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People Trafficking: Women

Volume 698: debated on Tuesday 29 January 2008

My right honourable friend the Minister for Women and Equality (Harriet Harman) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In July 2007 the Ministers for women set out their priorities.

Their second priority was tackling violence against women. This was to include tackling human trafficking of women for sexual exploitation and, in particular—as well as deterring and punishing traffickers and warning and protecting women—tackling the “demand” side of human trafficking.

This Government are committed to tackling all aspects of the modern-day slavery that is human trafficking.

Today, the Government are publishing Women Not For Sale, a report of research into small ads in local and regional newspapers advertising sexual services.

The research found that:

advertising women for sex is widespread in local and regional newspapers. Three-quarters of the papers examined for the research carried advertisements for women or services offered by women. Local papers in every region in England carried advertisements for sex with women. Typically, these advertisements are sandwiched between innocuous advertisements for other services and goods; and

almost half of the papers examined for the research carried classified advertisements specifying the nationalities or origins of women. There was a particular focus on highlighting women from Asia, including South-East Asia. Women were most likely to be described as “Oriental”, “Chinese”, “Japanese” or “‘Thai” but a large range of nationalities (for example “Indian”, “Pakistani”, “Italian”, “Spanish”) and origins (such as “East European”, “South American”) are used. British nationality is usually not specified.

Following a meeting of Vernon Coaker, Margaret Hodge, Vera Baird and myself with the Newspaper Society, we welcome the consultation and discussion that has taken place within this organisation. We welcome the new guidance that we expect the Newspaper Society will be issuing shortly to their members to help ensure that they do not unwittingly advertise brothels in which trafficked women are being exploited.

Genuine businesses that advertise services in the personal classifieds should be unaffected by this.

The Home Office recently announced a six-month review exploring what more the Government can do to tackle the demand for prostitution. This began with a visit to Sweden earlier this month by Vernon Coaker, Barbara Follett and Vera Baird to explore how the Swedish legislation banning the sale of sex is enforced and its impact on the demand for prostitution. As well as any legislative changes, the review will consider the non-legislative options available to challenge exploitation of women by paying for sex.

In this work, the Ministers for Women will continue to work with and alongside Ministers in the Home Office, the Attorney-General’s Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Copies of Women Not For Sale will be available in the House of Commons Library.