A Parliamentary Group has published its report on the problem of sexual exploitation in England and Wales, which it found is widespread throughout the UK.
The report ‘Behind Closed Doors’, conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade, urges the Government to combat the demand that drives sexual exploitation by making paying for sex a criminal offence in all locations. This is a model I have supported and campaigned for over many years.
The problem for the police and other law enforcement agencies who seek to fight this criminal activity is that by its very nature the model is transient, in other words brothel owners will operate for a short period of time in one area, before moving to another location.
In addition to these “pop up brothels” women themselves are moved across different locations, allowing the sexual exploitation to continue. This makes it incredibly hard for the Police to identify, challenge and eradicate.
Furthermore, while the size and the structure of these organised crime gangs varies, what they have in common is the methods used to source and retain women, while also ensuring law enforcement agencies do not impede the ‘work’. They use coercive measures to stop women from talking to agencies, they isolate them, use sexual and physical violence and debt bondage among an array of other despicable and cruel measures to ensure the women stay.
The report states the UK must become a hostile environment in which trafficking is not able to flourish in any way.
To achieve this it suggests several recommendations which include: The Government working to combat the demand which drives sexual exploitation. This should be done by making the purchasing of sex an offence. It also recommends that Government makes prostitution procurement websites more accountable. They must take more responsibility for facilitating and profiting from this kind of exploitation. It’s other significant recommendation is that the Government should change the law by removing the criminal offence of soliciting in a street or public space for selling sex.
However, because of the deceptive nature of exploitation and the lengths traffickers go to ensure they aren’t uncovered, all of which is outlined brilliantly well in this report, law enforcement agencies are only aware of a small proportion of what takes place.
The true scale of the problem is not reflected in the figures that are available. But we do know that still in 2018 thousands of women are being sexually exploited across the country and we must challenge the source of the problem and as a significant move in the right direction the introduction of the Nordic Model (where the purchaser of sex is criminalised not the supplier) would help.