sex trafficking UK, new prostitution laws UK, prostitution legal UK
Associated Press

UK Officials Get Tough on Pimps

November 20, 2008 08:00 AM
by Isabel Cowles
In an effort to reduce sex trafficking, the UK has made it illegal to pay for sex via a pimp or other third party.

UK Authorities Aim to End Sex Trafficking

To discourage sex trafficking, British officials have vowed to get tough on pimps and third-party sexual solicitations.

Paying for sex is legal in the UK and is not likely to become illegal, due to a lack of public support. But under this new law, which affects England and Wales, “anyone who knowingly pays illegally trafficked women for sex could face rape charges,” the BBC reports.

Under the new plan, Britain’s Home Office will criminalize paying for sex with a woman “controlled for another person’s gain.” Offenders could be charged with rape, and pleading ignorance about a prostitute’s circumstances would not be accepted as a viable defense. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told the BBC that the efforts are an attempt to stop an illegal sex trade by reducing the demand for sexual workers who are “effectively held as slaves.”

In 2004, British officials estimated that there were approximately 80,000 women working as prostitutes in the UK. According to a Home Office spokeswoman, “It is widely recognized that those involved in street prostitution are at increased risk of being the victims of crime, particularly violent and sexual crime.”

Evidence suggests that the majority of these women could also be the victims of sex trafficking. According to a 2004 report by the POPPY Project, a research organization that has focused on sexual trafficking, “Only 19% of women working as prostitutes in flats, parlours and saunas are originally from the UK.” 

Women forced into sex trafficking are frequently treated as criminals, not victims. Because many of these women have not entered the country legally, they are often “subject to detention and face prosecution for criminal offences such as illegal entry using forged documents. Women may then be deported without notice,” says a 2008 POPPY report.
Home Secretary Smith hopes that the new laws will increase public awareness about the implications of prostitution. “My proposal is that men should think twice about paying for sex,” she told a BBC radio program. “The reason they should do that is actually the majority of women don’t want to be involved in prostitution. Trafficked women don't have a choice, men do.”

Related Topic: Who’s paying?

In 2006, Clare Spurrell of the Times of London investigated what types of men sought prostitutes. She wrote with surprise, “in some cases the kind of man whom I’d be happy to take to tea with my mother was also the type capable of paying for sex.” According to one Cambridge-educated business consultant who visits prostitutes, “As long as prostitution is done in a legal and consensual way, there is almost more honesty in it than in picking up a girl in a bar, where you are toying with people’s emotions and giving false impressions in order to get something physical.”

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