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Monday 5 April 2010
Letters: The new law on prostitution
Trafficking: another bad law from a populist agenda
I am not entirely sure of the purpose of the new law which requires men visiting a prostitute to establish beforehand whether she has been trafficked. If it is intended to scare men into not visiting prostitutes and therefore reducing demand for trafficking, then why not just criminalise paying for sex? Or would that prove utterly unenforcable?
The new law is just as pointless. Police will not raid premises randomly, arresting prostitutes and clients ad hoc and then attempting to find out whether the woman was trafficked, and to ascertain whether her client had appointed a legal team to check out the truthfulness or otherwise of any claim to free will she may have made.
The police will use intelligence to collect evidence of trafficking before planning any raids, to ensure they do not waste their own time or face the embarrassment of failed prosecutions. But because trafficking is already illegal, the people they do arrest can already be prosecuted under existing laws.
And, just as the dreadful practice of trafficking is already illegal, so is the appalling case Joan Smith (1 April) cites of the trafficked 19-year-old Hungarian woman forced to have sex in a manner she opposed, which led to her weeping throughout the act. This is not consensual sex; the perpetrator was already acting illegally, so the new law is again a pointless adjunct.
Smith asks whether the police will pursue the new law enthusiastically. No, of course not; they'll be realistic. This is yet one more bad law from a failed, illiberal government chasing a populist agenda.
I have not a single male friend who, as Smith suggests in her opening paragraph, has ever suggested over a pint that I visit a naive, vulnerable prostitute he has encountered earlier. Does she really think all men behave in this fantastical, callous manner?
Why we protested at Wigmore Hall
As Jewish participants in the protest against the Jerusalem Quartet concert, we reject the suggestion by Elisa Bray and Kim Sengupta (1 April) that the JQ were targeted because their members had served in the Israeli army.
Although those brave Israeli high school students, the Shministim, do refuse to serve and suffer repeated imprisonment as a result, this was not the reason for our protest.
The Jerusalem Quartet has repeatedly gone out of its way to identify with Israel's military. According to the Jerusalem Music Centre, which helped to found and support the JQ, and which is itself based in the illegal West Bank settlement of Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the JQ serve in the army as Distinguished Musicians.
Far from having no responsibility for the Israeli state, the Quartet's foreign tours have been repeatedly sponsored by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and each member of the JQ has been given generous support by the American Israel Cultural Foundation, whose purpose is "supporting the next generation of Israel's cultural ambassadors".
It is untrue that we campaign against the "excesses of the Jewish State". Our disagreement is far more fundamental.
A Jewish state means a state where Jews receive privileges as against Arabs, for example access to state land in Israel, a segregated education system and a society where over 75 per cent believe that Arabs and Jews should not share apartment blocks, and 60 per cent would refuse to allow an Arab to visit their own apartment.
Despite their well-documented role with Israel's army and as Israel's cultural ambassadors, the Jerusalem Quartet has not once condemned discrimination or the repression of the Palestinians.
John Gilhooly, the director of the Wigmore Hall, states that music transcends politics. We disagree. This was the argument used in the days of the sporting boycotts against South African apartheid.
And, contrary to Elisa Bray's article, Deborah Fink is a trained professional classical singer.
Tony Greenstein, Deborah Fink
Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Brighton
The history of the Jewish people and of the Zionist movement, along with the correct interpretation of the Balfour declaration, all seem to be matters of some dispute, but I have no doubt that Dr Jacob Amir is basically correct in what he says (letter, 29 March) about the disastrous consequences to the Palestinian Arabs themselves of their failure to accept the 1947 United Nations partition plan. However, some 60 years later, that really is not an excuse for justifying the present plight of those people.
I realise that the Middle East is not western Europe, but, for their own sake, as well as that of the Palestinians, and possibly for future world peace, the Israelis do need not only to show restraint, but to be prepared to take a few risks for peace.
Contrary to Howard Jacobson's article (3 April), expecting Israel to respect international law is both treating Israel like any other country and as a "grown-up". The fact that he resorts to calling his opponents "poorly educated and easily led" suggests that campaigners for Palestinian human rights are making progress.
Greet the dawn in winter
I cannot believe that all the letters you published on 1 April were against double summer time. I could not be more delighted at the prospect.
I find it depressing that the sun is already beginning to set before lunchtime, and elderly people who are afraid to go out in the dark are curfewed by teatime. These points are on top of all the excellent arguments advanced for the change in your newspaper on 31 March.
As a child in France I loved walking to school as a red winter sun rose, and as a student in Scotland I hated the sun setting so early in the day. I would be thrilled if English time stayed in step with Europe. Perhaps there should be Northern time for Scotland. Spain and Portugal share the Iberian peninsula and have different time zones.
I absolutely endorse Guy Ottewell's stance to retain the natural timing of the day by the sun (letter, 1 April). In the winter the majority are up all hours of daylight. In summer, those who wish to rise early to gain extra daylight may do so, but with flexible working, is it really necessary to "change the clocks" and lie about the time?
Those who rise early often evince an air of moral superiority, but those of us who rise late and stay up late must have served an evolutionary purpose: sitting around the night-time fire and guarding our sleeping fellows from wolves.
The "clock change" debate also affects other countries. Some years ago, some residents in the state of Queensland, Australia, protested about proposed "daylight saving". They declared that the "extra" sunlight would fade their curtains.
Grumpy old man menaced by birds
What is it with Richard Ingrams? I know he's a grumpy old man – I can recognise one immediately as they tend to display the same sort of symptoms as myself – but his diatribes against the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are right out of order (3 April).
I assume he is lucky enough to live in an area where red kites are common, and is privileged to be able to watch them at close quarters displaying their glorious colours and their astonishing flying ability. I would like to think also that he has evidence to substantiate his assertion that they are "menacing".
I live in an area where these birds are now fairly commonplace. I can see them every day from my house; they come to feed in my garden and I have seen dozens of them roosting at twilight.
Never have I heard anyone complain about their behaviour. The only time I have seen them menace anything was during the recent severe winter when one took a chaffinch off my drive, but of course they were close to starving then.
Get a life, Richard, and live and let live.
'Big Society' is no big idea
It is difficult not to be cynical about the Conservatives' plan for a "Big Society". If the programme's success turns out to be patchy, it won't of course be the fault of government, but the failure of local people to respond (a new take on the "feckless poor").
Nat Wei's commentary "How to unleash the virtue of volunteers" (31 March), intended to be supportive, suggests in fact that we don't need a great big new idea; if the latent desire for mutual assistance already exists, we just need to alter some of the existing mechanisms.
The whole project looks like either today's plaintive plea for votes, or a diversion from the main issue of the economy.
Even if you accept David Cameron's "broken Britain" thesis, volunteerism and social enterprise cannot hope to undertake regeneration of disadvantaged communities as cost-effectively as local government, local partnerships including charities and voluntary organisations, or government agencies.
At best, the "Big Society" approach can plug the gaps and enable some local people to help themselves. Any help in this vein would be welcome, as our "human neighbourhoods" project demonstrates. But tackling urban deprivation takes an enabling and interventionist state that places eradication of poverty at the core of its mission. Piecemeal tinkering is unlikely to tackle inequalities in wealth and income that still register the UK as one of the most unequal of industrial countries.
Director, Human City Institute, Birmingham
Learning English is too difficult
A simplification of English spelling would benefit not only our schoolchildren but also millions throughout the world who are learning English as a foreign tongue, including recent immigrants to the UK. We owe it to them to make our language as accessible as possible.
Hamish Dowlen (letter, 31 March) suggests this would be "dumbing down". Did this apply when we changed from the idiosyncrasies of pounds, shillings and pence? Let us abandon anomalies from the past, such as "debt", which Dr Johnson mistakenly thought came from the Latin debitum.
As a first step, let the British adopt the more rational practices of the American dialect, dropping the "u" from words like "honour" and reversing the "re" in words like "centre".
The Pope didn't mention paedophilia in his Easter address. Tony Blair, last week, didn't mention Iraq. If they have that much in common, could Blair become Pope?
Seaford, East Sussex
Too big to fail
Sixty years ago the sterling area collapsed because the UK economy couldn't stand the financial strains. The latest Treasury Select Committee report shows that our banking sector is now five times the size of the UK GDP. How much more pressing now is the need to reduce our vulnerability. We cannot regard London, as a financial centre vying with New York, as a national asset so much as a threat.
Kingston Bagpuize, Oxfordshire
I presume that the idea of siting a new Hadron Collider on the Circle Line has yet to be approved by Bob Crow and the RMT. Bob is almost certain to demand a 60 mph speed limit on the beams for safety reasons, and the return of guards on the trains to protect the public from stray particles. As for the story about that hideous £20m red steel monstrosity for the Olympic Games – come on guys, we know it was 1 April; we weren't born yesterday you know.
More beer, Vicar?
I'm so glad the Archbishop of York has come up with the bright idea that the clergy should visit pubs. Some of us were doing it more than 30 years ago, when it was a useful way of meeting people. I've given it up now, though. The smoking ban and the exorbitant price of beer mean that there are considerably more people in churches than in pubs these days.
West Wittering, West Sussex
Short on detail
I have acquired a recipe for Italian meat pasta sent by David Cameron to a charity book. It seems attractive but is expensive, thus favouring the rich. Its detail is very imprecise, with instructions such as "add lots of red wine" and "grate loads of Parmesan". How I shall pay for it is unclear. I am not surprised.
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