FiLia call to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Prostitution

FiLia calls calls for Home Affairs Committee prostitution inquiry to be restarted amid Keith Vaz punter allegations

FILia calls for the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into prostitution to be scrapped and restarted on the grounds of conflict of interests, following allegations that its chair, Keith Vaz MP, paid young male escorts for sex.

An interim report released by the committee in July appeared to play down arguments in favour of criminalisation of paying for sex or managing others for paid sex (pimping), sparking concerns among women's rights groups that the inquiry is leaning towards decriminalisation or legalisation of the sex trade, which research shows leads to increased trafficking and increased abuse of women and girls in prostitution.

FiLia is a UK-based women's rights charity committed to driving positive change for women and girls globally. We regard prostitution as a form of violence against women and girls; a view shared by the UK Crown Prosecution Service, leading unions and the majority of women's rights charities and organisations. 

FiLia favours the Nordic model of dealing with prostitution, which was pioneered in Sweden and involves the decriminalisation of anyone selling sex, the criminalisation of anyone buying sex or profiting from it and the provision of supported exit plans. The model was recently implemented in France and Northern Ireland and has been in place in Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Canada for some time. 

A similar approach named the Sex Buyer Law was recommended by an All Party Parliamentary Group on prostitution in February this year.

There would be a clear conflict of interest if the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, while advising on the legal framework around paid sex, is proven to have paid for sex himself. 

Because the sex trade and its impact on society disproportionately affects women and girls, FiLia also calls for the committee to be disbanded and reconvened with at least 50% female members.

When the committee's report was released on July 1, Vaz confirmed that the committee would continue to look at the different approaches to dealing with prostitution.

"The Committee will evaluate a number of the alternative models as this inquiry continues, including the sex-buyers law as operated in Sweden, the full decriminalised model used in Denmark, and the legalised model used in Germany and the Netherlands," he said.

The Nordic Model is the only model proven to simultaneously reduce prostitution and trafficking while also offering viable exit plans to help women out of the sex trade. It is important to remember that the impact of the decision by the Home Affairs Select Committee will be felt by all women and girls, as well as by those in prostitution. In Sweden, after the law was changed attitudes regarding prostitution improved dramatically; it is no longer considered socially acceptable to buy or trade women and girls.

Research consistently shows that about 50% of women and girls in prostitution have been raped (many repeatedly), about 70% have been otherwise assaulted, approximately 90% want to exit and the average age to enter the trade is 13-15 years old. Where decriminalisation or legalisation of the sex trade takes place, trafficking rises and more women are coerced into prostitution to meet the demand. These facts must not be ignored when developing policy. 

FiLia urges the UK government, local councils and police and crime commissioners to take a stand against this abusive trade and adopt the Nordic model across the UK.