It’s time for the UK to amend its out-of-date prostitution laws

Labour Party

Yesterday, The Guardian reported that France was considering amending its prostitution laws, making it illegal to pay for sex. Only a handful of European countries have opted to criminalise the clients of sex workers. Sweden is the only EU Member State to have done so.

In 2010, an attempt by Labour MPs to introduce similar legislation was rejected. A further attempt to do so by Scottish MP Marlyn Glen also fell through. I am shocked that there has not been more support for these proposals. Whilst I am against legalising prostitution like countries such as Holland and Belgium have done, I totally support introducing legislation to criminalise clients who pay sex workers.

Were clients to be criminalised, there would be a dramatic decrease in the numbers of women being trafficked for the purpose of prostitution. According to the UN, some 80% of persons trafficked are trafficked for sexual exploitation. The European Commission estimates that 120,000 women and children are trafficked into Western Europe each year. The root cause of prostitution and trafficking is the male demand for women who can be bought and sexually exploited. Evidently without the demand, the supply would not be necessary and the market would be substantially reduced.

Another huge failure of the current system is the impact on the sex workers themselves. Where prostitutes are regarded as criminals, rather than victims, measures to combat prostitution can often do more harm than good. In the UK, the criminal justice system has long permitted the use of ASBOs for street-based prostitution. This is highly ineffective. Women who fail to comply with the terms of their ASBO (and this is most women) frequently end up with a short-term prison sentence. This is very demoralising for them and can destroy their self-esteem.

For the actor Philippe Caubère to claim that sex workers ‘take care of men who mostly live in sexual misery’ shows a gross misunderstanding of the issue. Prostitution is a form of male violence against women. Caubère’s words sum up the widely held belief that men are innocent victims of sexual desires and women exist to serve them. No man has ever died from lack of sex, and no man will if France reforms its prostitution laws. I just hope that it encourages the UK to do the same.

Demand Change on Trafficking of Women

Labour Party


Sonny Leong (pictured) Chair of Chinese for Labour has kindly invited me to write an article on women and trafficking for the September issue of The Orient, Chinese for Labour’s magazine. Here it is:

Whilst I am a strong supporter of the Olympics, and the opportunities it is offering the vibrant capital that I call home, I am deeply concerned that the 2012 Games will spark a steep rise in the capital’s sex trade. Over 30,000 construction workers are set to work on the site over the next three years, and when added together with spectators and athletes, this could a fuel a sex-trade time bomb. 

During the Athens Games, sex trafficking almost doubled and there were reports of sex attacks in the athletes’ village in Sydney in 2000. In the UK, a small increase in the number of trafficked women working in the five Olympic host boroughs was recently reported by the BBC. Fortunately it seems that the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) has made an about turn on previous statements and now shares these concerns. A report published by the MPA in mid-July this year warned that an increase in prostitution and trafficking linked to the Games could put women at risk.

Previously, when I have approached the police and London borough councils on these issues, they have backed away from making any link between sex crimes and sporting events. Even when I used figures showing dramatic increases in the trafficking of women ahead of the Swiss Euro 2008, Liberal Democrat Councillor Terry Stacy, Islington council’s executive member for community safety, said:

 “Levels of prostitution in Islington have significantly fallen in the last two years and the area around King’s Cross has improved. But we know there is still work to be done.”

Her refusal to acknowledge any extra burden on councils in tackling trafficking and prostitution in the lead up to and duration of the Games, shows just how out of touch most councillors are with this problem. 

Where large groups of men have congregated together away from home, there has always tended to be an increase in prostitution. History is laden with evidence to verify this correlation: from wars in Roman times, and the First and Second World Wars and Vietnam War, to stag parties and testosterone-driven companies’ business trips. The question is why should large sporting events be any different? The psycho-social reasons why men pay for sex; a strange environment; hyper-masculine environment; being inebriated and overseas: these all apply to sporting events. Especially football. At a Demand Change! event, hosted by anti-prostitution groups OBJECT! and Eaves Housing, Professor Roger Matthews from London South Bank University spoke of his findings that the vast majority of prostitution business in this country is from men “experimenting” and “trying it out just the one time”. He found that business for prostitutes from regular users makes up just 10 per cent of the UK’s sex trade. 

Such findings show that the atmosphere created by one off events, such as the Olympics, are highly conducive to a rise in “experimental” behaviour. Traffickers know that amidst the hubbub and excitement of the Games there will be an increase in demand for sexual services and they will do all they can to meet this demand. For this reason, London borough councils and the police must show absolutely no tolerance towards prostitution within London. This is the only chance the authorities have of lowering the market for trafficked women and preventing traffickers from establishing themselves in the capital ahead of the Games. But unfortunatelcfl 003y the police are just not getting this.

At the beginning of this year The Evening Standard reported that Commander Allan Gibson, of the Metropolitan Police force, told a Commons’ Home Affairs Committee that his force knew rapidly when sex was being sold and could devote “a lot more” of its resources to tackling the problem, but chose not to do so. According to the paper, Mr Gibson, the officer in charge of the force’s human trafficking unit, said the Met insisted it is determined to stamp out serious criminality connected to brothels, such as people-trafficking. But this entirely misses the point. A green light to prostitution is a green light to trafficking; where prostitution has been legalised, such as in Germany and the Netherlands, trafficking has risen exponentially to meet the demand. As explained by Gunilla Ekberg, from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) at the same OBJECT! meeting this summer,

“Countries like Germany and the Netherlands  have concluded that they have made a gigantic mistake. They both agree that the way to go is to criminalise the demand.” 

We have had some pretty tense debates around prostitution and trafficking in the European Parliament’s Women’s Rights Committee, even amongst the Socialist group, where we can usually agree! The European Parliament cannot legislate on selling sex, hence why member states’ legislation on this issue varies so widely.  

One statement we all stand behind is The European action plan to fight trafficking of women (2005), and all of us in the Socialist group are fighting for this to be given more priority by our member states. This plan involves implementing national and international hotlines for victims of trafficking across member states and ensuring that victims of trafficking are supported, instead of being immediately sent back to their country of origin by authorities. Other than Euro politicians supporting European recommendations to tackle trafficking, it is largely up to the UK Parliament, and at the moment the Lords, to take a stand on the commercial sexual exploitation of women and to deal with its far-reaching human rights implications. This Bill is a real opportunity to make progress on reducing exploitation of women by addressing the demand factor. Across Europe, this has proven to be the only way to put an end to trafficking. In Sweden, where paying or offering to pay for sexual services, on or off the street, is a criminal offence, instances of trafficking are the lowest in Europe. A law such as this is urgently needed in the UK, but unfortunately the government has been reluctant to do it as surveys have shown that public attitudes are against such legislation. So until attitudes change, which the Demand Change! Campaign is fighting to do, the Policing and Crime Bill’s first tentative steps towards punishing any person who buys sex from a trafficked person, whether they do it knowingly or not, is the best hope that we have got.

I urge you to support this Bill in whatever way you can and keep track, or get involved in the Demand Change! Campaign here


Labour Party


Yesterday Iain Dale paid me a tremendous compliment in suggesting I might be the new Harriet Harman. There’s only one Harriet of course. I have great respect for Harriet and organised in London and Europe to support her successful Deputy Leadership bid. Sadly Iain went on to claim that I had made some facts up. I have reproduced my source below and highlighted in bold the part he doubts. Now looking again I think 1,000,000 is a high figure for workers on the Olympics and I will check further this week. Iain asserts only 10,000 workers so come on Iain, what’s your source? Iain says “I am told”, who by? Is it an educated guess? I think for the whole Olympic project Iain’s figure is too low. He may be forgetting there is more than one Olympic venue.

The Press Trust of India is a Press Agency and is the equivalent of Reuters. It is a well respected organisation.

Noting Iain’s postcript on Norwich North, I’ll be there later this week for the by-election and happy to discuss further if he’s campaigning there too.


Influx of workers for Olympics could lead to rise in sex trade.

 LENGTH: 448 words 

 By: Prasun Sonwalkar

London, Mar L7 (PTI) Thousands of construction workers, expected to arrive in London for 2012 Olympics could cause a surge in prostitution, health experls have warned saying it could also lead to the spread of sexually transmitted

infections.Workers will be coming to thec ountry in huge numbers for large scale construction activities related to the Olympics.

The rise of prostitutition could also lead to the spread of sexually transmitted infections,The Times reported today.

Olympics officials are being asked to address the impact of the predominantly male construction workforce, which is likely to total more than 1,00,000 over the next four years.

More than 1,000 people are already working on preparing the site, with a further 2,000 scheduled to begin arriving within weeks as work starts on the stadium.

Health organisations have warned that thousands of prostitutes including trafficked women, are likely to arrive in the run-up to 2012.

They are calling for extra staff in sexual health clinics to address a predicted rise in sexually transmitted infections

And for preventive measures such as sex leaflets in various languages and condom distribution.

The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), the HIV and sexual health charity, is calling for an urgent meeting with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games.

Lisa Power, policy director for the trust, said, “There will be increased sexual activity at the Olympics and in the run-up.There will be migrant workers, mostly men, separated from their families. “Many of them will have unprotected sex.They will go out for casual sex or with sex workers.There is a big potential for increase in poor sexual health, including HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea. This an issue where everybody gets embarrassed and they don’t want to talk about it. Sara Walker, of the Enelish Collective of Prostitutes. said: “Of course,where men gather with time and money then prostitues will go there. We are more concerned about the police coming in and targeting prostitutes who are not illegal immigrants.” Clinicians assessing the impact of the Sydney 2000 Games found a big increase in demand for sexual health services and a conesponding increase in sexually related diseases, mainly among casual workers, the trust said.

Grahame Maxwell spokesman on human-trafficking at the Association of Chief Police Officers, said that the Metrlpolitan police were liaising closely with the Human Trafficking Centre and Maxim, another unit dealing with immigration and smuggling, to detect any increase in trafficking related to the Games.

LOAD-DATE: March 19, 2008


ACC-NO: L768A4985

PUBLICATION-TYPE: Newswire from Lexis Nexis


2012, London, Olympics, prostitution, Trafficking
Whilst a strong supporter of the Olympics and the opportunities it will offer the vibrant capital  that is my home, I am deeply concerned that unless decisive action is taken quickly the games may spark a rise in prostitution.
London's Olympic Stadium

London's Olympic Stadium

Fortunately, it now seems that the Metropolitan Police are beginning to share these concerns. A report they published this week  warned that an increase in prostitution and trafficking linked to the Games would put women at risk.
Over a million construction workers are set to work on the site over the next three years, when added together with spectators and athletes cxould a fuel a sex trade time bomb.
Kerb Crawling

Kerb Crawling

During the Athens Games, sex trafficking almost doubled and there were reports of sex attacks in the athletes’ village at Sydney in 2000.

The BBC reported yesterday that a  small increase in the number of trafficked women working in the five Olympic host boroughs has already been noted.

Previously when I have approached the police and the councils concerned on these issues they have backed away from making any link between sex crimes and sporting events, even when I used figures showing dramatic increases in trafficking in w0men around the Germany World Cup, which I also used to call for greater protections for women in last years Euro 2008 on Women’s Hour last year.
Given that the Met are now responsive on this topic I will look to work with them on reducing the risk to London women, caused by a potential surge in teh sex trade around the Olympics, over the next three years.


bloging, broadcasting, Trafficking, Women's Rights

As any regular readers of my blog will know, I am a dedicated campaigner against the trafficking of people. So it is music to my ears to hear that pop channel MTV have created a campaign called MTV EXIT, which stands for End Exploitation and Trafficking.

As I blogged about last week,  alternative rock band The Killers have partnered with UNICEF and USAID to produce a music video that dramatically highlights the dangers and impact of trafficking for sexual exploitation, particularly for young women.

It is now released and you can see it here:

MTV Exit say that this video is the second in a series of music video collaborations to highlight the dangers and impact of human trafficking. The campaign was launched last year with an award-winning film produced by MTV EXIT for the Radiohead single All I Need.

The Killers commented, “We are deeply shocked and appalled that women and children are forced into such exploitative situations. We hope that through MTV’s efforts and this powerful video that millions of people across the world learn about this tragic form of modern-day slavery”.

The Goodnight, Travel Well video will be released globally across all of MTV’s platforms in 168 countries. It has the potential to reach more than 500 million households worldwide.

I wholly support any efforts to make more people aware of this horrendous crime perpetrated on the weak and vulnerable in our society and exploiting them solely for the commercial gain and vicarious pleasures of others. Trafficking is truly crime that debases all of civilized society.


prostitution, Sex Trade, Trafficking

I’m not going to fall prone to claiming a modern day popular band as my favourite thing to wake up to!  But I am very pleased to read that popular rock band The Killers have joined together with UNICEF, USAID and MTV EXIT to raise awareness and increase prevention of human trafficking and exploitation.


The Killers

The Killers

The band are said to have made a powerful video for their new track Goodnight, Travel well highlighting the dangers of trafficking and the sexual exploitation of young women.

I look forward to seeing this video when it is released on Monday 13 July when I will feature it on this blog.