Page 10, 22nd December 2006

22nd December 2006
Page 10
Page 10, 22nd December 2006 — When compliance follows tragedy
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Organisations: St Peter's Church
People: Mary Magdalene
Locations: Amsterdam

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When compliance follows tragedy

There has been a compassionate indeed, Christian response to the murder of five prostitutes in Ipswich.

It was impressive to see photographs of the dead women at a candlelit prayer service held in their memory at St Peter's Church, Copdock.

Christianity has always had a tradition of compassion towards women who have been involved in prostitution — starting with Mary Magdalene. Although the coda to forgiveness should also be recalled: "Go and sin no more." Real compassion for prostitutes is about helping women to get out of the trade of selling themselves.

Where I dissent is in the wave of general compliance and complacency which now seem to follow public expressions of compassion.

Especially do I dissent from the suggestions that as a result of these murders, both prostitution and heroin should be legalised. (What the dead women had in common was heroin addiction.) Legalising prostitution or hard drugs is a counsel of despair. You could, after all, wipe out every crime on the statute book just lay legalising the activity.

It is also a counsel of naivety. And established failure.

The decriminalisation of prostitution has already been tried in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, the authorities licensed certain premises for the use of "sex workers", with the added support of Government inspection for health reasons.

The outcome was an increase in both legal and illegal brothels. Where legal prostitutes were doing business, an illegal, cheaper service sprang up nearby.

Where established Dutch prostitutes were plying for trade legally. very poor and young girls were being trafficked from Eastern Europe illegally.

Where the legal prostitute was health-inspected to prevent the spread of disease, her illegal sister was evading inspection, to keep costs down.

As for the pimps who exploit, abuse and take money from young women in the sex trade: they were renamed "managers" and "facilitators". They still exploited, abused and took money from the women.

You don't change human nature just by passing a new law or calling something by a different name.

The Dutch authorities are now tightening up their regulations on prostitution. They will continue to "tolerate" aspects of the sex trade — and it's a fact that it is seldom repressed entirely — but the aim now is to restrict rather than to enable a trade with endless potential for damage.

The second experiment with drugs — has also occurred in the Netherlands. The Dutch were to the fore in tolerating the use of cannabis. It was all the rage to go to Amsterdam and visit a cannabis café, where you could smoke the weed, or even eat it in a chocolate cookie.

Cannabis does have some medicinal applications, and should be available for patients with MS, for example. And some people can indulge without serious harm to themselves or others.

But what the Dutch found was that their permissive attitude attracted every dopehead and squalid drug-dealer in Europe to their country.

For that reason, besides the growing awareness that for some individuals — especially those with schizophrenia cannabis is a murderous deinhibitor, the Dutch are now restricting access to the opiate.

Can't those who plead for more accessibility to heroin for addicts see the point? Once you make any drug easy to obtain, you automatically create a greater demand for it.

We shouldn't rule out fresh thinking on the drug problem, but making a dangerous substance free will not cure the problem, and is more likely to expand the number of users.

Oscar Wilde once said in jest that the only way to cope with temptation was to yield to it. Increasingly, this seems to be the first answer now given to any social problem: yield to every human weakness and legalise it.

Compassion for the dead women is right and proper. Exporting their way of life to countless more young persons is wrong and tragic.

The decline of the "Christian" Christmas card was one of the themes observed this year. Friends in Essex scoured the High Street shops for any Christian theme in the local card shops, without success.

It proves what we already knew. The tide of secularism swells with the shopping season.

But the essence of Christianity is not found in cards, nor in tinsel, nor in decorated pine trees, but in the hearts and souls of those committed to the Incarnation: and there, 1 believe, it still runs deep and strong.

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