Commercial sexual exploitation in the UK
Approximately 80,000 people are involved in prostitution in the UK (1), while the trafficking of women in to England and Wales to be brutally exploited in this trade is worth at least £130 million annually to their abusers (2). The majority of those who are paid for sex are women and girls, while the majority of those who buy sex are men.
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. It is estimated that:
- 50% of women in prostitution in the UK started being paid for sex acts before they were 18 years old (3).
- Up to 95% of women in street prostitution are problematic drug users (4).
- Over half of women involved in street prostitution in the UK have been raped and/or sexually assaulted – the vast majority of these assaults committed by sex buyers (5).
- 68% of women in prostitution experience post-traumatic stress disorder (6).
- Once in prostitution, 9 out of 10 women report wanting to exit but feel unable to do so (7).
The Crown Prosecution Service (8) and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (9) recognise prostitution as a form of violence against women . Commercial sexual exploitation is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality.
(1) ‘Paying the Price: A Consultation Paper on Prostitution’, Home Office, 2004
(3) ‘Paying the Price: A Consultation Paper on Prostitution’, Home Office, 2004
(4) ‘Paying the Price: A Consultation Paper on Prostitution’, Home Office, 2004
(5) Hester, M. & Westmarland, N. (2004) Tackling Street Prostitution: Towards an Holistic Approach, Home Office: London
(6) M. Farley, ‘“Bad for the Body, Bad for the Heart”: Prostitution Harms Women Even if Legalised or Decriminalised’, Violence Against Women, 10(10) (2004): 1087–1125
(7) 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
(9) Mayoral Strategy on Violence Against Women and Girls, 2013-17, MOPAC