Press release: Group of MPs back report calling for a ‘Sex Buyer Law’

  • New report recommends that paying for sex is criminalised but selling sex is decriminalised.
  • Parliament also urged to consider making it a criminal offence for UK citizens to pay for sex abroad in order to crack down on ‘prostitution tourism’.
  • Report comes as the Home Affairs Select Committee conducts an inquiry into prostitution laws.


The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution has backed a new report from an independent Commission which recommends that government introduces a ‘Sex Buyer Law’. This would make it a criminal offence to pay for sex but not a criminal offence to ‘sell’ sex. It is an approach designed to tackle the demand that drives prostitution and sex trafficking. To date it has been adopted by Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Northern Ireland. The report by the ‘Commission on the Sex Buyer Law’ was launched in Parliament on Tuesday 23 February 2016.

During the 1990’s the number of men in the UK who pay for sex doubled to almost one in ten, and it is estimated that 80,000 people – mostly women – are involved in prostitution. Paying for sex is currently legal in the UK, though particular aspects surrounding prostitution – such as soliciting and kerb crawling – are illegal.

The Commission report highlights that in 2013-14 there were more charges for loitering and soliciting (‘selling sex’) than for the crimes of pimping, brothel-keeping, kerb-crawling and advertising prostitution combined. The Commission on the Sex Buyer Law is calling for the burden of criminality to be lifted off women exploited through prostitution and placed on those who create the demand – the sex buyers.

Gavin Shuker MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution, said:
“This report from the End Demand campaign and the Commission on the Sex Buyer Law is a major and important piece of work which underlines the need for parliament to adopt a sex buyer law. Crucially, the report demonstrates both the social cost of our current laws and the evident benefits experienced by countries that have taken action to end this form of sexual exploitation. On behalf of our cross party committee I warmly welcome the report and call on the government to act upon its recommendations.”

Diane Martin CBE, a survivor of prostitution and member of the Commission on the Sex Buyer Law, said:
“As a survivor of prostitution and having delivered services to women exploited by the sex trade for over twenty years it has been both informative and a privilege to be part of the Commission on the Sex Buyer Law. I want to see the Sex Buyer Law introduced in the UK. Other countries, including Northern Ireland, have communicated that women are no longer for sale. For the rest of the UK it’s business as usual, and what a lucrative business it is for the exploiters, pimps and the traffickers, and what a costly one for the girls and women on the receiving end of the male demand on their bodies. This demand fuels the sex trade and we have to decide as a society whether we are going to stand up to a powerful sex industry and be on the side of the exploited rather than the exploiters. How long will have to wait before we are able to put up the ‘not for sale’ sign?”

Alan Caton OBE, former Detective Superintendence of Suffolk Constabulary and member of the Commission on the Sex Buyer Law, said:
“After five young women were murdered in Ipswich by a sex buyer in 2006, Suffolk Constabulary along with its partners took an ‘end demand’ approach to prostitution. The police cracked down on kerb crawlers and helped to divert women away from the criminal justice system, working with local agencies to support them to exit. It worked – the multi-agency Prostitution Strategy eliminated street prostitution and many women were able to move away from sexual exploitation and rebuild their lives. But we were prevented from applying this ‘end demand’ approach to off-street prostitution – because men who exploit women by paying for sex in a brothel are not committing a criminal offence. That has to change. We have to end the demand that drives commercial sexual exploitation.

“The Commission’s research shows that a Sex Buyer Law is both workable and necessary. By discouraging demand, it would also make the UK a more hostile destination for pimps, traffickers and those who wish to exploit vulnerable women. It is crucial that the Government acts now to bust the business model for pimps and traffickers by adopting a Sex Buyer Law.”