15 June 2021
Today we heard the welcome news that Leeds City Council has announced that it is to scrap the so-called legal red-light zone in Holbeck – known officially as the ‘managed approach’.
We have written about the zone before – how it is a living hell for most of the women prostituted there; how it is a magnet for creepy men from all over the Midlands and North of England and how they terrorise the local women and girls; how pimps, traffickers and drug dealers operate in plain sight; how Leeds City Council has been intransigent in its insistence – against all evidence – that the zone makes the women safer; how Huddersfield University declared the zone a “resounding success” when the evidence pointed the other way; and how the prostituted women were not, in fact, decriminalised as claimed – although the pimps and punters were in practice; not to mention the extortionate sums of public money that were spent on keeping it going.
We are thrilled that this blight on society is finally to be ended once and for all. And we salute the local campaigners, particularly local groups Save Our Eyes and Voice of Holbeck, who have been exemplary in their tenacity to get this misguided scheme closed down. They have shown what small groups of determined citizens with a social conscience can achieve in the face of official obfuscation and absence of humanity.
We just wish Leeds City Council had listened – really listened – to these local residents years earlier.
The Yorkshire Post reported that when asked what his message was to men visiting the area to buy sex, Chief Superintendent Damien Miller, Leeds District Commander, said:
“They are not welcome within Holbeck if they are there for the purposes of kerb-crawling. The dedicated police resource will still take action against them, take them down a conditional cautioning route or take them to court if it is felt they are serial offenders.”
He went on to say that the police will monitor the situation to ensure it doesn’t just move to another area of Leeds. We hope these are not more hollow words that local campaigners will have to spend years fighting to have implemented properly.
Leeds Live reported that women will no longer be allowed to solicit on the streets of Holbeck. We hope that if they do, rather than being prosecuted for soliciting or being given ASBO/PSPOs or similar penalties for “anti-social” behaviour, they will instead be provided with real help to exit prostitution and rebuild their lives.
For many women this can be a difficult process. Many struggle with drug addictions; many have controlling and abusive partners who are pimping them; many are homeless and need help finding an alternative income; many are suffering chronic physical and mental ill-health – often as a direct result of their years of abuse in prostitution; many have lost hope in the possibility of a life free from men’s sexual violence.
These women are our sisters, our mothers, our daughters. They have been used and abused by British men. They deserve so much better. We call on Leeds City Council to invest in specialist services that will provide them with real support, addiction services and genuine routes out, and not just with tea and condoms.
There are many excellent examples of such services – for example, in Ipswich after a punter murdered five prostituted women in the town, and in Israel, which has recently introduced a Nordic Model approach.