Government May Move to Criminalise the Purchase of Sex

// 10 September 2007

According to the Guardian, the government are considering criminalising the buying of sex following concern about the international trafficking in women. Currently it is not a crime to sell or buy sex but is a crime to solicit for custom.

Now ministers are apparently considering following the Swedish model of prosecuting those who buy sex. Eght years ago Sweden decriminalised selling sex but criminalised buying it to tackle demand and reduce the numbers of those engaging in prostitution. Senior female figures in government including A number of senior women in government – including Jacqui Smith (home secretary); Patricia Scotland (attorney general); Vera Baird (solicitor general) and Harriet Harman (leader of the house) are thought to be supportive of the move.

Campaigners have long argued that only by criminalising clients can a signal be sent out that paying for sex, particularly with a trafficked woman, is not acceptable. Fiona McTaggart has already dismissed the claims that prostitution is inevitable by saying:

“We have always had murder – that doesn’t make it right. The price of prostitution is enormously high for women…[And] the more vulnerable the woman is, the cheaper the price is for men.”

From The Guardian

Partly this has been spurred on because according to government research, 85% of women in brothels come from outside the UK. Whilst men have been convicted for trafficking women for sexual purposes, no-one has been prosecuted for paying for sex with those forced into the sex trade through trafficking.

Denis MacShane MP, a former minister and campaigner against sex trafficking, added: “Until you have the Wilberforce moment when you say those who buy [sex] are just as guilty as those who are selling [women], it will continue to grow. It’s not until there is a regular flow of men before the courts because they have paid for sex with illegally trafficked sex slaves that we will see a change in culture.”

From The Guardian

Recent research by the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit found that knowing a woman had been trafficked and forced into prostitution would not put off men caught curb-crawling from paying for sex with that woman. The English Collective of Prostitutes has, however, long campaigned for decriminalisation of both selling and buying sex arguing that criminalisation forces prostitution underground. The ECP also argues that anti-trafficking legislation is just another guise for deportation of poor, minority ethnic women.

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