beings that they need. Prostitutes provide a service and should be rewarded for that like workers in any other service industry. They should not be fearful of their customers or their “managers”. We all know that it is not uncommon for prostitutes to have drug habits and for their pimps to encourage this habit as an instrument of control over them.
If you have a habit, someone saying “It’s all legal now, just quit the drugs and you can start earning a living legally in a regulated brothel.” Because you can’t just quit drugs. Often drugs are the only thing that makes the job bearable if your clients are what might be termed the lower end of the market. Even if legalised brothels existed there would be girls who would find it impossible to work in them.
So their life in the illegal sexual underworld would continue. Just as it does in Holland where for the most part only the “acceptable” side of prostitution is widely acknowledged in the form of the window prostitutes. Walk a few hundred metres and you’ll find another world of prostitution where the girls aren’t so enticing, but are cheap and eager to please because they have a habit to feed.
The other reason is the punters. First is the problem of pure economics. Regulated brothels would set a lower limit for the price of particular sexual services because of the inherent costs of owning and maintaining premises and the costs of a licence. I have no doubt that on top of the cost required to cover the policing and administration of a licensing system local councils would add on extra charges as a punitive sanction to discourage the establishment of brothels. They’ve done that to sex shops in this country.
The higher prices would force clients to seek out bargain basement, non-legal sexual services.
The other reason is that there is always an appetite amongst certain clients for the unusual, extreme and what most people would think of as plain abhorrent. The most obvious example being under-aged girls. A regulated brothel would of course not allow such liaisons which leaves a gap in the market to be filled by the criminal fraternity.
I still believe that prostitution should be legalised in this country and that the women involved in it should be regarded in the same way as workers in any other service industry. But that isn’t going to make all the daemons disappear.