May 4, 2021 - 1:36pm

In a Times column today entitled, ‘When sex with a prostitute is a human right’, Melanie Phillips praises Justice Hayden who, in a ruling last week, said it would be lawful for carers to arrange for a 27-year-old autistic man to pay for sex. Phillips says Hayden has ‘shown compassion’, and mentioned a piece I had written on the topic, saying:

Bindel’s opposition to prostitution is powerful and compelling. However, she failed to accept that the judge’s ruling rightly put uppermost the interests of a disadvantaged individual.
- Mel Phillips, The Times

Far from it; my concern for “disadvantaged individuals” forms my position on prostitution — namely that it should be abolished and that women be supported to exit the sex trade. It is quite incredible that the rights of women have been largely ignored, not only in the ruling, but by several ‘human rights’ advocates commenting on the case.

In the judgement, details of the effect of C’s condition on his behaviour was outlined: ‘C could be extremely challenging; his behaviour was sometimes aggressive and dangerous. In 2011, it was necessary for C to move out of his family home.’

Violence against prostituted women at the hands of pimps and punters is a well-documented problem. But the implication in Hayden’s ruling is that sex, in this case with a person who is doing it for cash and not her own desire, will enable C to let off some steam.

Phillips’s article suggests that a man’s disability somehow impairs their ability to form intimate relationships. This claim is one of the clearest examples of how the sex buyers’ so-called ‘human rights’ have been placed above those of the prostituted woman.

This argument is dangerous because it reinforces the problematic belief that disabled people are unable to have consensual sex and are therefore compelled to pay for it. Moreover, it suggests that disabled people’s carers are responsible for ensuring their clients’ sexual satisfaction.

This is already the case in Denmark, where prostitution was legalised in 1999. There is now an expectation that carers working with physically disabled couples should facilitate sex between them if asked.

Justice Hayden has taken a position on prostitution that has not yet been decided by the UK government. Namely, whether we criminalise demand in line with countries such as Sweden, France and Ireland or if we take the disastrous route of decriminalisation, which has resulted in the increase of trafficking and violence.

Let’s hope this ruling is overturned on appeal, and that men, disabled or not, are given the message that sex is not a human right. Women, however, do have a right to be protected from exploitation and harm.

Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.