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MP launches Bill criminalising purchase of sex

Commercial Sexual Exploitation
10 December 2020
Chad madden x Woh P8 D i0 M unsplash

A new Bill, introduced yesterday in the House of Commons, proposes to make paying for sex illegal in England and Wales.

The Bill, introduced by Diana Johnson MP, would make it an explicit criminal offence to pay for sex. It would also remove the burden of criminality from those selling sex, and provide them with better services to exit prostitution.

This is known as the 'Nordic Model', which originated in Sweden, and has since been implemented by other countries such as France, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Israel, Iceland and Norway.

Wide­spread sexu­al exploit­a­tion in Britain

Although certain activities associated with prostitution (such as soliciting) are illegal in Britain, it is currently legal to pay for sex.

This has led to widespread exploitation and made Britain a 'haven' for organised crime groups — something the Bill is specifically seeking to target.

Diana Johnson laid out this brutal reality in her speech supporting the Bill:

Today, the UK is a high-value, low-risk destination for sex traffickers. Why? Because our law fails on two critical fronts: first, it fails to discourage the very thing that drives trafficking for sexual exploitation—demand—and secondly, it allows ruthless individuals to facilitate and profit from sexual exploitation. What does this mean in practice? It means that the minority of men in England and Wales who pay for sex do so with impunity, fuelling a brutal sex trafficking trade and causing untold harm to victims. It also means that profit-making pimping websites operate free from criminal sanction, helping sex traffickers to quickly and easily advertise their victims and reaping enormous profits from doing so.
Diana Johnson MP

Bill is best way to tackle abuse of women

The Bill highlights that, at its most fundamental level, prostitution is driven by the demand of those who pay for sexual services.

Tackling the demand for sexual services and addressing the market for prostitution is therefore crucial in preventing the exploitation of vulnerable people:

To stop women being raped and abused for profit, we must dismantle the business model of this sex trafficking trade. That will require two key measures: first, preventing the demand driving sex trafficking by criminalising paying for sex; and secondly, stopping website companies and other third parties aiding and profiting from this appalling crime by making it a criminal offence to enable or profit from the prostitution of another person.
Diana Johnson MP

Why CARE sup­ports the Bill

We believe that the Nordic Model is the best approach for tackling the harm of prostitution and its inextricable link with ccommercial sexual exploitation.

Countries such as Sweden have led the way in successfully tackling demand. More recently, a review of the law in Ireland found that since the introduction of the 2017 Act there has been a reduction in demand and therefore a reduction in organised prostitution.

It's high time that we followed suit and updated our laws, ensuring women are adequately protected from exploitation and helped to exit prostitution.

“The solution is simple: end demand in the UK. The UK can end demand and prosecute buyers of sex and close this so-called market.”
Laura Albu President of the Romanian Women’s Lobby,

Gov­ern­ment should adopt Bill as policy

Ten Minute Rule Bills, such as this one, rarely become law. However, they can serve to highlight an issue and put pressure on the Government to act.

Criminalising the purchase of sex is also a policy that gains cross-party support; the Bill was co-sponsored by a cross-party group of MPs, including Sarah Champion, Fiona Bruce, Maria Miller, Rosie Duffield, Stella Creasy, Gavin Robinson and Derek Thomas.

The Bill will now move to its Second Reading in the new year.

Not For Sale: Is It Time Bri­tain Made It Illeg­al To Pay for Sex?

In a recently published long read, CARE's Naomi Marsden explores the question of whether it should be illegal to buy sex across Britain.

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Commercial Sexual Exploitation

We believe people were made for purpose, not purchase. Exploitation within the sex industry affects some of the most vulnerable in our society. CARE is working for better laws to protect them.

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