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British MPs call for decriminalising sex work

worldpaper Updated: Jul 05, 2016, 09:01 IST

LONDON: Amid evidence that students sell sex to pay their way through university, an influential parliamentary committee has called for change in British legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence and brothel-keeping laws allow sex workers to share premises.

In a first-of-its-kind inquiry titled “Prostitution”, the Home Affairs Select Committee said it was “dismayed“by poor data on Britain’s sex industry, whereas its inquiries revealed such facts as sex workers having an average of 25 clients a week paying an average £78 per visit.

Presenting an interim report on the subject, Keith Vaz, the chair of the committee, said: “Treating soliciting as a criminal offence is having an adverse effect, and it is wrong that sex workers, who are predominantly women, should be penalised and stigmatised in this way. The criminalisation of sex workers should therefore end.”

According to the committee, nearly 11% of British men aged 16 to 74 have paid for sex on at least one occasion, which equates to 2.3 million individuals. The number of sex workers in Britain is estimated to be around 72,800, with about 32,000 working in London.

In England and Wales, the sale and purchase of sexual services is legal, but various related activities are criminal, including activities linked to exploitation, such as controlling prostitution, or managing a brothel, and activities that can present a public nuisance, such as buying or selling sex in public.

In a submission to the committee, the National Union of Students (NUS) cited research led by Swansea University into student sex work which found that almost 5% of students in the study had engaged in sex work at some time.

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