Legalised red light zones

I’ve been watching this BBC series about prostitution in Holbeck, Leeds, where since 2014 they’ve been trialing a ‘legalised’ red light area between certain hours in an industrial area of the city. Have you seen it? What did you think of it if so?

Secondly, how do you feel about the idea of ‘legalised’ red light zones? From what i’ve read the reaction has been generally positive but the scheme has coincided with police budgets being cut by around a third. How would you feel if the zone was next to where you lived? Attitudes to these things tend to be in favour but involve quite a bit of NIMBYism. Is it really addressing the problems, or just shifting it away from the gentrified, touristy, family-friendly parts of town?

Relatively close to where i live there used to be a red light zone (Withington Road). They cleaned the area up a bit, the working girls disappeared, but the drug dealers and beggars remained. There were about half-a-dozen ‘tolerated’ high street brothels (Chorlton) but they all closed. I understand why they might be closed if they’re being ran to profit crime, but where do these people go, especially those dependent on drugs? Is sweeping them into another, cheaper part of town addressing the problem?

Seems a bit silly to me that we don’t have regulated, funded brothels in every town, but maybe i’m being a bit simplistic. Obviously it’s an unanswerable, multi-layered issue which we’re never going to fully solve the root causes of, but what actually positive steps could be taken to help rather than just writing people off and leaving them to fight for themselves?

Fully legalising sex work makes sense to me.


Unhappy with how i worded this sentence. Reads like i have an issue with homeless people, ffs. What i was trying to portray was that this was a very poor area, they invested money in it, opened a few shops, etc, and the working girls very quickly completely disappeared whilst all the other aspects of serious poverty remained. Found that odd. Assumedly there was a targeted campaign to move them on by arresting them or threatening them with arrest.

There’s a brothel near where I live. At least that’s what I think it is. The sign on the outside says Men’s Grooming Salon. But the men I see coming out of the place do not look like they’ve had much grooming at all.

I agree in principle, but in practice making something legal doesn’t necessarily = condoning it.

For example, I think the laws in Sweden make it legal to sell sex but illegal to buy it - this doesn’t condone the objectification of women necessarily but it does mean that the legal protection sits with the prostitute.

Yeah, when homosexuality was partially decriminalised in 1967 it was certainly not with the intention of condoning it, but merely tolerating it.

Yep, always surprised me a bit that in the UK it’s legal to pay for sex, seems to be criminalising the wrong person in the situation (albeit it’s also legal to sell yourself for sex, but not to solicit it or run a brothel, etc).

In practice I think there is a certain amount of turning a blind eye by the authorities. My exes flat was near a brothel, everyone knew about it, and it operated fairly openly. Only got shut down when the owner got prosecuted for tax offences, not for actually running the place.

There was a very good (and funny) documentary on Channel 4 called A Very British Brothel about a brothel in Sheffield, it was obviously operating pretty much fully openly, I don’t know if the police turn a blind eye or they have technicalities they make use of (like the women were all self-employed but paid to rent rooms in the brothel or something?) but yeah, it’s not like these places are really secret.

Pretty much this - as with alcohol and drugs, prohibition simply doesn’t work - the sex industry operates regardless, so it’s about how you make it safer really.

If you then legalise the provision of services, you make it possible to protect those who work in the industry as they’re able to operate openly rather than in the shadows and empower the women (largly) and men (in a much smaller niche) who actually work in these areas as they’re able to operate on their own terms much more easily.

Yes, there’s huge issues in how the sex industry and it’s customers treat women, but I think the way to improve that is to empower them to have full control rather than try and stamp it out.


I’m sure I read that in countries where it was decriminalised, the number of men using prostitutes declined. (Don’t have time to google that now so I may be wrong.)

In the Netherlands prostitution was legalised in 2000. According to a report from 2007 the number of brothels declined by 35% since the change in the law, but it is unclear whether this was as a result of these new laws, or the worsening economy, or the increased use of the Internet.

A follow-up study in 2014 established that the number of brothels, escort services and sex clubs had almost halved again since 2006. Street prostitution is now almost non-existent in the Netherlands.

Do you know the figures for Amsterdam?

I’m sure I read something somewhere that said that if it wasn’t for tourists, there wouldn’t be much of a market for prostitution at all in the city.

(same as the coffee shops before they tightened the membership rules - a large number of the users were british lads and american businessmen on trips)

So is it properly regulated or have they effectively legalised pimping as well? Who’s running the parlours and brothels?

Also, whst happens to the women with drug addictions? Are they free to work and regularly employed at these legal brothels, or do they fall through the cracks?

I imagine the internet might make it easier for sexworkers generally speaking to work for themselves. In some ways this might be safer, in other ways less safe, but i can’t see this being visble for street level sexworkers with serious addictions to Class A drugs.

Decriminalising is better for SWers


In a legalised system doesn’t “pimping” become, you know, an organised management system, where someone takes on the admin of advertising and dealing with fees and so on… except since they’re operating above board they’re no longer allowed to perform their job with threats of violence.

Pimping is legalised, i.e. anyone can start a licensed business providing sex services. Local councils are in charge of licensing, which means that these business have to meet H&S standards, pay their taxes, etc. Most councils have a limit on the maximum number of business per town or area (for larger cities like Amsterdam), but according to the 2014 study in most places that maximum has not been reached.

According to the 2014 report prostitutes use more soft and hard drugs than the average population, but they are looked after sufficiently by the existing health services (GP, drug addiction clinics, support groups).

Sure, but in lots of cases they’re hardened career criminals, some of whom will still indulge in violence, selling hard drugs, trafficking, underage prostitution, intimidation, etc, etc. Interested in how a licence stamps this stuff out, if it does at all.

Does seem very tricky to properly process and ensure there isn’t a lot of human trafficking even in these decriminalised brothels but obviously don’t agree with chucking sex workers in jail or fining them.

Presume it makes it much less appealing to take the illegal route as a customer - why risk going to someone who may not be tested etc when you can go down the regulated route and be fairly sure it’s safer etc.