The purchasing of sexual services should be made a criminal offence, charity CARE has said.
Speaking as a group of MPs published cross-party recommendations, as part of the anti-trafficking debates in parliament, Noala Leach, chief executive of CARE, said it was important to enshrine these recommendations in law, in order to help vulnerable women and children who want to leave prostitution.
The all-party parliamentary group on prostitution and the sex trade published a report, Shifting the burden, as the culmination of a year-long inquiry into why people enter prostitution and why it is so hard to leave.
According to the report, many people involved in prostitution have life experiences that leave them with limited choices and vulnerable to exploitation. Relevant factors include financial hardship, alcohol and drug dependency, and experiences of abuse or coercion.
The group also found that 93 per cent of respondents to the inquiry thought the current prostitution laws in England and Wales were ineffective and did not safeguard people.
Ms Leach said, ‘By turning a blind eye to the circumstances of women and children enslaved in prostitution in this country, we have enabled abuse and violence to be perpetrated against them.
‘It is time to open our eyes as a society and recognise that for many involved in prostitution it is sheer exploitation, where the word “choice” has become an abstract concept’.
She said that making the purchase of sex a criminal offence was ‘the most effective way to address the demand for sexual services’.