not a moral issue?

There’s been much in the media, in the UK, recently about prostitution and proposed changes in the law (mostly prompted by the high profile case in which Steve Wright was convicted of the murder of five women working as prostitutes).

(Proposed revisions to the law, however, have been jettisoned for the moment, in an attempt to get the Criminal Justice Bill through Parliament as smoothly as possible. More here)

Radio 4 had a discussion about whether selling sex simpliciter is morally problematic – you can listen to the programme here (though programme may only be online until next wed. scroll down to ‘the moral maze and click listen.)

Its actually a pretty frustrating listen: many of the discussants don’t focus on the matter that is supposedly under discussion, namely of whether or not selling sex itself is morally problematic. So often they seem to be talking at cross purposes. Rather, there is discussion of the often horrific conditions that surround those working in prostitution.

Whilst this meant there was little clarity over the moral issue …

(only Michael Portillo seemed focused on this question; his claim being that when it somes to selling sex simpliciter, if both buyer and seller were informed and consenting, there was no moral issue, nor should there be a law against this (he seemed to suggest this was a thought that could generalise. But there are cases where this does not, in current law, hold: he would surely want to say (I think?) that selling and buying drugs (non-addictive ones, to remove complications about autonomy on the part of the buyer), for example, should not be legal))

… what the discussion DID seem to show, was that the moral issues surrounding selling sex should be of little relevance when considering what the legal position should be  – not least because even if it is morally wrong, this does not mean it should be illegal.

More relevant are the realities of the conditions in which many women work in prostitution, and what leads them into it. This  interesting article in today’s guardian (G2) which discusses prostitution without raising the moral issue at all.