Red Light District In Leeds – Is It Helping?

The initiative by Leeds city council to introduce a red-light district in Holbeck in 2014 has been hotly debated ever since its inception. Since the murder of a Polish sex worker in 2015 many legitimate questions and worries about the red-light have been raised as locals began to doubt the effectiveness of the initiative and their worst apprehensions appeared to come to fruition.

The hours between 7pm and 7am have become the prime time for the prostitutes of Leeds to practice their trade, completely legally, in the streets of Holbeck. Prostitution itself was never illegal in this country but soliciting and ‘kerb-crawling’ have always been against the law. A study by the home office this year discovered that 80,000 women in the UK are involved in prostitution with at least 250 women working in Leeds right now. These are quite disconcerting figures considering the obvious dangers these women are putting themselves in merely to make money. However, what are the actual benefits to a red-light district? Does it actually have an impact on the safety of these women which is, obviously, the most important aspect of this debate?

In theory, a well-regulated red-light district is the best thing for the unfortunate women who find themselves on the streets. They will have more protection from law enforcement and the legalisation of their trade allows them to avoid the unforgiving and unhelpful realm of the prison system. Aside from the safety of all parties involved being more tightly secured there is the issue of individual liberty and the right to do to oneself what one sees fit. As previously mentioned; the act of exchanging money for sex itself is not illegal, it is the act of soliciting or kerb-crawling which is against the law. Therefore, no personal freedoms are being impinged upon directly; instead, the current law outside the red-light district indirectly punishes those who sell their body for sex. This could be seen as sneaky legislation that really has no impact on the amount of sex workers in the country. It merely a token. Everybody in this country has the right to make a living; including sex workers. The main argument against a red-light district is the lack of impact it has had in reference to the murder of the Polish sex worker in 2015, however, would this heinous crime have happened anyway? Would tighter regulation have prevented the actions of one, clearly unhinged man?

Lyle Bloom

(Image courtesy of The Metro)