Leeds City Council has recently permitted a permanent red light district in the Holbeck area of the city, following the murder of 21-year-old sex worker, Daria Pionko, a few weeks before. The introduction of the ‘managed zone’ will allow sex workers to operate between the hours of 7pm and 7am at a decreased risk of arrest, provided they abide by specific regulations. The initiative aims to improve relations between the city’s sex workers and its police force, which could lead to increased reporting of offences against sex workers, safer working environments, and fewer tragedies like Daria’s.
Sex work is a notoriously dangerous industry, and whilst prostitution itself is legal in the UK, the numerous laws and regulations surrounding sex work make it difficult for sex workers to be protected by law, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Sex workers are also one of the most marginalised communities in the UK, and whilst many women make the choice to go into sex work, many more women are forced to sex work due to poverty, or through being unable to enter conventional employment for reasons such as poor mental health.
Through introducing regulations like managed zones to cities, it gives hope for the future of sex work and sex workers’ rights. Criminalisation only serves to put those involved in sex work at risk of not only legal action, but also endangers their lives. Previous attempts to either decrease sex work or protect sex workers have been ineffective, and so the decision by Leeds City Council to take a new, more liberal approach to improving the lives and working conditions of sex workers should be welcomed.
Sex work isn’t going anywhere. Whether women choose to become sex workers or are forced to turn to sex work to make ends meet, and regardless of one’s moral standpoint on sex work, it is imperative that the women involved in sex work have access to safe working conditions and are protected by law in their work. Anything less implies that the lives of sex workers are not worth protecting, and no one’s work should devalue their worth as a human being.