Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Safe to walk the streets?

Two stories in the news have been disturbing me somewhat. Their content is about horrible events but it is the reaction or interpretation of them that is making me annoyed. The first one is the news story about the 'serial killer' in Ipswich'. I would like to note on today's lunchtime news on BBC1 the police remarked they might be dealing with a serial killer. By tonight's evening new slot, it had been changed to they were dealing with a serial killer. Anyway, the parts that annoy me are comments such as "Assistant Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer urged women, particularly in the party season, not to go out at night alone." So far most of the women that have been unfortunately killed have been prostitutes working in the red light district. While I am not trying to belittle the crimes that have been taken place, this warning to ALL women has left me with an uneasy feeling. It reminds me of Contagious Diseases Act of 1864 where women could be arrested on the assumption they were a prostitute. It's almost making me laugh when the police advise female prostitutes to stay off the streets. The large majority of women involved in prostitution are not involved through choice. They can't just pull a 'sickie' if they don't want to go to work. I am a firm believer in looking at the entrance reasons surrounding women's involved in prostitution such as drug addiction, economic reasons etc. But this case appears to be labelling ALL women as being vulnerable. Looking at the women already murdered or believe missing this person is working to a certain profile. This is based on my own speculation that if it's a man carrying out the crimes then he disassociates prostitutes from other women. They are seen as a release valve for possible sexual tension and therefore not in the normal female category of mother, girlfriend and so on.

Please feel free to correct my amateur psychology ;-)

I do think the message of 'Look after your mates' is very important though, regardless of gender. Making sure they get a taxi home or send you a text when they're through their front door is a decent thing to do. But using this case as a way of highlighting it is the wrong way of going about it. Women are going to be offended and think "Well, I'm not a prositute so I'm safe." They might not necessarily be victims of the above 'serial killer' (whose nickname is no doubt being coined by a national tabloid as I type) but that doesn't mean they're safe from other factors such as a physical assault or other crimes.

Which brings me onto the other news story.

A young woman was raped after getting into a fake private taxi. I know this is a bigger problem in England but, as far as I am aware, it has only recently been highlighted in the Scottish media. Now the internet version includes more information than the original Teletext version I saw. The woman in question walked from Cube to the Radisson Hotel. Now, that is at least a 10 minute walk to the other end of the town. The Radisson Hotel is part of Glasgow's red light district, ironically. It is possible the private hire company told her to walk to the Raddisson (the end of the Argyle Street she was originally on is a one way street and few taxi companies will pick you up from there) but highly doubtful. There are many holes in this story but I admire the girl for reporting it. All in all a rather unease connected to current stories in the media.


tommy_blue_eyes said...

old friend i believe the CDA of 1864 is a strained comparison at best :p, however you do raise the interesting dilema of prostitutes protection(thought perhaps its only a dilema for liberals), you and I agree on this issue to the extent that prostitutes are citzens and deserve the same protection as everyone else in that they should have safe environments to work in, and, as you advocate, "The large majority of women involved in prostitution are not involved through choice" therefore only a total arse-head would believe these safe environments would make prostitution more accessable and popular.

In relation to the murders and the rape, i believe that it is important for the media to highlight these awful incidents to help inform women of potential dangers, however that should be the limit of their involvement. The media still have a tendency to retain patriarchal vaules and translate them onto women, for example, a young british male is far more likely to come into contact with dangers than a young female on a night out, however it is women that are given more guidelines and social restrictions on how to behave and what not to do on a nightout, i'm not suggesting these guidelines are not in the best interests of the individual, however a more gender-balanced campaign from the media would be nmore reassuring. Your opinion?

A Woman with an Opinion said...

OK, you caught me out. The CDA was the best piece of legislation I could think of to prove my example.

You may remember a while back I was involved with a panel group for the 'Play it Safe' campaign in Glasgow. It's trying to promote responsible drinking, looking out for each other and so on. A large proportion of the campaign was gender based, such as showing a picture of a girl who had had so much to drink she was crawling along the pavement.

Just because this person is targetting women does not mean they are the only group at risk from any crime. Sadly I doubt killings of male prostitutes would receive such news coverage or, indeed, police time. Patriachal society dictates men are the stronger gender therefore less at risk of such dangers. You and I know that is utter cobblers but the popular opinion does not reflect ours.