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Julie Bindel. In the midst of all the outrage about modern-day slavery, usually vulnerable men forced into manual labour, there is actually a far worse form of abuse going on in the UK. It happens in every city, town and even village. The women who work as prostitutes are in hock and in trouble. One of the most disturbing discoveries I made was that the loudest voices calling for legalisation and normalisation of prostitution are the people who profit from it: pimps, punters and brothel owners.
They have succeeded in speaking for the women under their control. This in turn will dramatically reduce HIV rates, argued the pro-legalisation lobby, and end the murder of women by pimps and punters. This was the theory. Legalisation of prostitution in Germany, Holland and Australia has not led to a decrease in violence, HIV rates or in fewer women being murdered. What legalisation can mean is that the much-vaunted rights and freedoms which prostitutes are said to enjoy are instead claimed by brothel-owners and customers.
The true scale of the global sex trade is terrifying. I visited a village in India built entirely on prostitution and met a man who was pimping his daughter, sister, aunt and mother. I interviewed pimps in the legal mega-brothels of Munich, where men pay a flat fee which entitles them to use as many women as they want to. They are not free or empowered: they are abused and trapped.
During a visit to Los Angeles, I met Greg, born into a family with connections to the mob. From an early age he was sexually exploited and abused by powerful men. In his teenage years he met a pimp, and was sold for sex for six years before managing to escape. Greg has no truck with the idea that selling sex is part of homosexual culture. I had assumed that she would have become rich and famous as a result of the stratospheric success of her book The Happy Hooker: My Own Story , which has sold 20 million copies worldwide.
But in fact, as I soon learned over that dinner, it was selling other women that earned her fame and fortune. She told me that she was a hooker for about six months, just to learn the trade. Not like real women. How will they get a date? But consider all those millions of oppressed women. What about their rights? In one of the Nevada brothels I visited, the women were locked in at night, and barbed wire surrounded the high walls.