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Harman: sex trafficking changing attitudes to prostitution
Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, today visited the POPPY Project and met with women who have been trafficked into sexual exploitation. POPPY provides accommodation and support to trafficked women.
The visit coincides with new survey findings which show that more than half of men and women (58%) support making it illegal to pay for sex if it will help reduce women and children trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation.
The research also finds divergent attitudes between women and men. Whereas a clear majority of women find either paying for sex or selling it unacceptable (61% and 65% respectively, men are much more equivocal with just 42% and 40% respectively finding it unacceptable.
Over half questioned (60%) would feel ashamed if they found out a family member was working as a prostitute.
Interestingly the majority of men are much more likely to find it unacceptable for a female relative to sell sex (61%), yet they are more relaxed about a male relative paying for sex (50%). This difference is most stark amongst men over 55, who are the most accepting of buying sex in general (50 %), but just 21% of whom believe it is acceptable for a female relative to sell sex (compared to 11% of women aged over 55).
Young people are less likely than older people to find paying for sex or selling sex acceptable, (64% and 69% respectively).
Ms Harman said:
"Our survey suggests that there are double standards out there: Even amongst people who thought selling sex was a reasonable choice to make, the overwhelming majority would then find it unacceptable if a family member was working as a prostitute.
"While the majority of men and women agree that paying for sex should be made illegal if it will help stop the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, women and young people are much more likely to find the whole idea of paying for sex unacceptable.
"We know that paying for sex fuels the demand for trafficked women and children, but we can't talk about tackling demand without challenging cultural attitudes more widely."
The Home Office is conducting a wide ranging review looking at what more the Government can do to tackle demand for prostitution, exploring both the legislative and non-legislative options. The review started in January this year and is due to report later this year. As part of this Ministers have visited Sweden and The Netherlands to look at how trafficking is being tackled internationally.
The Government has established a dedicated UK Human Trafficking centre and is on course to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by the end of 2008. We have already invested £5.8 million into the POPPY project, which provides accommodation and a package of support to women that have been trafficked into sexual exploitation. .
Notes for editors
* The survey was conducted by Ipsos-MORI between 11th and 12th June, and 29 and 31 August 2008among a nationally represented sample of British adults aged 18+. Results are based on 1,012 respondents and 1,010 respondents respectively.
* A 2007 research report by the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit showed that the peak age for buying sex is 34, with men aged 20-40 counting for the majority. Most are employed, around half are in a relationship, and more than a fifth have children.
* In January, as part of the drive to tackle human trafficking, the government published a report, 'Women Not for Sale', which found sex ads in 75% of the local newspapers, that in all parts of England local newspapers are carrying ads selling women, and nearly half the ads in local papers refer to women as being from abroad. Since then the Newspaper Society has tightened up guidance which has led to a number of newspapers refusing offending adverts.
* In 2003, a Home Office study on organised crime markets estimated that there were 4,000 women in the UK who had been trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
* Operation Pentameter 2 (a six month, national enforcement campaign focusing on the off-street market) resulted in: the identification of 167 victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation (13 of which were children) 528 arrests; and over £500K seized in cash, with an excess of £3m assets held under restraint.]
In January the Government announced that it will ratify the Council of Europe Convention against trafficking in human beings by the end of the year.
* The POPPY Project was set up in 2003. It is funded by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform (reporting to the Ministry of Justice) and the Home Office to provide accommodation and support to women who have been trafficked into sexual exploitation.
* The UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking (published in March 2007) outlines the Government's comprehensive strategy in the areas of prevention, investigations/enforcement/prosecutions and the protection of victims. An Update to the UK Action Plan was published on July 2nd this year; highlighting progress and identifying key new measures.