Leeds' managed red light zone in Holbeck 'sending wrong message' on violence against women, Conservative councillor claims
The management of Leeds' red light district encourages the notion that violence against women is "acceptable", a local councillor has claimed.
Amanda Carter, a Conservative member on Leeds City Council, said the zone in Holbeck, where prostitution is permitted at certain times of the day, sent out the "wrong message" to society.
Coun Carter made the comments during a debate about sexual and violent crimes against women at a police and crime panel meeting on Friday.
The issue has been widely discussed this week following the death of Sarah Everard in London.
The zone, the first of its kind in the country, allows sex workers to operate without fear of prosecution, but the approach has divided opinion.
West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner said there were "no easy answers" over the issue.
Coun Carter said that the the police and Leeds City Council were "turning a blind eye" to the plight of the women in the area.
She told the meeting: "The women are mostly addicted to drugs and alcohol and that is why they have to be prostitutes, to feed their habit.
"Often something traumatic has happened in their lives. Some of them have been sexually abused or something dreadful has happened to them.
"The area is frequented by drug dealers.
"Are we not sending out the wrong message here, that it's acceptable for men to be violent towards women and it's acceptable for women to be beaten by men who are using them for sex?"
Coun Carter also claimed that children had been approached in the area and that local schools were worried about abductions as a result.
However, chief constable John Robins told the meeting that the only report of an attempted abduction in the district was several years ago before the managed zone started.
Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: "It's a very difficult issue, there's no doubt about it.
"I've been down there on a few occasions and had a walk round with some of the councillors and other people around there.
"There's a number of organisations who do some incredible work working with vulnerable women.
"I absolutely abhor the fact of prostitution and those who seek to control women in that way. But as you know, there are no easy answers on this.
"I know there are strong feelings on both sides and whether or not it's the right approach but I don't think there are any easy answers."
Local Democracy Reporting Service