Women drop needlepoint to investigate prostitution

Last updated 01:13 05/04/2008

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Two stalwarts of the Women's Institute in England - usually concerned with issues such as needlepoint and jam-making - are travelling to New Zealand to investigate brothels.

Pensioners Jean Johnson, 62, and Shirley Landells, 73, of the WI in Hampshire want to learn how New Zealand prostitutes run their own businesses.

They also want to talk to prostitutes to see how the profession operates, The Telegraph newspaper in London reported.

Mrs Johnson, a housewife from the leafy village of Four Marks, admitted that she expected the trip to be "quite an eye-opener". She added: "I'm prepared to be very shocked by what I see."

Mrs Landells, who joined the WI 40 years ago, said: "I joined up to get involved with jam-making and craftwork and never thought I would ever be doing anything like this.

"It's an issue that nobody seems to talk about - certainly nobody in the WI - but it's so important that we look out for the health and safety of these girls.

"I really am the least likely person to be visiting brothels - I'm very conventional I suppose. I imagine I may well be quite upset about things I see.

"I don't think it will be an easy trip but I think prostitution will always exist and someone has to stick their head above the parapet and confront these issues - I just didn't think it would be me."

On the way to New Zealand, they will tour a tour the red light district of Amsterdam and visit a "bunny ranch" in America dubbed "the best little whorehouse in the western world".

The pair will return to brief WI members on their findings as part of a campaign to legalise prostitution in Britain and provide greater protection for working girls.

Mrs Johnson proposed last October that Hampshire WI should campaign to legalise council-run brothels.

- NZPA

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