Why has an area of Leeds been given a licence for a managed sex zone?

A pilot project in Leeds where ‘sex workers’ are permitted to operate between the hours of 7pm and 7am has been made permanent.

The initial pilot in the Holbeck area of the city began in October 2014 with the managed area made permanent despite the murder of a 21-year-old prostitute found within the zone just before Christmas.

The death of the 21-year-old is not the only violent crime to have taken place inside the zone, where there have reportedly been numerous attacks and two reported rapes.

Why, then, has the Holbeck area of Leeds been given permission for a permanent managed sex zone? Putting sex workers and prostitution in a ghetto like this won’t solve the problem. Moreover it is hugely concerning that the decision was made less than three weeks after the prostituted woman I’ve already mentioned suffered fatal injuries an attack.

The project was apparently launched, following research which revealed that Police action against sex workers was failing to reduce levels of prostitution. That doesn’t surprise me- but to my mind the solution which then followed, to create a controlled zone, was the wrong one.

I agree that prostituted women should not be prosecuted by the Police; however, another more understanding approach is, I believe, more helpful to these women the vast majority of whom do not do the work they do through choice.

Many readers of this blog may know I favour the Nordic model of prostitution which decriminalises the seller of sex and instead criminalises the purchaser of sex. I heard on a radio debate last week that since this model was adopted in Sweden there has not been a single reported murder on a sex worker.

I’m concerned that other local authorities are now considering a similar model following the apparent ‘success’ of the Leeds project.

Superintendent Sam Millar, who heads the Safer Leeds community safety partnership, said: “Our job is to keep people safe and that applies when people put themselves in risky situations”. But I honestly believe there are other more sensible and more effective ways to help those in dangerous situations.

One way is to adopt the Nordic model as I’ve outlined but also to work in partnership with other agencies and stakeholders to help these women find a way out of prostitution which I believe they almost never go into out of choice.

There are far better and safer ways to deal with prostitution than by the creation of an unsafe hazardous area disguised as a ‘safe’ place to carry out sex work.

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