22 OCTOBER 2014

A new initiative is being launched in Parliament today aimed at tackling sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. The End Demand campaign calls on the government to criminalise the purchase of sex, while decriminalising its sale and providing support and exiting services for those involved in prostitution.

‘End Demand’ brings together a coalition of domestic violence, trade union and equalities groups – including the Fawcett Society – to campaign for the introduction of the ‘Sex Buyer Law’, also known as the ‘Nordic Model’, an approach shown to be effective in reducing demand for prostitution, changing public attitudes and tackling sex trafficking.

At present, in the UK:

  • An estimated 80,000 people, the majority of whom are women, are involved in prostitution in the UK[1].
  • Of these, approximately 50% began selling sex acts before the age of 18[2], and half have experienced sexual violence, often at the hands of ‘punters’[3].
  •  The social and economic costs of trafficking women amounts to an estimated £890 million annually
  • The trade itself is worth at least £130 million, a figure which is increasing as demand grows: between 1990 and 2000, for example, the number of men paying for sex in the UK almost doubled.

The Nordic model, which criminalises the purchase of sex while completely decriminalising its sale, has been adopted by Sweden, Iceland and Denmark – three of the four countries with the highest ratings for gender equality worldwide[4] – and is receiving growing international support, with both France and the European Parliament voting to embrace the approach in the past two years, and the Northern Ireland Assembly approving a ban on paying for sex, after a landmark vote on Tuesday.

Welcoming the launch of the End Demand campaign, Seema Malhotra MP, Shadow Minister for Preventing Violence against Women and Girls, said:

“Organisations in the End Demand alliance do outstanding work in defending the rights of vulnerable women and raising awareness around sexual violence and exploitation.

“With as many as 2600 migrant women trafficked into England and Wales each year, and up to 5000 children involved in prostitution at any one time, it is clear we need change.

“I welcome the End Demand alliance’s campaign which provokes a national debate about how we best tackle issues like prostitution, trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.”

Kat Banyard, spokesperson for the End Demand Campaign commented:

“By decriminalising selling sex and criminalising buying sex, the Sex Buyer Law shifts the burden of criminality from those exploited through the trade to those who create the demand.

“There is growing international recognition that to end sex trafficking and prostitution we have to end demand for it. It’s time for the UK to step up and show its commitment to the safety of all women and girls by adopting the Sex Buyer Law.”

Dr Eva Neitzert, Deputy CEO of the Fawcett Society, commented:

“We know that the current approach isn’t working, with demand increasing significantly in the last decade and sex workers – the majority of whom are women – at significant risk of violence, exploitation and trafficking. We call on parties from across the political spectrum to follow international best practice and make a real difference for those working in the sex trade.”

In supporting today’s launch, the Fawcett Society joins UK Feminista, the End Violence Against Women coalition, Women’s Aid, TUC Women’s Committee, Unison, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Scottish Trade Union Congress, Ashiana, Equality Now, White Ribbon Campaign, Rights of Women, Northern Refugee Centre, Eaves, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, Women’s Resource Centre and Object, in seeking national action to tackle demand for prostitution and mobilise support for implementing the Nordic model in the UK.

[1] ‘Paying the Price: A Consultation Paper on Prostitution’, Home Office, 2004. Accessed at: http://prostitution.procon.org/sourcefiles/paying_the_price.pdf
[2] Ibid
[3] Hester, M. & Westmarland, N. (2004) Tackling Street Prostitution: Towards an Holistic Approach, Home Office: London
[4] Iceland is 1, Norway is 3 and Sweden is 4. World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2012. Available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2012.pdf.


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