UK City Sets Legal Red Light District Following Murder Of Sex Worker

The city of Leeds in the U.K. has made a permanent fixture of a safe and legal red light district three weeks after the murder of a sex worker in the area.

Reportedly, this new pilot scheme by the Leeds council will allow sex workers to ply their trade safely on the streets without fear of arrest. It also gives the prostitutes the opportunity to report crimes and assaults without facing recrimination.

The new scheme will allow the sex workers to work in a “managed area” between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Three weeks ago, an unnamed sex worker was murdered in Holbeck, a central area of the city. The prostitute was found unconscious and with severe injuries and was later declared dead at a local hospital. Since then, the Guardian reports a 38-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the crime.

A statement by West Yorkshire Police Superintendent Sam Millar called the new red light district scheme to protect sex workers pioneering and “brave.”

“Having gone through years and years of enforcement, which hasn’t achieved the outcomes of breaking the cycle of sex work, we wanted to do something different which might help us better achieve those outcomes, to be brave and take some risks.”

According to Leeds Councilor Mark Dobson, while the new safe red light district scheme is not a “universal cure-all,” it does offer a “pragmatic approach” to the safety issue.

According to the Telegraph, Dobson said, “I accept that there are people who will always have a moral objection to the issue of prostitution.

“I’m of the opinion that it is an industry that’s as old as time and it isn’t going to stop and, as a city that is responsible and cares about the people who live here – including the women who work in this industry – we have had to take a pragmatic approach to keep them safe.”

The Leeds council says the new scheme has already improved community relations and the safety of the sex workers, especially as they can now report incidents of harassment without facing recrimination from the police. On the police’s side, officers will no longer issue cautions or make arrests during the set hours of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. specified for the red light district.

Millar stressed the priority of making sex work safer, saying, “Our job is to keep people safe and that applies when people put themselves in risky situations.”

The local police department has appointed a female police officer who will handle cases involving the sex workers and ensuring their safety.

However, according to RT News, not everyone in the area is happy about the new scheme. Local businesses have criticized the decision, saying they often find illegal activity and drug detritus near their business premises.

One such business owner, Greg Adams, who is managing director of AB4, reportedly told the media he is horrified by the new red light district scheme.

“As far as I am concerned the council and police are breaking the law by turning a blind eye to soliciting. There have been many incidents.

“People are having sex next to cars and up against buildings. Many are drug users and the evidence of drugs is there to see.”

However, according to the Leeds council, the number of complaints received in the area has actually fallen since the new scheme was introduced.

The video below, published by RT News in March 2015, points out that allegedly 70 percent of sex workers in the U.K. come from a background of jobs in health, social care, charity work, and education, who are pressured into prostitution by either losing their jobs or having difficulty paying their tuition fees due to low salaries. Many of the prostitutes reportedly have a university level education.

[Photo via Flickr by Eric Parker/CC BY-NC 2.0]