Efforts to curtail trafficking in women and children would be helped if paying for sex was made illegal, say researchers. Willingness to pay for such services fuels the demand for young women and children, who may be smuggled into the country to work in the sex industry.
The Poppy Project investigation, using newspaper adverts to locate brothels, claimed sex is available for sale on ‘every corner’ of London, sometimes for as little as £15. One of the report’s authors, Helen Atkins, said: ‘This research shows the disturbing prevalence of the sex industry in every corner of London – fuelled by the demand for prostitution services.
‘Multi-media misrepresentations of commercial sex as a glamorous, easy and fun career choice for girls and women further contribute to the ubiquity of London’s brothel industry. However, for most women involved in prostitution, the reality is a cycle of violence and coercion, perpetuated by poverty and inequality’.
Government ministers seem willing to support a ban on the purchase of sex and Women and Equalities Minister Harriet Harman is said to be leading a campaign to introduce one, with the support of the Prime Minister. The Home Office is currently reviewing the law on prostitution.
Mrs Harman said: ‘Our survey suggests that there are double standards out there: we can’t talk about tackling demand without challenging cultural attitudes more widely’.