‘Decriminalising prostitution harms women’

A feminist author has fiercely contested claims that decriminalising prostitution reduces harms against women.

Julie Bindel believes that, far from helping women, decriminalising prostitution gives men a green light to mistreat them, without fear of legal reprisals.

In an article for The Independent, she wrote that “the sex trade is a cesspit of abuse and horror for the women and girls involved in it”.

Concerns dismissed

Bindel was writing after the publication of a new study by academics in the United States.

Based on a six-year policy of decriminalisation in Rhode Island, the study claims that incidents of rape and sexually transmitted disease fell after the law was changed.

…a cesspit of abuse and horror for the women and girls involved in it

Julie Bindel

The authors criticise ‘prostitution prohibition’, and dismiss “moral concerns” over the practice.

Bindell wrote: “Any critique of the sex trade, whether from Christian evangelists or radical feminists concerned about the buying and selling of women’s bodies, are dismissed equally as ‘moralistic’.”


The study backs the pronouncements of Amnesty International and the Lancet Board, which claim that decriminalising prostitution will “improve public health outcomes”.

Bindell retorted saying that having researched the arguments “very closely”, she had found them to be “wafer-thin”.

She added that as part of her research, she had visited brothels and interviewed women in various countries where the law on prostitution is liberal, and found that exploitation actually increased.

Bindell concluded: “The sex trade is a cesspit of abuse and horror for the women and girls involved in it. Risks to public health would be dramatically reduced if governments were to accept that prostitution results in serious mental and physical harm for those caught in its trap.”

Tragic stories

Last month, a former prostitute spoke out against the sex trade, saying she “doesn’t understand how anyone could say prostitution isn’t dangerous”.

Wendy, not her real name, told The Scotsman newspaper that every girl she met on the streets had a “tragic” story and insisted that she never saw any of them smile.

She is now trying to set up a youth project to prevent other women from becoming prostitutes.

And she hopes to one day tell her son about her time as a prostitute to teach him that “it is important to treat women with respect; it’s important you don’t use people.”