Women on a bed

MPs call for action on sex for rent scandal

29th Nov 2018 - James Mildred

This week, MPs debated the worrying increase in sex for rent adverts after recent evidence of people offering free accommodation in return for sex.

The debate was organised by Peter Kyle MP who pointed out that these adverts are easily found and some are shockingly brazen.

Shocking examples

“Free accommodation for attractive female”.

“You do not have to pay any rent for your stay with me in exchange for some mutual fun times together.”

According to Mr Kyle the housing charity Shelter conducted a tenant survey which for the first time asked the question: “Have you ever been offered ‘sex for rent’ while renting?”.

The data showed that 100,000 women had been offered sex for rent in the last year alone, around 250,000 women had been offered sex for rent in last five years and more than 300,000 women have been offered sex for rent in the time that they have been renting.

Learning from Northern Ireland

During the debate, Jim Shannon, MP for Strangford in Northern Ireland pointed out that issues to do with buying sex had been dealt with in Northern Ireland through the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 which makes it illegal to buy sex.

In Northern Ireland, anyone found breaking this law can be jailed for up to a year and face a £1,000 fine. CARE wholeheartedly supports this approach to prostitution law and we were privileged to play an instrumental role in shaping the legislation in Northern Ireland.

Government’s response

At the end of the debate, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, Nick Hurd said he wanted to place on record the Government’s specific position on the legality of ‘sex for rent’..

He reaffirmed the Government’s view that offering accommodation in return for sex is illegal under sections 52 and 53 of the Sexual Offences Act. Those who do it can face up to seven years in prison. Mr Hurd said this law applied equally online as it does offline.

New legal definition needed

But Peter Kyle pointed out that there has not yet been a case brought to court so this reality has not actually been tested.

Another problem highlighted by MPs is the lack of awareness on the part of the victims that they actually been illegally exploited. Connected to this is a common unwillingness for a victim in these circumstances to be considered as a prostitute (the term applied in the current legislation) and therefore unlikely to be willing to go through with prosecution.

Mr Kyle finished the debate by urging the Minister to consider a new legal definition of sex for rent.  

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