CARE campaigns for changes in the law to address the demand for paid sex in the UK and to provide exit strategies to help people in prostitution exit this exploitative and demeaning industry.
Exploitation within the sex industry affects some of the most vulnerable in our society. Often it is a person’s lack of choice that forces them to ‘choose’ prostitution. Some get involved in selling sexual services at a young age and many have experienced abuse in childhood or have spent time in local authority care.  Studies show that high numbers of women in prostitution have experienced coercion from a partner, pimp or relative and that incidents of violence are much higher than in the rest of society.  Drug and alcohol misuse is a problem for some and chaotic lifestyles make it difficult for people to leave prostitution without support.
There is also a link between prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation. Whilst most people in prostitution have not been trafficked, many women and children are trafficked to provide sexual services. Within the EU, 69% of all trafficking victims are victims of sexual exploitation.
Tackling the demand for paid sexual services is crucial to addressing effectively the market for human trafficking and preventing the exploitation of vulnerable people. Sweden, Norway and Iceland have laws which criminalise the purchase of sexual services, which they report to be effective in changing attitudes towards commercial sexual exploitation. Similar laws have been passed in recent years in Canada (2014), Northern Ireland (2015), France (2016) and the Republic of Ireland (2017).
Although some people say they are in prostitution by choice, the majority are vulnerable and at risk of harm or exploitation.
More needs to be done to address demand for commercial sexual exploitation and to provide support programmes for those who want to exit prostitution.
The Policing and Crime Act 2009 introduced an offence to pay for sex with someone who is subjected to force. However, that offence has not been effective and has resulted in fewer than 100 prosecutions in 6 years. An All Party Parliamentary Group inquiry in 2013-14 recommended that the laws on prostitution in England and Wales “should be reviewed with a view to reducing the demand for sexual services, by transferring the burden of criminality from those selling sexual services onto those who facilitate or create the demand for its sale.” During debates on the Modern Slavery Bill in 2014, 31 MPs from five political parties supported an amendment to criminalise the purchase of sexual services.
Since the last General Election the Home Affairs Select Committee held a short inquiry into prostitution. The interim report recommended that the criminal offence of soliciting should be repealed but made no further recommendations about addressing demand. A further inquiry and report had been anticipated later in the parliament. The interim report also recommended that the Government should conduct an assessment of the nature and scale of prostitution. The Government agreed to conduct the assessment with an interim report due to be published in June 2017.
Questions for Candidates
- What would you do to address commercial sexual exploitation and to promote better strategies to help people to exit prostitution?
- Would you work for a review of the laws on prostitution and its impact on trafficking for sexual exploitation in order to help change attitudes towards the demand for paid sex that fuels this form of human trafficking?
- Would you support legislation to criminalise the purchase of sexual services in order to reduce demand for commercial sexual exploitation and protect the vulnerable?
- In Northern Ireland – Will you work to support the effective implementation of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) (Northern Ireland) Act 2015, including the implementation of section 15 criminalising the purchase of sexual services?
 Home Office Paying the Price 2004
 Eaves/London South Bank University Breaking Down the Barriers 2012; Home Office 2004 Op.cit
 European Union Statistical Working Paper Trafficking in Human Beings Eurostat 2014