Britain: from same-sex marriage to legalizing mini brothels

The British government on Tuesday moved toward legalizing mini brothels, as it proposed changing the law to allow up to three prostitutes to work together. Home Office Minister Fiona Mactaggart said the current law, which bars more than one prostitute working in a premises, put women at risk. Unveiling a government strategy paper, she said the government's main focus was tackling street prostitution and cracking down on so-called "curb crawlers" who trawl the sidewalks in their cars looking for sex.

"I'm not encouraging the commercial sale of women's bodies. I don't think that is something the law should do," said Mactaggart. "However, I think the evidence that women working on their own are putting themselves in danger is powerful, and recognize that this is not something that is going to be solved instantly." The Home Office estimates that some 80,000 people work in the sex trade in Britain, many of them young women trafficked from overseas. It is illegal to solicit clients for sex on the street, but prostitutes can operate alone from a premises. More than one prostitute at a single premises is currently defined as a brothel and is illegal.

The government strategy is two-pronged: aiming to help women leave the sex trade, or making it safer if they choose to remain in the industry; and targeting men who exploit prostitutes. Mactaggart said police would be encouraged to confiscate driving licenses from curb-crawlers to stop them re-offending and force them to attend special classes.

She also said courts must consider drug treatment programs and other help for convicted prostitutes, instead of fines which simply encourage them back onto the streets. Mactaggart called for a common, nationwide approach to tackling prostitution, and said that successful initiatives carried out in the past by just one police authority had simply shifted the problem into other neighborhoods.

However, it was the government's plan to change the definition of brothel, from more than one prostitute working alone in a premises to more than two or three, that grabbed the attention of the British news media Tuesday. Mactaggart said the government would consult on whether two or three prostitutes should be allowed to work together, and insisted she was not simply trying to shift them from the streets into apartments, reports the AP. N.U.