Brits buying sex abroad should be prosecuted, say MPs
A report published by the campaign group End Demand for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution says paying for sex in the UK should be illegal and recommends MPs “strongly consider” extending the crime to overseas offences.
APPG for Prostitution chairman Gavin Shuker expressed his support for the idea, which would make it illegal for British citizens to pay for sex wherever they are in the world.
“Speaking personally, I think the idea has merit for one simple reason: many people’s first experience of buying sex takes place abroad,” he said.
The APPG has yet to respond formally to the report.
While paying for sex is currently legal in the UK, soliciting sex and kerb crawling is against the law.
Diane Martin, a former prostitute and one of the authors of the report, said research shows men are more likely to buy sex in countries where the laws and culture encourage its purchase.
“Stag parties visiting Amsterdam and men confronted with a ‘lunchtime deal’ on offer from a mega-brothel in Germany get the message that buying sex is normal,” she said.
Norway made it illegal to buy sex at home or overseas in 2008, nine years after Sweden banned the purchase of sex within the country.
The so-called “Nordic Model” makes buying sex illegal, while decriminalizing its sale and therefore protecting women in the industry. Proponents of the model point to a 2014 report, which highlighted the level of violence faced by women in the UK sex industry.
While End Demand backs the Nordic Model in the UK, sex workers themselves are largely against the measures, according to a survey by the Independent newspaper, which found that nine out of 10 are against criminalizing the purchase of sex.
Sex workers are still disproportionately likely to face criminal proceedings compared to pimps and brothel owners, according to the End Demand report.
Martin says prostitutes find it harder to leave sex work when they have a criminal record.
“As things stand, people wanting to exit not only have to get over the psychological impact and stigma attached to what they’ve been doing, but they also have to worry about convictions for loitering or soliciting popping up on their record,” she said.
“These are often people with histories of abuse, who have been criminalized while the people who exploited them have walked away.”