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Councillor calls for protection not prosecution for sex workers

May 1, 2012 11:09 AM

Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Belinda Brooks-Gordon is fighting to decriminalise prostitution because evidence shows it could solve problems in Cambridge's red light areas.

She says a study in Liverpool, which would designate zones in cities to allow two or three women to work together for safety and treat violence against sex workers as a hate crime, could work in areas such as Cambridge's Histon Road.

Sex workers could have hotlines direct to the police and they could work in partnership to combat sex trafficking, she said.

Cllr Brooks-Gordon, a member of the national Liberal Democrat working party for policy on women, won a Cambridge Union Society debate on the issue recently.

She said: "There is no philosophical reason why commercial sex should be any different from any other kind of adult sex.

"We need to target the violence against women instead of prosecuting women working consensually," she said. "The harm reduction evidence is overwhelming from academic research."

Cllr Brooks-Gordon praised Cambridge City Council's work on homelessness and its housing policy generally under the leadership of Executive Councillor for Housing, Catherine Smart.

She said the fantastic work being done in the city prevented more women finding themselves on the streets and drifting into prostitution to pay their way.

And she tackled the issue of trafficking women for sex, saying the country needs to "raise informed awareness, not fear and pity - raise awareness about rights and options.

"We could have sex worker hotlines direct to police - to work with sex workers rather than against," she said.

"And we can promote respectful partnerships between sex workers and police to assist anti-trafficking efforts. And most importantly, we can decriminalise sex work.

"Decriminalization is central to the issue of protecting women against violence, and ensuring the police target resources in the right direction, because when sex workers are safe all women are safe."