Criminalise Purchase of Sex to Tackle Organised Sexual Exploitation say MPs

Research published today by a cross party group of MPs has found that “the sexual exploitation of women by organised crime groups is widespread across the UK.”

The Behind Closed Doors report highlights the transient and dynamic nature of organised sexual exploitation including brothels operating for a short period of time (so called ‘pop up brothels’), a regular changing ‘supply’ of women into a single brothel, and/or women being moved around to different locations.

Evidence from police forces included in the report show that there are 212 active and ongoing police investigations in the UK into modern slavery cases involving sexual exploitation.  85% of potential victims of sexual exploitation are not British nationals. 

The role of prostitution websites in facilitating exploitation is also highlighted.  Traffickers and organised crime groups routinely advertise women to potential “clients” on these websites which charge a fee for advertising.  The Joint Slavery and Trafficking Analysis Centre - a multi-agency intelligence unit establish by the National Police Chiefs Council lead on modern slavery is quoted in the report saying: “Adult services websites represent the most significant enabler of sexual exploitation in the UK.”

The report concludes that “Britain is currently a highly profitable and low risk destination for sex traffickers” and made the following recommendations:

  • The Government should combat the demand that drives sexual exploitation by making paying for sex a criminal offence in all locations.
  • The Government should review and update the law to hold prostitution procurement websites legally accountable for facilitating and profiting from sexual exploitation.
  • The Government should establish a national register of landlords and issue guidance on preventing sexual exploitation for the short-term letting sector.
  • All police forces, supported by national law enforcement agencies, should prioritise the development of a robust, strategic response to organised sexual exploitation.
  • The Government should remove the criminal offence of soliciting in a street or public space for the purpose of ‘selling’ sex.

Chair of the All Party Group Gavin Shuker MP said:

“Right now the traffickers are winning. The UK is currently a low risk destination for organised crime groups seeking to sexually exploit vulnerable women,”

"The government must act now to combat demand for sexual exploitation by criminalising paying for sex. It is money from sex buyers that lines the pockets of traffickers. Without their demand there would be no ‘supply’ of women into this ruthless trade.

"Organised crime groups should also be disrupted by cracking down on the prostitution websites they use to advertise women to sex buyers. The scale on which organised sexual exploitation is taking place in this country is a national scandal. But it can – and must - be stopped.”

CARE welcomes the publication of this important report.  It highlights the exploitation within the prostitution industry and the clear connection with human trafficking.  We agree with the All Party Group that to tackle trafficking the Government must take steps to reduce demand by making it an offence to pay for sexual services.  We call on the Government to look closely at the report’s findings and bring forward proposals to address this exploitation, including criminalising the purchase of sex.

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