Last updated on: 2/15/2008 | Author:

Should Prostitution Tolerance Zones like Red-Light Districts Be Created?

PRO (yes)


Margo MacDonald, Member of the Scottish Parliament, said in an Oct. 11, 2002 interview on BBC On The Record that:

“Firstly [after tolerance zones were created in Edinburgh] there was a lower rate of criminality associated with street prostitution because of the intelligence that the police had built up in the area, no pimps and things like that. Also there were no under aged girls working as prostitutes, and there now are because there’s no tolerance zone, the police don’t exactly know where, you know, the women are going to be. And thirdly, the huge benefit to public health, of the woman being in touch with the health services, the fact that the HIV infection which should have been rampant amongst street prostitutes in Edinburgh was actually at a lower rate of infection than it is amongst the general public.”

Oct. 11, 2002


Kimberly Klinger, writer, in the Jan.-Feb. 2003 journal The Humanist article “Prostitution, Humanism, and a Woman’s Choice,” wrote:

“Designated streetwalking zones have also been established. While these aren’t without their problems, they have essentially functioned as a safe community for women to work. The zones also offer the benefit of a shelter which affords prostitutes a place to meet with their colleagues, talk to health care professionals, and generally relax. This was a good solution for an occupation that had led both police and prostitutes to feel that frequent raids were only making matters worse. Women felt scared and were always on the run, and police thought they weren’t succeeding at making the streets any safer.”

Jan.-Feb. 2003


Katherine Raymond, former Special Adviser to then British Home Secretary David Blunkett, in the Dec. 17, 2006 The Observer article “Brothels and Safe Red Light Areas Are the Only Way Forward,” wrote:

“We should pilot managed areas such as in the Netherlands, regularly patrolled by police, where sex workers are given an area where they can safely take their customers. These so-called red light zones have their problems. But their existence can help reduce crime, and enhance the women’s safety.

Politicians are fond of telling people that theirs is a world of hard choices. It is time they made this one.”

Dec. 17, 2006


Dan Gardner, LLB, MA, Columnist and Senior Writer at The Ottawa Citizen, wrote in his Feb. 3, 2003 article “Coffee? Prayers? Sex?” that:

“Most police officers understand that arresting hookers simply pushes them from place to place so they leave them alone as long as there are no complaints. The prostitutes know this and try to keep a low profile by never working in groups and by sticking to streets where there are few residents. As a result, a parliamentary report concluded a few years ago, most major cities now have ‘unofficial zones of tolerance.’

Unfortunately, such zones force streetwalkers to work under the most dangerous conditions possible: alone, on dark, deserted streets…

Amsterdam’s red-light district is entirely different… In the red-light district [of Amsterdam], the police are so ‘in the middle’ that they probably know more about its streets than any other neighbourhood in the city. Officers are always walking around, smiling, chatting and watching. They talk to the brothel owners. They talk to the prostitutes… The police know pretty much what everybody is up to…

It seems to work. For all the district’s weirdness and hordes of inebriated tourists, it’s remarkably orderly. Even in the late hours of the night, the streets are safer than in the downtown cores of most major cities. When I asked one American if he felt secure here, he burst out laughing. ‘I’m from Detroit!’ he said. ‘This is Disneyland.'”

Feb. 3, 2003

CON (no)


Jean Rafferty, journalist and author, was quoted in the May 15, 2004 Guardian article “Streets Apart” as having said:

“Zones were not created to help the women, but to dump them somewhere away from ‘respectable folk’. Those in Edinburgh were an insult to the women – horrible, dangerous places with no proper protection.”

May 15, 2004


Melanie Phillips, journalist and author, in the Dec. 18, 2006 Daily Mail article “Red Light Tolerance Zones Would Cause Prostitution to Rocket,” wrote:

“[R]ather than reduce the harm done by prostitution, such ‘zones of tolerance’ would increase it by becoming magnets for sex tourism and trafficking.

Countries that have gone down this route, such as the Netherlands, Denmark or Germany, have seen a vast increase in prostitution — and worse still, child prostitution — which has helped fuel the stupendous rise in global people trafficking.

It is also hard to see how this policy would prevent such murders from occurring. Even Glasgow’s ‘tolerance zone’ did not prevent a murder from taking place there… No amount of regulation can protect against that. The danger to prostitutes comes essentially not from where they ply their trade but from the trade itself. Prostitution embodies a view of women which is intrinsically brutalising, dehumanising and predatory. That is why the violence to which it gives rise is routine. That is why it is so appalling that anyone should be arguing that it should be regularised and thus condoned.”

Dec. 18, 2006


Janice Raymond, PhD, former Co-Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), in a May 28, 2004 speech “The Consequences of Legal Policy on Prostitution and Trafficking in Women” in Budapest, Hungary, said:

“Tolerance zones are treated as quick fixes to the spread of the sex industry and advocated as protected zones for prostituted women. But the problems with tolerance zones are many. The biggest is the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) problem. No neighborhood wants prostitution to be zoned there, so it gets pushed into backwater or industrial areas, areas that dangerous for women to be in, or poorer districts of the city where residents don’t have the financial and political clout of more economically advantaged areas.”

May 28, 2004


Suzanne Jay, member of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter collective, in a Mar. 1, 2003 presentation titled “Reject Red Light Districts as a Solution to Violence Against Women” in Vancouver, Canada, said:

“As for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The Charter’s guarantee of security of the person becomes meaningless when a woman must be penetrated in order for her to have access to food or shelter.

If the government does create a red light district, it will be delivering women into the hands of killers like [Robert William] Pickton and Jack the Ripper because we are now living in circumstances that allow that kind of man to emerge.”

Mar. 1, 2003


Vivienne Lalu, Training Coordinator of the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task-force (SWEAT) in Cape Town was quoted in the Mar. 16, 2007 Mercury article “Should Durban Have a Red-Light District?” as having said:

“[We oppose red-light districts b]ecause it creates a two-tier industry. Some people don’t want to work there and some patrons won’t go to a demarcated area.”

Mar. 16, 2007