Follow up to previous article.
Decriminalising Drugs and Prostitution.
In my previous article about the murders of six prostitutes in a mid - sized British town I suggested a way to solve the "crack - ho" problem is to decriminalise both drug use and prostitution.
One person who commented (and probably many who didn't) thought this was not a practical suggestion and asked could I name anywhere in the world where such things are legal.
I can, and most of them rank above the USA in a recent World Health Organisation survey on quality of life in various nations. But first it is important to stress the difference between legalising and decriminalising.
To decriminalise something means that it is no longer a crime to do it. If the suggestion (it is not my idea, but that of many lawyers, senior police officers, women's organisations and civil liberties groups) were taken seriously prostitutes would not face criminal prosecution just for being prostitutes or for carrying on their trade in a discreet and socially responsible manner. Now in Britain the laws are a total mess, the exaggerated sensibilities of the self righteous have been allowed to nullify progressive moves for many years. And yes I do mean self righteous, because ever since men first stood erect (oops, pardon!) prostitution has been with us and so long as there are people who profess to be mortally offended by the fact that prostitutes exist, the sex trade will go hand in hand with crime.
In the UK while it is not illegal to sell sex it is illegal to advertise it in any way. This stretches from half dressed women greeting male passers by with remarks like "hello big boy, fancy a quickie," to placing discreet ads in personal columns. This restriction only leads to the law being broken in clever and sometimes hilarious ways.
Adverts cannot read "attractive lady will take care of the sexual needs of mature gentlemen, call Foxy Roxy anytime" and so will offer services in code, "French lessons" or "French Polishing," "Full Service" and "Greek Lessons" appear frequently and there are easily recognised codes indicating which fetishes are catered for. (Does anyone know what "Chinese speaking lady" might refer to because many of them WLTM affluent gentlemen. Perhaps my nasty suspicious mind is working overtime and its just expressing a desire to share an interest in speaking Mandarin.) Women may therefore hang about, scantily clad, on street corners but not solicit, work from premises but not advertise and may face prosecution from entrapment operations if the local police need to get their arrest rate up. This is because the soliciting law extends to private premises, the only difficulty lies in obtaining evidence. Men also may not offer money for sex, even to the aforementioned scantily clad women on street corners.
Brothels are illegal, brothel being defined as premises from which more that one sex worker operate, so women cannot opt for a safety in numbers approach.
A visitor from space could easily conclude that the law is set up to make life easy for men who get their kicks from violating women. The whole process of selling and buying sex is forced out of sight.
Legalisation to decriminalise these activities would simply establish safe zones in towns where women would be free from the threat of prosecution and so would be more ready to talk to police about suspicious characters. Killers of prostitutes, unless they are caught quickly, seldom stick to prostitutes. It is danger they crave and so they take greater risks and too often women who are in no way involved in any criminal activity become their targets. And everybody murdered, be they sex workers of just people who happened to be in the wrong place, is somebody's child.
Mention of decriminalising drugs always provokes hysteria. But by decriminalise drug use we do not mean free every drug dealer to peddle their wares to young children, free the pimps to supply young women in order to get them hooked and allow recreational drugs to be sold openly.
In Britain their are two degrees of criminality related to drugs, possession and possession with intent to supply. While most police forces turn a blind eye to people found with a few Es, an eighth of blow or a gram of cocaine there are some who have latched onto this utterly ridiculous "zero tolerance" idea. Ask Donny Rumsfeld about this, he should tell you about the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. In relation to drugs the known unknowns are that we know a lot of people are using drugs but we cannot do much about it, while the unknown unknowns are that a lot of very respectable people nobody would think are drug users do occasionally indulge.
They can't put everybody in prison.
So to decriminalise personal drug use frees police resources to concentrate on the dealers, the major suppliers, the pimps. And we forget about all those criminals who will never be caught because a selective law is a bad law. While the smart, discreet, professional drug user is virtually free from fear of prosecution, the hippie, the whacky dresser, the people on the fringe of polite society will always be easy targets.
A black guy who used to work on my team was regularly stopped and searched. He was black, he had dreadlocks. And he had a record for possessing a small amount of grass ten years earlier. When I took the team out for a meal or drinks I would carry his stuff. I never was searched because in my tailor made suit, well groomed and well shod, articulate and self confident, I could not possibly be a drug user could I? My whole attitude said to policemen "how very dare you even think of asking me if I have any drugs, I am your social superior". Class still counts for a lot in Britain.
I would not refer to myself as "a drug user" but I have smoked plenty of joints in my time without ever progressing to anything harder. Of course I am not a criminal because I was never caught.
See what I mean about bad laws.
So when we talk of decriminalisation, which has worked well in many North European countries despite the lies told by American religious fundamentalist we do not mean allowing free trade in recreational drugs of liberating the activities of pimps and ponces, but creating a situation in which addicts and people coerced into being sex workers, instead of being treated as criminals can be treated as the victims of crimes which they truly are, and encouraged to seek help to get off the drugs and off the streets and gain some self - esteem that will eventually lead them back to a decent life.
The countries where this approach has succeeded include Sweden, Germany, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland, all democratic nations with a high standard of living and an enlightened approach to social welfare.
I am in no doubt that people so inclined will be able to find websites run by organisations on the religiousa and political right that will state unequivocally European experiments with decriminalisation have failed.
This is not true . The experiments have all succeeded to some extent and nobody ever expected them to be 100% successful. 100% is cloud cuckoo land.
When have the solutions of the religious right ever achieved even 25% success?
At least the North European social democracies have accepted the problem will neber go away and we cannot just turn a blind eye.