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Should we worry about the last report on prostitution in UK ?

diapo article rapportuk juillet2016If the Nordic model has gained significant support in Europe with the French law of 13 April 2016 strengthening the fight against the prostitution system, the report published by the Home Affairs Select Committee in the UK reveals a reluctance in the British political class for this type of model and a preferance for the New Zealand approach.



Bias unstated but clearly identifiable

If the report showed some prudence stressing that no existing model would be directly transposed in England and Wales, the conclusions and recommendations clearly take a stand with the New Zealand model which would give, according to them, enough proof of its efficiency: clear legislation, better conditions for prostitutes, better cooperation of prostitutes with the police, no significant development of the sex industry . Moreover, the authors already recommend an evaluation of the elements of the New Zealand legislation that could be transposed into the English legislation.

Conversely , criticism of the Swedish model is very insistent: the criminalization of sex buyers does not make the difference between prostitution that can occurs between two consenting adults and that which involves exploitation. The report adds that such a law denies prostitutes the right to speak for themselves. Furthermore, the authors estimate that to date, the assessments of the effectiveness of such a measure are not sufficiently reliable as measured solely on street prostitution.

The recent publication of this interim report seems to begin a process which should lead to a long-termevolution of law on prostitution in England and in Wales. With more than 250 received contributions (individuals, ONG, academics, policies, etc) and of a composition transpartisan of his members (5 Labour MPs, 6 conservatives, 1 Scottish national party, 1 independent), the Committee has already moved forward a certain number of conclusions by waiting for a final report envisaged for 2017.

The report also makes the finding of a profound divergence of views and contributions divided into two distinct groups: 

- Those in favour of a penalization of the purchase of sexual act and who consider that the prostitution is a commercial sexual exploitation of the women and the girls and that it is incompatible with the gender equality (Swedish model).
- Those in favor of "decriminalization" of "sex workers" and "sex buyers". They believe that when the act of prostitution results from an agreement made between two people, it becomes a legitimate occupation and must be recognized as such (New Zealand model).


Towards the abrogation of the offence of soliciting ? A necessary but insufficient measurehome affairs committee report 2016

However, let us greet the recommendation by the authors of this report with an immediate abolition of the offence of solicitation which does not reduce the demand and does not bring the prostituted persons to try to leave prostitution and continues to expose them to abuses. The authors also ask for a legislative modification that would erase the criminal solicitation of records previously connected to prostituted persons. However, without penalization of the sex buyers, the abolition of the offence of soliciting would open the way to the reglementarism if the members of Parliament decided to stay "in mid-stream". Let us pledge that a thorough reflection will lead towards a more global legislative project.

Need for further reflection

Aware of the lack of information about the extent and the nature of the phenomenon in England and in Wales, the authors nevertheless notice an evolution of the sex industry’s practices(increase of the use of internet, increase of the number of migrants). The authors demand an in-depth study for 2017 and added that none of the solutions examined in this report (Sweden, New Zealand, Germany) were complete.

Even if it is an interim report, even if the testimonies and the inquiries show the utility of a global fight against the system of prostitution, the debates are only beginning and the Scelles foundation will be attentive to that discourse.

House of Commons Home Affairs Committee "Prostitution" Third Report of Session 2016–17 (pdf)


Prostitution Law in the UK

Prostitution is legal for adults, but all forms of its organization are illegal (operating brothel, procuring, kerb crawling , soliciting on the street ...) In 2008, the United Kingdom criminalized the purchase of sexual services from individuals forced into prostitution. This law, however, is not easily applicable.
Since June 2015, the purchase of sexual services is criminalized in Northern Ireland. The sex-buyer can be punished with a maximum of 6 months imprisonment and / or fines.
In March 2015, the Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into force. This text brings together several laws on human trafficking and gives a better legal consistency. Sanctions can range from fines to life imprisonment.

source : Prostitution : «Exploitation, Persecution, Repression» - Fondation Scelles - Economica, 2016. 557p




The Scelles Foundation in the press

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