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article imageOp-Ed: 10 ways to make London safer for women — Sort of

By Alexander Baron     Apr 13, 2012 in Politics
London - There are many people and pressure groups lobbying the candidates for London Mayor. This is one group they can all afford to ignore.
Who wouldn't support an organisation that calls itself End Violence Against Women? After all, if you're not for us, you must be against us, right? This pressure group has produced a card that urges people to use their vote on May 3 to make London safe for women. Like the organisation's title, that sounds a laudable goal, but sadly, there is a canyon wide gulf between the rhetoric and the reality. Why would any right thinking person - man or woman - want to support any organisation that can't distinguish consensual sex between adults from violence?
Their suggestion 7. reads:
PROSTITUTION - a form of violence against women
Since when?
This sentiment is echoed on their website under the title Trafficking & prostitution. Why not shoplifting and prostitution? Or burglary and prostitution? The two don't go together naturally. Then there are the usual dubious statistics and doubtful claims, such as:
“80,000 women work in ‘on-street’ prostitution in the UK. The average age women become involved being just 12yrs old”.
In true scholarly fashion, the ladies offer their readers a citation: Paying the Price. A consultation paper on prostitution issued by the Home Office that was published in 2004. However, when we consult this consulation paper, we find:
“”It has been estimated that they could be as many as 80,000 people involved in prostitution in the UK”, which is something entirely different.
The figure is an estimate, and like many estimates to be treated with reservation. Estimated by whom? When? Is this an extrapolation from an atypical area, the West End of London, for example? Furthermore, the paper does not allude to 80,000 prostitutes working on the street, but to all forms.
The claim that the average age of beginners is12 years old is alarmist nonsense. To begin with, child prostitution is a misnomer, in the UK at least; it is rightly called child sexual abuse, rape, or something similar. Prostitution is a voluntary act, and a 12 year old can't volunteer in English law.
Interestingly, these figures can be diluted still further, because:
“For the purposes of this paper, the definition includes activities where no physical or intimate contact takes place, such as telephone sex.”
When one considers the vast numbers of women - and men - who work in this sector, that 80,000 looks rather an over-generous estimate. Furthermore, many women who work on dedicated sex chat lines and perform other services for men that involve neither dropping their knickers nor getting their hands dirty nor oral sex would be offended to be considered no better than common prostitutes.
EVAW advocate investing in strategies that enable women to exit prostitution, which is an admirable suggestion, but let us not forget that for some women, this is a lifestyle and indeed a vocational choice. However much it may revolt these good ladies, the local vicar or Muslims Against Crusades, if they want to do it, and are prepared to risk social ostracism, filthy social diseases, and worse in pursuit of a fast buck or a better standard of living, that is their choice. And they are most definitely not victims of violence.
There is a lot more on this website, including the usual dodgy rape statistics such as are thrown around like confetti by Pips Taylor and a myriad others.
While it is laudable to lobby politicians to reduce violence against women or to deal with this very real problem responsibly, there are better ways to do it than by employing dishonest rhetoric, manipulated statistics, the demonising of men, and, ultimately, an assault on civil liberties.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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