London Mayor Hopeful Wants Safe Sex Work Zones

September 15, 2015

In a world where Jeremy Corbyn has been elected to the Labour leadership, it is safe to say that anything going on elsewhere in a plitical sense has been missed. That isn’t to say that Corbyn will be successful (personally I think his policies have electoral disaster written all over them) but it does mean that interesting developments in other areas are being overlooked.

One such example of this is the policy announcement by Tory London Mayoral candidate Andrew Boff to have a ‘managed street prostitution area in the capital. He believes that this would benefit both sex workers and local residents.

Somewhere in East London

Boff is the leader of the Conservative group on the London Assembly. He announced that if he was elected Mayor he would set up and trial a “managed area of street prostitution” somewhere in East London. He feels this would better protect sex workers, who he described as “some of the most vulnerable people in our community”. It would also allow the police to spend less time enforcing soliciting and kerb crawling legislation, which, in his view, is counter-productive.

On top of that, he feels that sex workers will be more inclined to report dangerous clients if they don’t feel they would be lining themselves up for a charge as well.

He has taken his idea from what Leeds did a year ago. Despite there being a few complaints by business people, the scheme has been declared a massive success. Now Boff plans to roll it out in London, which will obviously be a cause of huge debate.

It is safe to say that Boff isn’t the favourite to come first in the Conservative race (the winner of the Conservative race will then have a full election against the Labour candidate) However, his policies will make the headlines and have actually helped him gain quite a bit of support. They include decriminalising cannabis, giving away bits of public land to those who want to build houses and imposing a height restriction of six stories on new residential building, except in five designated areas.

The whole sex trade debate has caused opinions to become hugely polarised over recent months. There are those who want to see buying sex criminalised as they say that if you decrease demand, the industry will go away. However, others (including us) believe that decriminalisation is the only way to protect sex workers in a realistic manner. Andrew Boff backs us in that, but realises that there are those who disagree massively.

A Progressive Step

Whatever happens, it is wonderful that senior people in political parties are talking about such an important issue in a pragmatic manner. A lot of the time sex workers are used as a political football, where those in power like to prove how ‘tough on crime’ they are. Then there are our ‘moral guardians’ who want to attack the sex industry as it is ‘disgusting, and pay very little attention to whether their policies work or not. Hey, if a few sex worker s get attacked, it is an occupational hazard, right? Erm, wrong.

So good luck Mr Boff! We hope you do well! Actually, it is important for sex workers in London, and everywhere for that matter that you do.

Martin Ward
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