October 1, 2009

Schwarzenegger Asked To Close Prostitution Website

On Wednesday, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked to crack down on a U.S. website that British authorities claim encourages prostitution by allowing men to receive and provide feedback on prostitutes working in London.

In an annual meeting with the ruling Labor Party, the British minister for women and equality Harriet Harman called the website Punternet a "very sinister development" in the fight to reduce the exploitation of women, adding that it serves to increase the demand for prostitutes while degrading women and putting them at risk of sexual abuse.

"Punternet has pages and pages of women for sale in London," said Harman, explaining that the site allows pimps to advertise their women and then provides a forum for clients to rate their services similar to websites providing ratings for restaurants or hotels.

Harman says that she has already spoken directly with the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., requesting that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger close shop on the California-based website.

"Surely it can't be too difficult for "ËœThe Terminator' to terminate Punternet and that's what I am demanding that he does," said Harman in one of her most provocative statements.

Thus far, the spokesman for the U.S. Embassy has not issued a statement on the matter.

The website is a self-described, "Online Community for Patrons and Providers of Adult Personal Services in the UK" with a stated purpose of helping to "facilitate the exchange of information on prostitution in the UK."

Punternet administrators have issued an open letter to Ms. Harman in response to the charges, defending the legality of the website under the Constitutional right to freedom of speech and maintaining that it violates no existing U.S. laws.

Furthermore, the website countered Harman's other charges, arguing that "rather than creating the demand for commercial sex, sites like PunterNet are a response to that demand, which has existed since the dawn of mankind and certainly long before the advent of the Internet."

"If sites like this one did not exist, and if prostitution were outlawed, then it [prostitution] would effectively be handed to organized crime on a platter."

"If, on the other hand, sexwork is recognized as a legitimate, honorable profession, then there will be no market for the criminal elements, and the truly despicable aspects of the scene such as sex slavery and trafficking will die out."

Unlike in most of the U.S., prostitution is legal per se in the U.K., although related activities such as advertising and soliciting are punishable by law.

Harman also used the occasion of the annual meeting to say that Gordon Brown's Labour Party government would seek to make it illegal to have sex with a prostitute who is managed by a pimp.

With the 2012 Olympic Games slated to take place in London, the government has been ratcheting up its efforts to stamp out human trafficking in the bustling metropolis.

"We're determined to ensure that, especially in the run-up to the Olympics, international criminal gangs don't trick and abduct women from abroad and sell them for sex in London," said Harman.


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