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Volume 474: debated on Monday 31 March 2008

The Petition of Susan M. Shutter,

Declares that the current laws on Prostitution in the UK are outdated for the twenty-first century. The problems with trafficking in the UK demonstrate how the current laws do not assist in reducing prostitution nor do they help to protect vulnerable women who have been coerced or in many instances forced into prostitution. Although slavery was abolished in the UK almost 200 years ago, slavery still exists for many women in prostitution in the UK. We believe that serious action is now needed to combat this horrific human rights abuse.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to review the current laws on the supply of sex and prostitution. The undersigned request that new laws are introduced following the bold stance taken by the Swedish government in 1999 which made the demand, rather than the supply, illegal. We believe that prostitution is inherently an abuse of women and does not exist to allow women freedom of choice, but is a symptom of the lack of choice for many women. We believe that prostitution will only be reduced in the UK if the demand for prostitutes is tackled in a thorough and comprehensive manner.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Fiona Mactaggart, Official Report, 8 January 2008; Vol. 470, c. 274 .] [P000104]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Government undertook a wholesale review of the law and wider policy issues relating to prostitution in 2004. This included a public consultation exercise which considered the issues including routes into and out of prostitution, associated drug and alcohol abuse, sexual and mental health needs, domestic violence and sexual abuse. It also included consideration on the existing legislative framework and the current criminal offences associated with prostitution.

In response to Paying the Price, and in consideration of the feedback received, the Government published its co-ordinated prostitution strategy in January 2006. This document focuses on disrupting sex markets by preventing individuals, and particularly children and young people, from being drawn into prostitution; by providing appropriate protection and routes out for those already involved; by protecting communities from the nuisance associated with prostitution; and by ensuring that those who control, coerce or abuse those in prostitution are brought to justice.

The strategy sets out our intention to reform the offence of loitering or soliciting to remove the outdated and stigmatising term “common prostitute”. In addition it commits to introducing a new penalty for those convicted, to end the revolving door currently created when the courts issue a fine. These proposals have been developed and will be brought forward as soon as Parliamentary time allows. In relation to off-street prostitution, the strategy also sets out a commitment to make proposals to amend the definition of a brothel in order to improve the safety of those involved in selling sex indoors. This last commitment is subject to further consultation.

The Government has recognised that there is considerable support for more to be done to tackle the demand for prostitution, particularly given the links to human trafficking and sexual exploitation. A six-month review of how we can strengthen this element of the strategy was launched in January 2008. This will consider how we can raise awareness about the links between prostitution and sexual exploitation, including trafficking, as well as the options for legislative reform. It will look at the experiences of other jurisdictions where specific offences relating to paying for sexual services have been introduced, including Sweden. The Government will look at the impact this legislation has had on behaviours and attitudes of those who buy sex and the wider public, and will also consider what impact it has had on those involved in selling sex.