Vice Squad
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
British Prostitution Policy Reform

The British Newspaper The Independent has a series of articles today on prostitution control. Available on-line are this article concerning two different types of tolerance zones in Utrecht; this story on the possibility of a tolerance zone in Liverpool, complete with some appended "Red Light Facts"; and this overview of proposed changes to British prostitution regulation. All three articles are worth reading, but I'll just note one puzzle from the British policy story. Two proposals being considered are toleration zones, within which prostitutes would be free to ply their trade without fear of the police, and the possibility of criminalizing the behavior of johns, a' la Sweden. The puzzle for me is how these two policies would work together. Will the behavior of johns also be tolerated inside the tolerance zones? If not, it might make it hard to contain streetwalking to the designated areas, as johns will not feel secure from arrest in such areas that are designed to be conducive to regulation.

The article also offers a useful encapsulation of the status quo regime in Britain: "Under the current law, paying for sex is not illegal. Instead, prostitution is controlled by strict offences that prohibit associated acts such as kerb-crawling, soliciting, pimping and brothel-keeping."

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