Comment: Prostitution bill a chance to change society for better
FOR nearly 20 years Zero Tolerance has encouraged policy makers to focus on the perpetrators of abuse rather than questioning the motives of the women affected.
We’ve also driven work to promote a culture where no forms of violence against women are tolerated. We’re therefore strongly supportive of this bill, as it shines a spotlight on those who sustain the harmful and exploitative prostitution industry – the men who buy sex. This bill says to them that their behaviour is unacceptable.
Prostitution is a form of violence against women, which is harmful in itself – repeat unwanted sex is damaging emotionally, physically and psychologically – and which feeds off the poverty and social exclusion women experience in a deeply unequal society.
Some say this measure will drive prostitution underground and make women unsafe. We say that the huge indoor sex industry has been no barrier to punters accessing sex, and that what makes women unsafe is a society which sees them as commodities.
Katy, one of the survivors who spoke in our film about the harms of prostitution, made it clear that the men who buy sex in prostitution hold the women in contempt.
Stephanie, another survivor, said “some of them are very violent. The way they see it, women are for sexual uses only, just basically to give them what they want and satisfy their needs.”
Prostitution perpetuates gender inequality. In a society where men can buy women like they would buy a hamburger – on every street, in every suburb, and on the internet – the chance of equality between the sexes is remote. We need to move beyond a society in which women are sexual objects, up for sale or rent.
We need to make the men who freely choose to take part in this “oldest oppression” accountable. This bill is a chance to change our society for the better and to take a consistent approach to violence against women.
• Jenny Kemp is co-ordinator of Zero Tolerance.
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