UK: Stigmatisation of prostitutes

August 29, 2008
A precedent for singling out one identifiable group has already been set




Sir, Carol Sarler says in her article (“Paedophiles may be mad or bad”, Aug 21) that it would create a precedent to single out one identifiable group and exclude it from the principles of law that apply to all others. I beg to differ. There is a precedent.


There has been one group that has been differently treated under the law since the 19th century, that of the women labelled “common prostitute”. This label has been applied to women and girls by their being cautioned twice by a police officer for soliciting. Happily, this has stopped for children since the late 1990s. They are now seen to be the victims that they have always been, ie, abused children. But for women with the label in place, they can be brought before any court, described as a “common prostitute” and are guilty before trial. It is a lifetime label and has employment implications.


Why should men who have abused children, who are without choice, be championed? Women prostitutes, on the contrary, deal with adult men who have choice. So why should women be labelled in this way as they have been for 200 years?


The social reformer Josephine Butler campaigned to remove this stigmatising label from prostituting women until her death, as do we still at the Josephine Butler Society.


Valerie Gore
Chairman, Josephine Butler Society


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