The current investigation into the seemingly-serial murders of prostitutes in Ipswich has suggested that the women now dead were working to sustain their heroin habits. I detect a little bit of fluffiness here but will leave that for now. What this 'new' knowledge has done is lead to calls for drug use to be legalised or regulated in some other way. Theory seem to be that if these unfortunate females did not have to sell their bodies to fund a £500 per day habit they would not have been so vulnerable.
I am a little bit cold on this theory. There are vast numbers of women who live in abject poverty who do not just say 'fu*k it, I'm going on the game'. They get by. Getting by may seem a poor target in sociology terms but I am here contrasting their position with the girls who decide the street is the answer. They have found a way to obtain £500 a day. Those who do not get exposure to the under-life that is vice or drugs over-emphasise just how degraded these women must be. The drive for the money overcomes the self-respect. We have no way of knowing that merely giving a woman the drugs she seems to crave will balance out the – to her – simple way of earning a large sum of money. They have no asset other than their raddled body. Their education is generally unfinished and there is no alternative employment. Easing the pressure to earn does not mean they will suddenly turn into hordes of Mother Teresas or Lady Dis. Knowing that she is sitting on a gold mine will not make it easy to sit at home surrounded by kids and empty Buckfast bottles whilst watching CSI Bangalore. They are quite capable of creating some other activity that requires regular injections of easily earned cash.
If we give heroin to working girls, it will not be long before other users seek to obtain what they will see as their democratic rights to freeby drugs. The latest figures I can find regarding drug use in UK suggests that it is really only a very small minority who indulge. The media headlines about a drug threat sell papers but do not convey the scale of the situation. There can be few other minority activities – about 2% - where we would spend such potentially vast sums to achieve no really guaranteed result. The homicides in Ipswich are already leading to a wider discussion regarding prostitution. Not before time but any such legislation changes should not be undertaken in a knee-jerk reaction. Some thought needs to be given to the pimps and other third-parties in the commercial sex industry. They are in it for the money and legalising drugs will do them no favours.