HAMPSHIRE members of the Women’s Institute say they are in shock after their fight to legalise brothels was rejected by their national body.

In a major blow to their high-profile campaign, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes did not include decriminalising prostitution on a shortlist of issues to debate at next year’s AGM.

The announcement came as Hampshire WI mourns the death of stalwart Shirley Landels, from Tichborne near Winchester, who led the fight with fellow member Jean Johnson.

The 73-year-old grandmother, who earlier this year trawled the world’s brothels to highlight the plight of working girls, died suddenly on October 3 during a trip to see her mother.

Mrs Johnson, from Four Marks, last night vowed to continue the battle they started last October.

“I honestly don’t know why it was rejected. It’s really, really disappointing, but the campaign continues,” she said.

“It might have been too risqué for them, but I found the list of six proposed resolutions peculiar because Government is already taking action on some of those issues.

“The purpose of a resolution is to have an informed debate. We called for the decriminalisation of prostitution – which is actually something you can debate.

“I don’t think you can could have an informed debate on some of the proposed resolutions, which are issues that will just be rubber stamped.”

If the resolution had been successful nationally the WI’s 250,000 members would have then lobbied Govern-ment to change the law.

The controversial proposal was knocked back earlier this month by a panel of 23 WI members who represented different counties scattered throughout the country.

The shortlist of resolutions they selected included: The declining honey bee population, action on flooding, reinstatement of hospital in-house cleaning, residential care fees for the elderly, the effect of GP-led practices in rural areas and a review of systems in family courts.

Hampshire WI vice-chairman Lynne Andrews said: “We are very disappointed, we were not given any explanation, only that it was a democratic vote. That’s the process and we have to accept it.

“It came as a bit of a surprise because we got so much support across the country, both inside the WI and outside.” Mrs Johnson and Mrs Landels were inspired to take action following the murder of five prostitutes in Ipswich in December 2006.

The motion – to make a safe and legal working environment for prostitutes and stop it from being driven underground – received almost unanimous backing from Hampshire’s 7,000 members and sparked a media frenzy.

The campaign was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary in August after a television production company took Mrs Johnson and Mrs Landels on a round-the-world, fact-finding mission.

In ten days the pair visited some of the world’s most famous sex hot spots in Holland, the USA and New Zealand to investigate the effects that local laws have on prostitution - and whether they could work in Hampshire.