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I was reminded by this that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Apparently, the opening of the beautiful Ă–resund bridge linking Denmark and Sweden has seen an increase in traffic by a particular type of man from Sweden (where paying a prostitute is illegal) to Denmark (where prostitution is tolerated).

Now Sweden has a fair few things to be sorry about: Ulrika Johnson and flat-pack furniture are but two imports we could do without. However, their attitude towards prostitution, which requires the operation of a Stasi-like surveillance network, belies a worryingly authoritarian mindset. Unsurprisingly, Harriet Harman, also known to have a penchant for social authoritarianism, has backed the introduction of Swedish-style laws here in the UK.

Before I carry on, there are of course some important points to acknowledge:

1. Many women are on the streets to fund a drug habit- this habit has often been encouraged by a pimp as a further means of control.

2. There is a link between human trafficking and prostitution- many brothels are directly linked to the trafficking of women.

3. There is a link between prostitution and violence against women- many working girls are raped/assaulted.

Even with these points in mind I would argue that prohibition is not working and can never work. We need to create a system that is better than the mess we currently have. Firstly, we must recognise that in criminalising prostitution we have only pushed it underground and into the hands of some very unsavoury characters. Therefore I’d argue that there needs to be a measure of legalisation with regulation and regular health checks for sex-workers. If two consenting adults wish to exchange money in return for sex, that is their affair (the principle of consent is paramount here: the girl mustn’t be working under duress). Importantly, by legalising prostitution, we can free up resources to tackle organised crime, violence against women, and human trafficking.

Secondly (and crucially) this all needs to be joined up with other parts of policy. There has to be a more sensible attitude to drugs and better support available for people with serious substance abuse problems: locking up drug addicts doesn’t help anyone and it should be clear that part of the health-check for sex workers carries a proviso that a drug addiction is a disqualification. There also needs to be better general provision of support for women who are victims of violence: this means more in terms of social services and more safe houses.

I’m not saying that any of this is the perfect answer. However, the way we deal with prostitution exposes broader problems in our approach to drugs and violence: in all of these areas our attitudes need to change.


The obsession with beautiful French women, most wonderfully expounded by the media frenzy surrounding Carla Bruni (born in Italy, I know), has now been codified in a guidebook written by Bernard Kouchner’s speech-writer, Pierre-Louis Colin. The book, Guide des jolie femmes de Paris (Guide to the pretty women of Paris) is meant in a light-hearted way: it is supposedly intended more as a literary essay than the voyeurs’ handbook it has been described as elsewhere, though this is idea is stretched to breaking point with lines like “You do not find in Menilmontant the sublime legs you see at the Madeleine. But you do find perfectly shameless cleavages, radiant breasts often uncluttered by a bra.” But then, what do I know about French Literature? It did after all produce the Marquis de Sade who was eminently more fruity.

There have been the predictable howls of outrage from dungaree-clad academics about the objectification of women but that misses the point slightly. Colin himself admits that the book has been written to provoke reaction. With that in mind, and unlike an undoubtedly large number of people who will rush to condemn the book without having read it, I will simply say this: if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Vive la diffĂ©rence!