Letters: Prostitution and the law

Why prostitution must be decriminalised
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The Independent Online

The question is not whether trafficking exists, but how it is being used to raid and arrest sex workers ("Make no mistake: sex trafficking is real", Comment, 29 October). Even the police do not dispute the findings reported as "Inquiry fails to find single trafficker who forced anybody into prostitution".

We who insist that a distinction be made between trafficking (coercion and rape) and prostitution (consenting sexual services) are charged with siding with pimps and clients against women. How about that for "nasty personal tone"?

Yet no one is more concerned with women's safety than we are. We campaign for decriminalisation so women don't have to work alone (it is illegal for two or more women to work together) and can report violence without fear of arrest or persecution. After the Ipswich tragedy we formed the Safety First Coalition. Distinguished members such as the Royal College of Nursing and the anti-poverty Zacchaeus 2000 Trust agree prostitution must be decriminalised. But our voices are ignored in favour of Home Office-funded projects which claim the politicians know what's best for us.

From India to South Africa and Argentina to the US, sex worker organisations are demanding decriminalisation. We do not glamorise prostitution; neither do we demonise it. Unwaged and low-waged work are the reality of most women worldwide, and prostitution is a job that enables millions to feed our children and pay the rent.

We say, "Criminalise poverty, not prostitutes". Where are anti-prostitution feminists when immigration laws and welfare reform threaten single mothers with destitution, a sure way to increase prostitution? It is more convenient, and more fundable, to blame individual men.

Cari Mitchell

English Collective of Prostitutes,

London NW5

Nutt is right and Labour is wrong

The sacking of David Nutt is clearly wrong. The science is on his side. But there is a deeper political agenda here which exposes the populism of the Labour Party leadership.

In my opinion, cannabis is very unlikely to cause schizophrenia. After 35 years as a psychiatrist, I cannot recall seeing many cases of so-called cannabis-induced schizophrenia where there has not been a family history of schizophrenia.

Professor Robin Murray published one of several family studies showing that cannabis-induced psychosis is indeed associated with a positive family history of schizophrenia.

One draws the conclusion that schizophrenia, or the early effects of schizophrenia before it becomes clinically diagnosable, is causing the cannabis smoking rather than the other way round.

For some reason, Professor Murray ignores his own family study and those of other researchers which support the fact that schizophrenia and "cannabis psychosis" is indeed familial and genetic rather than caused by cannabis.

The deeper malaise is the need for the Labour Party leaders to portray themselves as the great protectors of the British people so they can win votes. These leaders have convinced themselves that by creating a moral panic about cannabis, ecstasy, crime, anti-social behaviour etc. they will be seen as our saviours.

The reality about cannabis is more complex, as David Nutt has so carefully explained. The same is true about crime and anti-social behaviour where the Labour Party pretends that parents are to blame, so they need punishment as much as their children. It is sad to see the Labour leaders behaving like this so wilfully. It is no surprise that people think they are time-expired as politicians. Only the Liberal Democrats have it right on cannabis.

Hugh Gurling

Professor of Molecular Psychiatry, European Editor PSYCHIATRIC GENETICS, University College London Medical School W1

In February, Professor David Nutt was asked to apologise for standing by the evidence his experts were asked to gather. He has now been sacked for saying LSD and Ecstasy are relatively less dangerous than alcohol.

The government's statistics indicate there were 187,000 admissions with either a primary or secondary diagnosis specifically related to alcohol in 2005-06 (compared to 89,280 in 1995-96). The government's own estimate suggests alcohol misuse costs the NHS up to£2.5bn per annum. Conversely, the drug (non-alcoholic) misuse statistics show hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of a drug-related mental health and behavioural disorder have decreased, while admissions with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by drugs have increased.

The number of drug-related deaths shows no overall trend and it is estimated (2003-04) that NHS use due to drug misuse, by problem Class A drug users, costs £488m per year.

Excessive risk-aversion is emerging as a national trait, while our ability to assess comparative risk and produce a proportionate response seems to be diminishing. This aversion is exacerbated by the refusal of policy-makers to countenance evidence and provide leadership in formulating public policy based on best available scientific evidence.

Professor Nutt made a prescient point in his lecture that resulted in his sacking. After providing some measure of "drug harm ranking", he stated that "without such reference points, the debate about relative drug harms becomes isolated and arbitrary, more akin to a 'religious' discussion". At least on this specific point he has been proven right.

Dr Aamir Ahmed

London N12

So the government has sacked Professor David Nutt. Well, what a surprise. This is the same government that rejected recommendations that formal education should begin at the age of six, rejected UN advice not to return refugees to Iraq and Afghanistan and rejected advice from its expert advisers on the treatment of swine flu.

Clearly, we have government that knows it knows everything, and knows that the rest of us know nothing; but we shall not have this government for much longer.

Soon it will be replaced by another government, equally certain of its omnipotence. Some things in politics are certain.

Stanley Knill

London N15

The sacking of Professor David Nutt is a disgraceful act of political bullying. It is, of course, common for the views of experts to be ignored when they are at variance with government opinion, but too often recently the purveyors of such views have also been subject to unpleasant and personal attack.

If we are to have public policy based on fact and evidence, rather than ministerial ignorance and ideology, the political class must stop scapegoating experts and start listening to the requested advice.

It behoves all of us to stand up to this bullying and intimidation by asking the Prime Minister to rescind Professor Nutt's sacking.

Dr Miles D Witham

West Drums, By Brechin, Angus

Bank bonuses are for spending

Bob Armstrong (letters, 28 October) claims that bonuses, and presumably other cases of extravagant "remuneration", may be unfair but are appropriate because they make the economy move. I beg to differ. Money earned is always spent, one way or another. The differences are in how it is spent and by whom.

If, for example, the ostentatiously rich no longer had the money to spend on huge yachts, many other people would have it instead to spend on, say, many more sailing boats, as well as the necessities of life.

Were it not for the self-centred spending of the exorbitantly rich and the aspiring rich, more talent would go where it is really needed, for example into research in areas such as cancer and environmentally sustainable growth.

Dr Nicholas Deliyanakis


Why is every one so against bankers being given exorbitant bonuses? Banks are not lending money, so this is the only way that money will be placed into circulation. The only condition on the payment of bonuses I would introduce is that they have to be spent within three months in the UK.

John Trapp


No Seychelles 'deal' with pirates

Your article "Is Seychelles turning a blind eye to pirates?" (28 October) is misleading. The Seychelles government rejects allegations that "the islands have also become popular with pirates". Seychelles has 1.4m sq km of ocean as part of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and 115 islands. The immediate Seychelles territorial waters are safe, and there have been no pirate attacks within this area. But the Seychelles' EEZ has been threatened by piracy on numerous occasions; it covers a vast expanse of water.

The government has not made any "deals with the pirates which would allow them to operate as long as they do not affect the interests of the Seychelles". The frequency of attacks have had a direct economic impact on the Seychelles economy, with a 30 per cent reduction in port activity. Piracy is a direct threat to the wellbeing and sovereignty of the Seychelles government, a committed partner in the fight against piracy in the region.

The release of 11 suspected pirates the article refers to was due to lack of evidence. Many nations have released suspected pirates at sea due to lack of evidence. In the Seychelles' repatriation of 23 pirates in September, their release was also due to lack of evidence. They had to be deported by a special flight to Somalia (no scheduled flights exist). No "understanding" was reached with the pirates. Kenya and the Republic of Seychelles are the only countries to have tried to prosecute pirates.

Since February, President James Michel has been developing military co-operation with international partners to create a surveillance hub for international forces in Seychelles. The Republic has pursued anti-piracy operations in active co-operation with Nato, the EU, Russian, Chinese, and US naval forces in the region.

Jean-Paul Adam

Secretary of State, Mahé, Republic of Seychelles

What about their right to return?

Two American writers berate the Arab nations for their unwillingness to absorb Palestinian refugees into full citizenship (letters, 31 October). Many of these people in refugee camps are there because of the terror waged by Israelis in 1948.

It is typical of Israeli public relations to seek to turn attention to humanitarian problems in someone else's country, when the refugee problems were caused by the savagery that attended the creation of Israel.

Are we to assume that the right of return for Palestinians is no longer to be considered?

Frank Campbell


Remember Louis?

"Mr Chirac now becomes the first former head of state in French history to be put on trial" (Genevieve Roberts, 31 October). Why does she discount Louis XVI?

Ivor Samuels

London SW17

Not obvious at all

You say, "Blair is the obvious choice for president" (Steve Richards, 30 October). I would agree with him if I thought that George W Bush is the obvious choice for the next secretary-general of the United Nations, or that Slobodan Milosevic is the obvious choice to fill the next vacancy in the judiciary of the International Criminal Court.

Jim McCluskey

Twickenham, Middlesex

Singled out

Thinking about competition and equal rights, how about your paper being the first to offer a single holiday for someone? I enjoy travelling on my own but look in vain for any competition I could enter.

P Francis

Norwich, Norfolk

Count me out

Let me clear up one misunderstanding for Tim Bonner (letters, 31 October). My long-standing opposition to hunting and coursing is not, and never has been, "driven by class politics and prejudice". I simply disapprove of human beings inflicting such gratuitous cruelty on wild animals.

Stephen Roberts

Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

Play on Pope

A variation of the Thought of the Day by Alexander Pope (30 October) is, "Some people will never understand anything because they learn everything". Learn here is in the sense to commit to memory.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

Trust in the census

You say the value of the census is dependent on public support and trust (leading article, 26 October). The census process will be run by Lockheed Martin, the world's largest arms firm. Those expected to provide increased family details on immigration and ethnicity are also the least likely to trust a US arms manufacturer.

Richard Drake


Bottom line

The increasing reliance, by your cartoonist, Dave Brown, on excretory imagery is to be deplored.


Alun Williams

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Anglesey