Mr Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op)
4 Jul 2018, 2:31 p.m.
I beg to move,
That this House has considered tackling demand for commercial sexual exploitation.
I move the motion on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion).
This cannot go on. Our laws against commercial sexual exploitation are failing. They are failing to deter traffickers, failing to prevent pimps—those who profit—and failing victims. Crucially, we have known that for a long time. I have been fortunate to chair the all-party parliamentary group on prostitution and the global sex trade for six or seven years, and I have grown increasingly frustrated that many political parties fail to engage with the issue. It forces us to examine a fundamental question: what do we believe prostitution inherently to be? Personally, I have moved to a position where I feel that it is a form of violence against women and girls; it is institutionalised exploitation for profit. We are forced to examine that question, and that is what this debate is about.
In 2014 the APPG conducted an inquiry into prostitution laws in England and Wales. Our conclusion was stark: because the law sends no clear messages about the nature of prostitution and what the goal of legislation is, it is by default those who are most visible—women selling sex—who are targeted, while men who create the demand in the first place walk away without being held legally accountable for the immense damage they do to individuals and communities.
Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
4 Jul 2018, 2:33 p.m.
To underline my hon. Friend’s point, does not the fact that 50% of women in prostitution in the UK are estimated to have started being paid for sex acts before they were 18 years old expose more than anything the vulnerability of people in this trade and how the almost rosy image that is sometimes given to it is very far away from the reality of what faces them?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This goes right to the heart of the question of consent. How is it possible, under our current law, for someone to fail to give consent the day before their 18th birthday, but then to be in a position in which consent is assumed the day after?