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Volume 639: debated on Monday 16 April 2018

The Government’s focus remains on protecting those selling sex from harm and enabling the police to target those who exploit vulnerable people involved in prostitution. We recognise the need for research on the nature and prevalence of prostitution before we consider any changes to legislation and policy. We have commissioned research by the University of Bristol to achieve this aim.

Article 6 of the 1979 United Nations convention on gender equality and the empowerment of women positions prostitution as symbolic of women’s continued discrimination and inequality. What is being done to address that and to prevent inequality and discrimination happening to women who find themselves in that vulnerable position?

We are very clear that we want to tackle the harm and exploitation that may result from prostitution. We want a strong evidence base to inform any changes that may or may not be made in future, and that is why we have commissioned this research. However, we are clear about the harm from prostitution and that enabling people who want to leave it must be accommodated.

Many young girls are forced into selling their body as a result of being in coercive and controlling relationships. Prostitution is a form of violence against women and girls. What more can the Government do to protect victims from the harsh reality of this form of abuse?

We are very clear that any such abuse is against the law. Indeed—this follows on from the previous question—we have awarded £650,000 to Merseyside police from the VAWG service transformation fund to provide services for sex workers who are the victims of, or at risk of, sexual and domestic violence and abuse, exploitation or human trafficking. We have provided £389,000 to organisations that help those who want to leave prostitution and sex work.