Shadow Minister welcomes campaign for prostitution law reform
Press release from End Demand
‘End Demand’ – a major new campaign launching today (22/10/14) to overhaul UK prostitution laws (1) – has been welcomed by Seema Malhotra MP, Shadow Minister for Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls (2). The End Demand campaign is calling on the UK government to follow the lead of Sweden, Norway and Iceland by adopting the Sex Buyer Law. This legislation decriminalises selling sex, criminalises buying sex and provides support and exiting services for people exploited through prostitution (3).
The Sex Buyer Law was recently recommended by the European Parliament and Council of Europe, while Canada and France currently have bills passing through their parliaments to adopt the law (4). Supporters of the End Demand campaign include Unison, TUC Women’s Committee, Scottish Trades Union Congress, Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Northern Ireland Committee), Equality Now, UK Feminista, Women’s Aid, Eaves and the End Violence Against Women coalition (5).
The Sex Buyer Law – often referred to as the ‘Nordic Model’ – was first introduced in Sweden in 1999. Unlike countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, which have legalised prostitution, the Sex Buyer Law recognises prostitution as a form of violence against women and a cause and consequence of gender inequality. It seeks to end the demand that drives the supply of vulnerable women and girls in to the prostitution trade.
Evaluations of the impact of the Sex Buyer Law have revealed:
- It reduces demand for prostitution: The number of men paying for sex in Sweden has declined since the law was adopted in 1999. Between 1996 and 2008 the proportion of men who reported paying for sex declined from 12.7% to 7.6% (6);
- It changes attitudes: In 1996 45% of women and 20% of men in Sweden supported criminalising the purchase of sex. By 2008, support for the law had risen to 79% among women and 60% among men (7);
- It shrinks prostitution markets: street prostitution has halved in Sweden since the Sex Buyer Law was introduced and there is no evidence it has just been displaced. Despite Sweden having 3.8 million more inhabitants than neighbouring Denmark, the number of people involved in prostitution in Sweden – its ‘prostitution population’ – is approximately a tenth of Denmark’s – where buying sex is legal (8); and
- It makes the country in question a more hostile destination for traffickers (9).
Last month there was a cross-party show of support in Parliament for introducing the Sex Buyer Law in the UK, when a probing amendment on the law was introduced by Fiona Mactaggart MP during Committee Stage of the Modern Slavery Bill. The amendment was unopposed and received the backing of MPs from each of the main parties (10).
Seema Malhotra MP, Shadow Minister for Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls, said:
“Organisations in the End Demand alliance do outstanding work in defending the rights of vulnerable women and raising awareness around sexual violence and exploitation. With as many as 2600 migrant women trafficked into England and Wales each year, and up to 5000 children involved in prostitution at any one time, it is clear we need change. I welcome the End Demand alliance’s campaign which provokes a national debate about how we best tackle issues like prostitution, trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.”
Kat Banyard, a spokesperson for the End Demand campaign, said:
“The prostitution trade, and the trafficking of women and girls in to it, is underpinned by the principles of supply and demand. A minority of men currently feel entitled to sexually exploit women and girls by paying for sex acts. Without their demand there would be no ‘supply’ of people in to this harmful trade. That demand is not inevitable. During the 1990’s the number of men who pay for sex doubled. If demand for prostitution can grow it can also shrink – and that is exactly what has been proved in Sweden, Norway and here in the UK in Ipswich, where the Sex Buyer Law has been adopted or drawn upon. By decriminalising selling sex and criminalising buying sex, the Sex Buyer Law shifts the burden of criminality from those exploited through the trade to those who create the demand. There is growing international recognition that to end sex trafficking and prostitution we have to end demand for it. It’s time for the UK to step up and show its commitment to the safety of all women and girls by adopting the Sex Buyer Law.”
Crystal*, who became involved in prostitution in her early 20’s, and was paid for sex as an escort and in brothels, said:
“I became involved in prostitution courtesy of my then ‘boyfriend’. I now use the word ‘pimp’. Prostitution isn’t glamorous and fun. Prostitution is abuse. Giving a blow job became as normal as having a cup of tea had been in my previous life. My body always hurt from the constant rough sex. I’d get jaw ache from blow job after blow job. Group stuff was especially harrowing. I often threw up at the anticipation and couldn’t have done it sober. I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and got flashbacks and nightmares. I still have PTSD, still get triggered into flashbacks by so many things, and it’s over five years since I got out. I lost a part of my self through prostitution, and that will never come back. I still feel like I don’t fit. Being told day after day that you’re a slut and a whore just asking for it gets into your head. The Sex Buyer Law is so important. It would mean that the law stands alongside women like me, rather than against us. It would put the spotlight on the ‘john’, making him legally responsible for his actions. It would change attitudes towards prostitution, recognising it as violence against women.”
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:
“Prostitution is not the ‘oldest profession’ – it is a form of violence against women. For too long the criminal justice system has targeted women exploited through prostitution, rather than the men who pay for sex. That’s why I advocate decriminalising the sale of sex and criminalising the buying of sex, to help women exit prostitution, tackle demand and make the UK a more hostile place for traffickers.”
Alan Caton OBE, former Detective Superintendent of Suffolk Constabulary, led Ipswich’s response to the murders of five women involved in prostitution by a sex buyer in 2006. He said:
“From years of policing in this field I believe that prostitution is dangerous and harmful regardless of whether it takes place on the street or in a flat. Sex buyers feel the present law gives them license to exploit vulnerable women – and they are right. That is why I support a change in the law which draws on our experiences in Ipswich and on the successes seen in Sweden and Norway. By decriminalising the sale of sex, criminalising the purchase of sex, and providing the necessary support and exiting services to help women find routes out of prostitution, we can shut down the demand that is fuelling the exploitation of women through prostitution. And that is something I believe as a society we have a duty to do.”
For more information and to request interviews please call 07849 613222 or email email@example.com
Notes to editors:
(1) At present, prostitution is legal in the UK. However, particular activities related to prostitution are illegal – such as soliciting in a public place, kerb-crawling and brothel keeping.
It is estimated that 80,000 people are involved in prostitution in the UK (i), while the trafficking of women in to England and Wales to be exploited in this trade is worth at least £130 million annually to their abusers (ii). The overwhelming majority of those who end up in the prostitution trade are highly vulnerable and suffer acute harms as a result of their involvement:
- 50% of women in prostitution in the UK started being paid for sex acts before they were 18 years old (iii)
- 95% of women in street prostitution are problematic drug users (iv)
- Over half of women involved in prostitution in the UK have been raped and/or sexually assaulted – the vast majority of these assaults committed by sex buyers (v)
- 68% of women in prostitution experience post-traumatic stress disorder (vi).
- Once in prostitution, 9 out of 10 women report wanting to exit but feel unable to do so (vii).
(i) ‘Paying the Price: A Consultation Paper on Prostitution’, Home Office, 2004
(ii) ‘Trafficking of women for sex in UK worth £130m’, the Telegraph, 7 October 2013
(iii) ‘Paying the Price: A Consultation Paper on Prostitution’, Home Office, 2004
(iv) Hester, M. & Westmarland, N. (2004) Tackling Street Prostitution: Towards an Holistic Approach, Home Office: London
(v) Hester, M. & Westmarland, N. (2004) Tackling Street Prostitution: Towards an Holistic Approach, Home Office: London
(vi) Farley, M. (2004) ‘“Bad for the Body, Bad for the Heart”: Prostitution Harms Women Even if Legalised or Decriminalised’, Violence Against Women, 10(10): 1087–1125.
(vii) Farley, M. (2003). Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2, No. 3/4, 2003, pp.33-74.
The End Demand campaign will be launched on Wednesday 22 October 2014. Speakers at the launch include: Seema Malhotra MP; Caroline Lucas MP; Fiona Mactaggart MP; Rachel Moran, survivor of prostitution and author of Paid For; Detective Jonas Henriksson, Stockholm Police; Alan Caton OBE, formerly Detective Superintendent of Suffolk Constabulary; Kat Banyard, End Demand; Dr Maddy Coy, Deputy Director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit; and Joan Smith, Co-chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Panel.
(2) Seema Malhotra MP was appointed Shadow Minister for Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls in August 2014: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28924206
(3) The Sex Buyer Law (often referred to as the ‘Nordic Model’) was first introduced in Sweden in 1999 as part of a bill to prevent violence against women. Three of the four countries with the highest ratings for gender equality worldwide have now adopted it. Iceland is 1st, Norway is 3rd and Sweden is 4th: World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report http://www.weforum.org/issues/global-gender-gap
- Council of Europe endorses Sex Buyer Law: http://www.stoptraffick.ie/sex-buyer-laws-win-council-of-europe-support/
- European Parliament endorses Sex Buyer Law: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/nordic-model-prostitution-approved-by-european-parliament-1438009
- French bill for Sex Buyer Law: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25217185
- Canadian bill for Sex Buyer Law : http://feministcurrent.com/9640/bill-c-36-passes-with-majority-vote/
- Ireland: the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality unanimously recommended in 2013 that the Sex Buyer Law be introduced: http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/mediazone/pressreleases/name-17366-en.html
(5) Organisations supporting the End Demand campaign include: Ashiana; AVA: Against Violence and Abuse; Black Association of Women Step Out, CAADA: Coordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse, Centre for Gender & Violence Research – University of Bristol, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit – London Metropolitan University, Connect Centre for International Research on Gender and Harm – University of Central Lancashire, Dovetail Initiative, Durham University Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse, Eaves, End Violence Against Women coalition, Equality Now; European Women’s Lobby; LIFT: Rethinking prostitution in Tower Hamlets; National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, NorMAs – Nordic Model Advocates, Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Northern Refugee Centre, Object, Rights of Women, Respect, Ruhama, Scottish Trades Union Congress, SPACE International, St Mungo’s Broadway, The Beth Centre, TUC Women’s Committee, UK Feminista, Unison, Welsh Women’s Aid, White Ribbon Campaign, Why Refugee Women, Women’s Resource Centre, Women’s Aid Federation of England, Women’s Aid Federation of Northern Ireland, and Zero Tolerance.
(6) Waltman, M. (2011) Sweden’s prohibition of purchase of sex: The law’s reasons, impact, and potential. Women’s Studies International Forum 34: 449-474
(7) Waltman, M. (2011) Sweden’s prohibition of purchase of sex: The law’s reasons, impact, and potential. Women’s Studies International Forum 34: 449-474
(8) Waltman, M. (2011) Sweden’s prohibition of purchase of sex: The law’s reasons, impact, and potential. Women’s Studies International Forum 34: 449-474
- An evaluation of Norway’s Sex Buyer Law found: “A reduced market and increased law enforcement posit larger risks for human traffickers…The law has thus affected important pull factors and reduced the extent of human trafficking in Norway in comparison to a situation without a law.”: ‘Evaluering av forbudet mot kjøp av seksuelle tjenester’, Rapport nummer 2014/30, VISTA ANALYSE, p14
- An investigation of the Sex Buyer Law by the Swedish Government reported, “[a]ccording to the National Criminal Police, it is clear that the ban on the purchase of sexual services acts as a barrier to human traffickers and procurers considering establishing them-selves in Sweden.” : Evaluation of the ban on purchase of sexual services, Ministry of Justice, Government Offices of Sweden, 2 July 2010, p.37
- An empirical analysis for a cross-section of up to 150 countries found that reported human trafficking inflows were larger in countries where prostitution is legal: Cho S-Y.; Dreher A. & Neumayer, E. (2013) Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking? World Development, 41: 67-82
(10) On 4 September 2014 a probing amendment to criminalise the purchase of sex and decriminalise the sale of sex received cross-party support during the Modern Slavery Bill Committee debate (Clause 5): http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmpublic/modernslavery/140904/pm/140904s01.htm
*Crystal is a pseudonym used to protect the individual’s identity.