Laura Lee has won High Court permission to challenge a new law criminalising the purchase of sex in Northern Ireland. She was granted leave to seek a judicial review of Stormont legislation making it illegal for men to pay for prostitutes.
Laura Lee is a sex worker whose customers have been affected by the new law.
A judge ruled she has established an arguable case that amendments to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act breach her human rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination.
A date for a full hearing of the unprecedented legal action will be set later this year.
Northern Ireland is currently the only UK region to make the purchase of sex a criminal offence.
The legislative change was introduced last year in a private member's bill brought before the Assembly by Democratic Unionist peer and Stormont MLA Lord Morrow.
Although it shifts the legal burden away from prostitutes, they believe it will put them at heightened risk from customers who will clearly shy away from providing identification and will seek locations more remote from police discovery.
The French authorities have reported that there have been 249 victims of France's new law criminalising the purchase of sex. The law has been in force for 6 months.
No doubt a good proportion of this tally have had their lives trashed, just so that a few French feminists can enjoy feeing smug about their 'equality'.
While the maximum fine is € 1,500 or euro € 3,500 for repeat offenders, most of the 250 who admitted to paying for sex were fined between €
300 and € 400.
Some 50 of the 250 fines handed out since April have been to clients in Narbonne, apparently all due to the fact the local prosecutor has taken a keen interest in applying the law from day one. The local police chief explained that officers will
normally pounce once the client has stopped by the roadside, made contact with the prostitute, and after she has climbed into the vehicle.
Most of those fined in Narbonne were over 50 years old and all quickly owned up, so as to avoid having letters sent to the family addresses.
Fines have also been dished out in the Bois de Vincennes near Paris and the Forest of Fontainebleau.
Almost half of British people support the legalisation and regulation of prostitution, according to new polling conducted by Survation for Left Foot Forward.
Asked which of three legal models would be best for the UK, 48.2% supported legalising and regulating the industry, while just 11.3% support decriminalising the sellers of sex but criminalising the buyers (the so-called Nordic model). 22.8%
favoured criminalising the industry altogether.
The Survation poll was conducted ahead of a Left Foot Forward fringe event at Labour Party Conference, which will discuss which legislative approach should be adopted by the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have both publicly supported decriminalisation, but many of their colleagues disagree.
Among Labour supporters, 48.4% support legalising prostitution, while 14.5% support the introduction of the Nordic model.
Overall, 44% of people supported a change to the law, while 38% think it should stay the same.
Germany has approved a new law that makes it illegal to have sex with prostitutes without using a condom.
According to a report in the Independent, brothel owners will now be expected to make their customers aware of the new law and inform them that unprotected sex will be banned.
The law has been approved by Bundesrat, Germany's upper house of Parliament. It will now be sent to President Joachim Gauck for his approval. The law will come into force on July 1, 2017,
The new law will also make licensing mandatory for all brothels so that they would comply with all rules and meet legal standards.
Sex wrkers will also be expected to register with the local police who will issue certificates that would require a renewal every two years. The sex workers will also be required to attend a health advice session once in a year.
Those violating the law, including sex workers, pimps, buyers or brothel owners, could face fines from € 1,000 to € 50,000. Brothel owners could also be stripped off their
Russian courts have ruled that two popular adult websites, Pornhub and YouPorn, will be banned in Russia. With access to the troves of free porn suspended, Russian social networks exploded with sarcasm.
Both sites were added to the blacklist of Russian media by internet censor Roskomnadzor on Tuesday.
The agency did not specify why the courts ordered the sites to be blocked, but reiterated its advice from the last time it banned Pornhub in 2015. Answering a person on Twitter who asked whether the watchdog offered any alternative to the adult
site, it said the alternative is to go out and meet somebody in real life. [Maybe try Pattaya!].
PornHub also humorously asked Roskomnadzor about the ban:
@Pornhub: if we give you guys a Pornhub Premium account, will you un ban Pornhub in Russia?
@roscomnadzor replied: sorry, we are not in the market and the demography is not a commodity.
Keith Vaz use to feature frequently on Melon Farmers due a series of ludicrous whinges blaming video games for all Britain's ills. He has wisely kept quiet on the topic for the last few years though.
Now he has rather rudely been by outed as a gay customer of sex workers by the Sunday Mirror. This rather conflicts with his chairmanship of the influential Commons Home Affairs parliamentary select committee which is looking into Britain's laws
governing sex work.
He conceded on Sunday that he would have to relinquish his post as chair committee, at least temporarily. Although he said he would not be making a formal announcement until he meets the committee on Tuesday, he effectively confirmed that he
would have to stand aside when he issued a statement saying he did not want to be a distraction .
The Labour MP also condemned the conduct of the Sunday Mirror, saying it was deeply troubling that a national newspaper should have paid individuals who have acted in this way .
Vaz has not been overly hypocritical about sex work law, it is not as if he has been pushing for the criminalisation of people who buy sex. In its interim report on prostitution in July, the home affairs committee said:
We are not yet convinced that the sex buyer law would be effective in reducing demand or in improving the lives of sex workers, either in terms of the living conditions for those who continue to work in prostitution or the effectiveness of
services to help them find new ways to earn a living.
Evaluations of the impact of sex buyer laws are largely based on data about street prostitution, and therefore offer little insight into the large parts of the sex industry which take place in various indoor environments, and there are
indications that the law can be misused to harass and victimise sex workers, who are the very people whom the law is seeking to protect.
Vaz also argued in parliament that poppers should not be included in a list of substances banned by the Psychoactive Substances Act and in the paper he is quoted as telling the escorts that he did not use them himself.
Chris Ashford in his
lawandsexuality blog points out that the Vaz evening of fun was not particularly unusual amongst the gay community:
It actually doesn't sound like that unusual night for many gay men who might engage in group sex bareback encounters, with some guys using class A drugs, many using poppers and perhaps some guys there who are sex workers (who may or may not be
performing that identity). The problem here is that Vaz is married to a woman and has as Pink News noted , apparently been outed by this story. Vaz has generally taken liberal positions on sex work and so there's arguably no hypocrisy there.
However Journalist and equality campaigner Paris Lees
commented to thesun.co.uk that Vaz was not totally above a bit of hypocrisy when he grilled her as chainman of the Home Affairs committee. She said:
This is same Keith Vaz who told me, last May, that he 'couldn't believe' I'd never met a prostitute that hadn't been forced into it.
I told him that during my time on the game, I never met a prostitute who HAD been forced into it.
Why is he paying prostitutes for sex if he thinks they are forced into it?
Offsite Comment: The outrage against Keith Vaz is nothing but Victorian puritanism
He has a range of views on a range of topics. Some of them, like his obsession with violent games, are very silly. Some are downright morally reprehensible, such as his help in whipping up outrage against Salman Rushdie over the Satanic Verses.
Some are perfectly commendable, such as his continued commitment to people lost and betrayed by the asylum and immigration system.
Regardless of their relative validity, they earned him enemies, who will now get involved in picking away at the remnants of his career. Not the least of these will be anti-prostitution groups, who were dismayed by a recent home affairs committee
report which recommended decriminalising sex work completely. They are likely to use the story to discredit that report.
In the wake of the news there are a lot of people saying uninformed shit. People who weren't there trying to rewrite Home Affairs Select Committee's hearings on prostitution. I was called to give evidence. Maybe you remember; it was in a lot of
papers. Here is what really happened back in May.
All media coverage from May noted how me and @ParisLees had to stomp hard on bullshit lines of questioning from hostile MPs to get any of our points across. We went there fully expecting, and pretty much got, a beasting. Compare to the easy
questions lobbed at Kat Banyard at the first hearing, who was never a sex worker and has never worked with a prostitution charity or outreach...as far as anyone can tell, her only firsthand experience with sex workers is having met me in a BBC
green room once.
When I called out the committee for visiting Sweden and Denmark without meeting local sex worker-led orgs, Keith Vaz had the audacity to claim that they had. I know he was wrong; sex work organisations were shut out of the consultation visits.
Why? Because Vaz had been a vocal supporter of the Swedish model. Now people are trying to imply Vaz gave us a helping hand in the results? As if.
Pamela Anderson, a former Playboy Playmate, has described pornography as a public hazard that affects men's ability to function as husband, and, by extension, as father .
She made the claims that pornography was corrosive in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal written with Shmuley Boteach, an American Orthodox Jewish rabbi and author. They whinged:
This is a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness given how freely available, anonymously accessible and easily disseminated pornography is nowadays.
We are a guinea-pig generation for an experiment in mass debasement that few of us would have ever consented to, and whose full nefarious impact may not be known for years. How many families will suffer? How many marriages will implode? How many
talented men will scrap their most important relationships and careers for a brief onanistic thrill? How many children will propel, warp-speed, into the dark side of adult sexuality by forced exposure to their fathers' profanations?
Anderson has appeared on more Playboy covers - 15 - than any other model. She has had two sex tapes leaked, the first with ex-husband Tommy Lee in 1995 and the second with Bret Michaels.
Update: Pamela Anderson is right: there's too much porn
Brendan O'Neill writes many commendable articles championing the people's rights to liberty and the choice of what to do in life. As with many others on the left, the principles become a bit hypocritical when it comes to people choosing what
sexual entertainment that they would like to enjoy. Somehow every choice in life is to to be supported except the right to enjoy porn.
Nevertheless O'Neill makes a few interesting observations about the prevalence of porn being a reflection of the control freakery and political correctness of society making more traditional sexual relationships into something that is more
trouble than its worth.
Actual one of the commenters, HappyCheese, writes a more interesting analysis of this crisis of intimacy:
A basic biological truth is that women desire as high status a man as possible with whom to form the pair bond that leads to children being born and getting a healthy and socially useful upbringing. Yet thanks to technological change neither
gender is anymore chained to its biological destiny - this has created feminism for women and allowed the retreat into a virtual reality for a significant number of low status men. Meanwhile high status (whose definition will vary) men are
fornicating with as many women as they can well into middle age thanks to the pill, viagra and the sexual revolution (that destroyed the necessity of marriage as a prerequisite for hetro sex). This has led to more women than ever before sleeping
with a high status man, but also failing to secure them as their alpha Romeo moves on to the next woman. Cue gnashing of teeth, declarations that men are all useless and women don't need them in the Huffington Post etc etc.
...this has led us to the crisis of intimacy that we see in the Western world - women still want men, and men still want women, but the neurotic feminist campaigns to control male sexuality and undermine marriage and male economic power have
fatally undermined both men's prestige (which is what drives female desire) and the socially approved paths that used to bring and keep couples together into a stable relationship.
At present York has one licensed sex shop and two sexual entertainment venues requiring a licence t operate as a lap dancing club.
The council has just drafted the Licensing of Sex Establishments Policy after a year of research. A working party involving councillors, council officers and police visited York's two lap dancing clubs to see how they operate and talk to the
managers and the dancers. They also held a public consultation to gauge residents' views on these establishments.
Of the 325 responses, 39% felt it was not acceptable to have lap dancing clubs anywhere in York, while 55% had no issues with them being located here. The survey found that the city centre ( 53% ) and busy late night economy areas ( 54% )
were considered the most acceptable locations for the clubs. Residential areas were considered unacceptable locations for 61% of those who responded.
The new policy also includes new rules such as:
There will be at least one female member of staff authorised to be responsible for the safety and welfare of the dancers. This staff member must on the premises at all times when licensable activities are taking place
Throughout the lap or table dance customers will remain seated and fully clothed, with their hands clearly visible, either resting on the arms of the chair/sofa or on the seat cushion, or customers must be asked to sit on their hands.
The new policy will be further discussed at the gambling, licensing and regulatory committee on Tuesday, September 13.
More than 800 men have fallen victim to Avon and Somerset police. They have been fined £200 each, the price of a 're-education' course.
The Change Course aims to 'educate' men to the legal and emotional consequences of kerb crawling. The programme has recently held its 100th session, and, since its launch eight years ago, police said 94% of course graduates have refrained
from further kerb crawling.
Places on the course are offered to men who are facing their first charge for soliciting sex in a public place. The victims pay £200 for a place on the programme, which makes up part of the conditional caution which they are given for kerb
The one day course is broken in to two major sections, education and consequences.
Tina Newman, the police organiser said:
In the morning we educate the offenders as to the law around kerb crawling and the group shares their stories as to how they get in to the cycle of offending.
And in the afternoon we talk about the consequences of their actions, what it might mean for their wife or partner, the rest of their families and in the wider community. We also discuss the impact prostitution is having on the sex worker.
Prostitution and the act of paying for sex are not yet criminal offences in the UK, but kerb crawling is a crime.
Paying for sex has been illegal in Northern Ireland for over a year now and thankfully no one has so far been convicted for offences. However there have been two victims of the law who have been cautioned by police. This is an official sanction
that is recorded on a person's criminal record. There are two cases also being considered for further action by Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS).
According to Northern Ireland police (PSNI), more than 800 men are paying for sex in Northern Ireland every day, but over the past year, only 10 men have been investigated by police. Out of the seven of those cases referred to the PPS, three were
thrown out, two men received cautions while the remaining two cases are still being considered by a senior prosecutor.
Det Supt John McVea commented that greater priority is given to crimes involving trafficking rather than paying for sex:.
We have identified 60 people in the past year who have been the victims of human trafficking. That is a considerable number and we feel we have made a significant impact on human trafficking throughout Northern Ireland.
Paying for sex within this act is a not a priority, our priority is to target the human trafficking element and sexual exploitation.
[However] If we come across criminality we will address it, and that's where the ten cases have been referred to the PPS in the past year.
The lack of prosecutions has come as no surprise to David Ford, who was the Justice Minister when the law was introduced.
The challenge for police is how they actually produce evidence from what is, in effect, a consensual business relationship between two adults.
The DUP's Lord Morrow, who pushed for the new law threatened the PPS that questions will be raised if there are no prosecutions soon, perhaps noting that the effectiveness of the law will be reviewed in two years time. He said:
I look to the PPS to do what they are supposed to be doing, and if over the next 12 months there is no change we will be talking to the PPS to ask them to explain the reason why.
However sex workers have explained how they are endangered by the new law. Catriona told the BBC:
I'm not surprised there have been no prosecutions as it was always going to be difficult to get the evidence.
My clients are aware of the law and if anything it has left sex workers at greater risk, as it is harder to scan our clients.
They are reluctant to be upfront about who they are and that means we aren't sure who we are seeing or if they are genuine. Clients are more fearful they will be found out and will end up in court and have their names in the newspaper.
I think the police have better things to be doing than going after people who are having consenting sex.
Under the legislation, victims convicted of paying for sex will face a fine of £1,000 and up to a year in prison.
Australian researchers have been looking into the data security for remote controlled sex toys.
Goldfisk and Follower got hold of the schematics for the We Vibe 4 Plus, a U-shaped vibrator that can be controlled via Bluetooth using a remote control or a smartphone app. The wireless functions mean the device's makers had to report its
details with the United States the Federal Communications Commission, and that filing allowed the hackers to figure out a way to crack the device.
It turns out it was fairly easy to hack, and find out what information the We-Vibe collects and transmits to the mobile app. The team managed to decipher the Bluetooth command strings and manipulate the We using a desktop computer. They reported
the job was relatively simple - the Bluetooth data string is only eight bytes long and the first byte controls the device's mode.
The two also found that the makers of the We collect exactly when the device is used, which of the ten vibration modes they are using, and even the temperature of the device. All this data is stored on corporate servers and in the terms and
conditions of the device the manufacturer reserves the right to pass it on to the authorities.
The Register notes that sex toys are illegal in many places - including Alabama, some parts of Georgia, and until recently Texas. Using such devices is a criminal matter and there have been prosecutions.
There are reports circulating about a planned coffee and blow job bar to open in London. Ideasman Bradley Charvet told The Independent that he intends to open a coffee shop in Paddington, London following on from the first cafe in Geneva with
a planned launch date of 5th December this year.
The Baroque-themed cafe will serve coffee and a few pastries, with customers being given an iPad on which to choose an escort from a list of thumbnails to perform oral sex on them. £50 will be the base charge (billed as the most expensive
coffee in the UK') with £10 added for every extra 15 minutes.
The legality of this is somewhat of a grey area, with prostitution itself being legal in Great Britain but the running of a brothel a crime. Charvet, however, insists "everything related to [the Fellatio Cafe is legal" and his lawyer
is currently setting everything up. Charvet added:
We have contacted the English Collective of Prostitutes, which advocates safety for sex workers, for comment.
This idea comes from Pattaya [In Thailand], we saw this kind of cafe a few years ago.
It will be a cafe like others, plus two booths for shy people. In Switzerland, booths are not allowed anymore. We are talking with the UK police to fix that for the shy guys.
Publicity for a Sydney strip pub has generated lots of 'outrage' and publicity for its sexist promotion offering free meals for hot women.
The Petersham Inn, in Sydney's inner west, has recently transformed into an American-style sports bar, including an adult entertainment venue featuring strip shows. The Petersham Inn is offering free meals for hot women hitting a nerve
with a local women's group.
The Strip Inn is accessible through a separate entrance to the public bar, featuring topless waitresses and strip shows.
A poster, depicting an attractive woman seductively eating a slice of pizza, is plastered outside the venue, advertising a promotion where hot girls eat free .
Members of The Inner West Mums Facebook group kindly whinged about the promotion calling it degrading to women and say it is sending the wrong message to their children.
But the venue owner Bianca McDonald, who took over the establishment in late June, said the campaign was was supposed to be a creative and funny attempt to attract more ladies to the pub.
Ms McDonald told the paper the promotion encouraged staff to have a little fun with women who ask about the free meal offer, with bar staff instructed to um and ah about whether the woman is hot enough for a few seconds, before
offering them a free meal with any drink purchased.
She said she had only received one formal complaint over the poster, and she said she was disappointed that only three women have taken up the free meal promotion so far. She didn't comment on the worldwide free publicity attracted to her venue.
Ireland's 'Justice' Minister Frances Fitzgerald says she will not decriminalise brothel-keeping as part of new prostitution laws as she fears criminals would 'exploit a legal loophole', which is obviously more important to her than keeping the
A section of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, which has still not been signed into law, criminalises the purchase of sex but decriminalises the person offering sexual services.
The minister was asked by Green Party TD Catherine Martin for her views on the way sex workers will be decriminalised while still retaining sanctions for a person working together with another for safety .
Fitzgerald confirmed it is a provision of the law that it is an offence to keep or manage a brothe and tried to explain why this is more important than women's safety:
While I understand that this provision can prevent persons offering sexual services from working together with others, I am particularly concerned that any decriminalisation of brothel-keeping would create a legal loophole ripe for exploitation
by the organised crime gangs involved in the trafficking and exploitation of women in prostitution.
Women would come under pressure to claim they were working independently when that is not the case and the Gardai would be limited in the actions they could take to close brothels and disrupt the activities of criminal gangs. For this reason I
have no plans to amend provisions relating to brothel- keeping at this time.
Martin also asked Fitzgerald about the Government's decision to criminalise solicitation under the Public Order Act. The minister tried to explain that although women were supposedly being decriminalised for prostitution they would actually still
be subject to prosecution under public orders laws:
People who solicit the sexual services of others, that is the buyers and pimps, remain subject to prosecution for the solicitation and loitering offences under the 1993 Act. This did, however, give rise to concerns that the Gardai would be
left with no means of combating any public nuisance if sexual services were to be offered, for example, in a residential area. There was also concern the provision could be exploited by criminal gangs.
Failing to comply with [police] direction can give rise to an offence. Loitering for the purpose of offering sexual services has now been added to the behaviours covered by Section 8. The effect of the proposed amendments will be that on-street
prostitution will not be an offence, but the gardaĂ will still have the power to move persons offering sexual services on from a public place, when necessary.
Update: MP John Halligan argues for decriminalisation
Independent Irish MP John Halligan says prostitution should be legalised. The Waterford TD says Garda funding and resources would be better spent on preventing human trafficking. Deputy Halligan says regulating prostitution would help to prevent
the exploitation of sex workers:
You're not going to stop prostitution, you're never going to stop it. Why could it not be regulated? The Government and the Gardai? should consider doing that,
We should be trying to find a solution that would take prostitution out of the hands of the pimps, and also, if we have money available, rather than taking up the GardaĂ?'s time trying to find the people who avail of prostitution we should be
trying to deal with the pimps and deal with the women that are being exploited and forced into prostitution.
Offsite Comment: Making prostitution legal simply means allowing adults to spend their time and money as they see fit
Thailand has promised to eradicate its sex industry as it attempts to somehow reinvent itself as a female-friendly travel destination.
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the country's first female tourism minister, made the pledge following a series of police raids on Thai massage parlours offering sexy services. She spouted to Reuters:
We want Thailand to be about quality tourism. We want the sex industry gone. Tourists don't come to Thailand for such a thing. They come here for our beautiful culture.
Kobkarn began her drive to clean up Thai tourism's image soon after arriving in office in 2014, singling out the resort city of Pattaya as a pilot project for the country at large. Pattaya has more than 1,000 bars and massage parlours, many of
which offer sexy services.
In an attempt to diversify the tourism industry, Thailand is starting a month for women travellers campaign in August, in which female-only pink immigration lanes and parking zones will be set up in international airports.
The Government has published a document summarising responses to its proposals to mandate restrictive age validation requirements for porn websites. 48% of responses opposed the proposals whilst 44% agreed with the proposals. However the
government made clear that they will proceed with the proposed censorship law. The consultation document reads:
It is clear from our analysis of the consultation responses that this is an issue which tends to polarise opinion, with strongly held views on either side. Overall, there was a roughly even split between those supporting age verification (44%)
and those not in favour (48%). Responses from individuals made up the vast majority of those which were submitted via our online questionnaire (94%). Over half of the individuals were men, the majority of whom were between 18 and 34 years old.
Crucially, however, many of the key organisations we work with in the online child protection sphere children's charities, support and advice groups, the BBFC, internet service providers, and payment service firms and credit card companies
indicated their support for the proposals, and the overriding policy goal of protecting children online.
Over a quarter (26%) of the individuals who responded indicated that they are parents or carers, and 23% of individuals said that they work with children (in the education and health sectors, working in or with churches, in voluntary roles,
mentoring, and as researchers). In both groups, a majority supported the Government's approach.
Notably, pornography providers who responded to the consultation also stated their support for the protection of children online, and (with caveats) the introduction of age verification controls to protect children from content which is not
appropriate for them.
As was set out in our consultation, the Government's preferred approach to delivering this commitment is to establish a new law, requiring age verification (AV) controls for online pornography this was the manifesto commitment, and following
consideration of the consultation responses, remains the Government's intention.
To underpin this, we will also establish a new regulatory framework, and we will ensure a proportionate approach by enabling the regulator to act in a sufficiently flexible and targeted way.
Following analysis of the responses to the consultation, Government will now take several next steps. We will:
Bring forward legislation, in the Digital Economy Bill, to establish a new law requiring age verification for commercial pornographic websites and applications containing still and moving images, and a new regulatory framework to underpin it
Continue to work with payments firms and ancillary companies to ensure that the business models and profits of companies that do not comply with the new regulations can be undermined
Maintain ongoing engagement with pornography providers, age verification providers, and other parts of the industry, to ensure that the regulatory framework is targeted and proportionate, to achieve maximum impact and to enable compliance
Continue to work on broader internet safety issues, including work led by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), and raising awareness and resilience
And indeed the new censorship law is included in the Digital Economy Bill introduced on 5th July 2016. Section 3 outlines the setting up of an internet porn censor and the remainder sets out website censorship options and financial penalties for
contravening websites, their payment providers and advertisers.
The government is planning on passing the bill into law in spring 2017.
15 Internet pornography: requirement to prevent access by persons under the age of 18
16 Meaning of pornographic material
17 The age-verification regulator: designation and funding
18 Parliamentary procedure for designation of age-verification regulator
19 Age-verification regulator's power to require information
20 Enforcement of sections 15 and 19
21 Financial penalties
22 Age-verification regulator's power to give notice of contravention to payment service providers and ancillary service providers
23 Exercise of functions by the age-verification regulator
24 Requirements for notices given by regulator under this
UK Parliament Committee recommends an immediate end to laws prohibiting soliciting and brothel keeping (when adult and consensual)...but will then consider whether men should be criminalised for buying sex
If the committee realises that current prohibitions endanger sex workers then it seems unlikely that they can recommend the criminalisation of men. Even if the crime of soliciting is repealed, then instead of soliciting, the sex workers will
be guilty of inciting men to commit a crime.
The Committee introduces an interim report saying:
The Home Affairs Committee publishes an interim report on prostitution, saying that soliciting by sex workers, and sex workers sharing premises, should be decriminalised.
Home Office should change legislation
The Committee says the Home Office should immediately change existing legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence and brothel-keeping laws allow sex workers to share premises, without losing the ability to prosecute those who use
brothels to control or exploit sex workers. There must be zero tolerance of the organised criminal exploitation of sex workers.
The Home Office should also legislate to delete previous convictions and cautions for prostitution from the record of sex workers, as these records make it much more difficult for people to move out of prostitution into other forms of work if
they wish to.
Around 11% of British men aged 16--74 have paid for sex on at least one occasion, which equates to 2.3 million individuals.
The number of sex workers in the UK is estimated to be around 72,800 with about 32,000 working in London.
Sex workers have an average of 25 clients per week paying an average of £78 per visit.
In 2014--15, there were 456 prosecutions of sex workers for loitering and soliciting.
An estimated 152 sex workers were murdered between 1990 and 2015. 49% of sex workers (in one survey) said that they were worried about their safety.
There were 1,139 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2014 and 248 in April to June 2015 (following implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015).
With regards to changing the laws on buying sex, this inquiry will continue. The Committee will be seeking further evidence on the impacts of the recently introduced sex buyer laws in Northern Ireland and France, and the model of regulation used
in for example New Zealand, to make a better assessment for its final report. The laws on prostitution need ultimately to be reconsidered in the round, not least to give the police much more clarity on where their priorities should lie and how
to tackle the exploitation and trafficking associated with the sex industry.
Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is an important and separate issue from prostitution involving consenting adults. It is too early to assess the impact of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 on levels of trafficking, but the Crown
Prosecution Service identified 248 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the first three months of the Act's operation, compared to 1,139 in 2014.
Research on prostitution
Despite the obvious difficulties involved in getting data on an essentially covert industry, the Committee is "dismayed" at the poor quality of information available about the extent and nature of prostitution in England and Wales. The
figures cited above must be considered in this context.
Without a proper evidence base, the Government cannot make informed decisions about the effectiveness of current legislation and policies, and cannot target funding and support interventions effectively. The Home Office should commission an
in-depth research study on the current extent and nature of prostitution in England and Wales, within the next 12 months.
Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
This is the first time that Parliament has considered the issue of prostitution in the round for decades. It is a polarising subject with strong views on all sides. This interim report will be followed by final recommendations, when we consider
other options, including the different approaches adopted by other countries.
As a first step, there has been universal agreement that elements of the present law are unsatisfactory. Treating soliciting as a criminal offence is having an adverse effect, and it is wrong that sex workers, who are predominantly women,
should be penalised and stigmatised in this way. The criminalisation of sex workers should therefore end.
The current law on brothel keeping also means sex-workers can be too afraid of prosecution to work together at the same premises, which can often compromise their safety. There must however be zero tolerance of the organised criminal
exploitation of sex workers, and changes to legislation should not lessen the Home Office's ability to prosecute those engaged in exploitation.
The Committee will evaluate a number of the alternative models as this inquiry continues, including the sex-buyers law as operated in Sweden, the full decriminalised model used in Denmark, and the legalised model used in Germany and the