Parliamentary group reports on trafficking and exploitation in UK

Labour Party

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.

‘A Europe free from prostitution’?

Labour Party

The European Women’s Lobby visited the European Parliament earlier this week to put forward their proposals for a ‘Europe free from prostitution.’

They have identified six key recommendations they would like Brussels to adopt. These are:

EWL’s six key recommendations to EU Member States:
1.    the suppression of repressive measures against prostituted persons
2.    the criminalisation of all forms of procuring
3.    the development of real alternatives and exit programmes for those in prostitution
4.    the prohibition of the purchase of a sexual act
5.    the implementation of policies of prevention, education, to promote equality and positive sexuality
6.    the development of prevention policies in the countries of origin of prostituted persons.

Following the EWL’s calls I said “I fully supported the adoption of a model similar to the one in place in Sweden.”

While I agree, and support the EWL’s recommendations I also believe we must focus attention, effort and resources on the issue of human trafficking which helps fuel the demand for prostitution.

If we are to tackle the problem of prostitution we must also acknowledge and fight equally hard to abolish the very violent crime of human trafficking.

Statistics show that between 76-79% of reported trafficking in humans is for sexual exploitation. This is a worryingly high statistic, and, in reality, is likely to be even higher because not every crime of this nature is reported.

I therefore support the criminalisation of all forms of procuring, and the creation of effective exit programmes for sex workers, in line with the views of the EWL.

In Sweden, legislation which criminalises those who pay for prostitutes had had a very significant impact in reducing the number of persons exploited in street prostitution, reducing it by half. In 1996, 13.6% of Swedish men said they had bought someone for prostitution purposes. In 2008, the figure had dropped to 7.8%.

Tackling this issue while simultaneously deploying more resources to help victims of human trafficking makes sense but also provides the best chance to help every victim of sexual exploitation.