PORTSMOUTH's Roman Catholic bishop is backing a campaign to regulate prostitution.
The Right Reverend Crispian Hollis says he does not condone prostitution but supports the controversial campaign launched by Hampshire Women's Institute.
At their autumn conference more than 200 WI groups voted unanimously in favour of council-licensed brothels to protect prostitutes.
And now they're hoping for a national campaign.
Bishop Hollis said: 'If you are going to take a pragmatic view and say prostitution happens, I think there's a need to make sure it's as well- regulated as possible for the health of people involved and for the safety of the ladies themselves.
'That's not to say I approve of prostitution in any way. I don't. I would be very much happier if there was no prostitution in Portsmouth or anywhere else because I do regard those involved in any way as involved in some form of immorality.
'But it's going to be there whatever we do – it has been from time immemorial, so I think that's something we have to be realistic about.'
And Mary King, of North End and Southsea WI, says the support is very welcome.
She said: 'We do have a lot of Christians in the WI but nobody raised any religious or moral issues against the motion. We can't live in a bubble.
'These things do exist and until you stop people wanting to use prostitutes we've got to do what's best for the people concerned.'
The debate over legalised brothels has raged in the Portsmouth area for years.
Rachel Frost, from the International Union for Sex Workers, said: 'The bishop should be commended for having the guts to come out and say that.
'It sounds like this country's waking up at last to the realities of the industry.
'It's surprising sometimes where support comes from but if it moves things forward, makes things safer and creates an environment with more respect, we welcome this kind of forward thinking.''
Deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council Alex Bentley said: 'The WI are very brave in making the assertion and they're probably right. It works very well in continental countries where brothels are licensed and appropriate medical advice is given.'