Monday, November 17, 2008

Hollis criticised for call to legalise brothels

A year ago Bishop Hollis of Portsmouth made widely criticised remarks on how brothels should be legalised for the sake of the prostitutes. The question, from a Catholic point of view, is whether the state should tolerate this evil for the sake of the common good: ie whether the law causes more harm than good. Hollis' judgement that it does ignores (1) the experience of Sweden, where prostitution has been much more effectively suppressed by focusing efforts on prosecuting clients, rather than the prostitutes, (2) the current situation in England, where brothels are de facto tolerated already, and (3) the reality of prostitution as the most appalling kind of exploitation of women.

Hillary White of Lifesitenews gives us this update:

PORTSMOUTH, UK, November 15, 2007 ( - Anti-trafficking organizations have demanded the resignation of Portsmouth Catholic bishop Crispian Hollis after he told media of his support for the legalization of brothels. He made his comments in response to a resolution passed by the Hampshire branch of the Women's Institute, the UK's largest women's organization, calling on the government to legalize brothels.

Hollis, whose diocese covers Hampshire, told media last weekend, "If you are going to take a pragmatic view and say prostitution happens, I think there's a need to make sure it's as well-regulated as possible for the health of people involved and for the safety of the ladies themselves."

The Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition has called for Bishop Hollis to resign citing the Vatican's condemnation of the international movement to legalize prostitution. IATC director, Gregory Carlin told, "Legal brothels legitimize an industry that completely victimizes women."

Although the argument is routinely made that legalization protects women, anti-trafficking organizations insist that it fails to protect women or slow down the growth of organized crime, trafficking or sexual abuse of children. "No jurisdiction," Carlin said, "not Australia, New Zealand, Holland, or Germany has been able to migrate street prostitution to the brothel model."

"If the demand is legitimized or expanded in the UK it will increase the existing problem of sex tourism" in Europe, he said. "There are men who think they have a right to do these things. Legal brothels in Britain will offer a seamless opportunity vis a vis Germany, Holland, Belgium and other European countries."

In 2005, the Vatican released a document calling prostitution "a form of modern day slavery". The document, developed at the First International Meeting of Pastoral Care for the Liberation of Women of the Street, added that "sexual exploitation, prostitution and trafficking of human beings are all acts of violence against women," and "constitute an offence to the dignity of women and are a grave violation of basic human rights."

Carlin also called on the National Federation of Women's Institutes to disavow any support for the legalization of prostitution or brothels. Efforts by the Women's Institutes to legalize brothels, he said, "is not going to help anybody who needs help."

Eoin Redahan, head of Public Relations with the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI), responded, however, that the decision to support legalization of brothels by the Hampshire branch "is not an issue that the WI" as a whole "has a position on."

Redahan wrote in an email, "The National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) is made up of 70 federations representing more or less a county each. These federations are independent and are free to discuss whatever issues that feel may be of concern to their members. The Hampshire federation, in this instance, discussed and debated the legalizing of brothels and voted in favour of this resolution. This federation's resolution does not apply to any of the other 69 federations or to the NFWI."

But the Hampshire WI intends to try to bring the entire national organization into line. Jean Johnson, Hampshire WI advisor, told the BBC this week that if the Hampshire resolution was successful nationally the WI would then propose it to the British government.

She told BBC News that legalizing brothels would improve the access of prostitutes to medical care and "make it easier for police to tackle illegal human trafficking".

But actual human trafficking campaigners disagree, saying that legalization is a "gift" to those who live off the arrears of prostitution and traffic in women and girls.

Gregory Carlin said that the British police do not close illegal brothels, and that British men who frequent them are a "major part" of the exploitation of trafficked children in brothels. He alleged that they are frequently offered immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for information about immigrants.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen