Ban on paying for sex comes a step nearer

Ban on paying for sex comes a step nearer

  • The Guardian,
  • Friday November 30 2007
  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/nov/30/homeaffairs 

    The government has launched a root-and-branch review of prostitution laws, which will examine the effects of Sweden’s policy of prosecuting men for buying sex.

    Home office minister Vernon Coaker has told MPs he will travel to Sweden and the Netherlands in the new year to study how different regimes have affected demand, amid growing pressure for radical action to curb the growth in sex trafficking.

    The Guardian revealed in September that ministers were considering radical proposals to criminalise buying sex, but Coaker’s remarks are the first public acknowledgment of the discussions. The review will take around six months and look at the experience of several countries.

    MPs want the change introduced in an amendment to the criminal justice bill going through parliament, which is backed by Fiona Mactaggart, until recently the Home Office minister responsible for tackling the sex industry. “We would not have expected to be in the House of Commons in 2007 talking about modern day slavery,” Coaker told the bill committee.

    He said ministers had concerns about whether the Swedish system might make prostitutes more vulnerable, but there was considerable support to tackle the demand for prostitution and trafficking.

    Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP who has tabled the amendment, said: “There’s growing demand across all parties for action. It’s a sad fact that the UK is the leading destination in Europe for trafficked and vulnerable people and the government has simply got to do something.”

    Supporters of the Swedish policy say it slashed the number of brothels and clients and cut sex trafficking into the country dramatically. But some critics argue that the reforms have made women who remain in the sex industry more vulnerable.

    Nikki Adams, of the English Collective of Prostitutes, said that sex workers in Sweden said it had increased violence. “We would like to see an end to criminalisation and an end to the poverty and financial deprivation that forces women into prostitution in the first place.”

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