Heather Bellamy spoke with Louise Gleich, the Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Policy Officer from CARE.

Louise Gleich
Louise Gleich

Leading Christian charity CARE is backing an historic attempt by a senior peer to ban prostitution adverts from newspapers and online sites across England and Wales. Conservative peer, Lord McColl of Dulwich, is behind the recently published Advertising of Prostitution Prohibition Bill. The legislation would make it illegal to place adverts for sexual services in local and national newspapers as well as online news websites. To find out more Heather Bellamy spoke with Louise Gleich, the Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Policy Officer from CARE.

Heather: So let's start with the fact that it's obviously illegal at the moment in this country to organise prostitution, so why isn't it already illegal to advertise for it?

Louise: That's a very good question. It doesn't seem to make sense that the law seems to be inconsistent in that regard. It's a remedy that Lord McColl is bringing forward that we wholeheartedly support.

Heather: So is the current law effective? How many convictions are there of people who organise prostitution?

Louise: There probably aren't as many convictions as we would like in terms of controlling prostitution and running brothels, but there are convictions regularly every year. Obviously law isn't the answer to all of these social problems, but it sends a really important signal about what is acceptable in our society; about the value of a human individual and whether prostitution is something that we want to accept in our communities, or whether it's something that we want to see eliminated. The law plays a big part in sending that message and bringing to book those who do exploit others in this way.

Heather: Is prostitution on the rise or decreasing in the UK?

Louise: I'm not sure. It's very difficult to know the exact numbers of people in prostitution. It can only be estimated because it's not something that is open and above board, so it's a little bit hidden in some ways. So it's a bit difficult to say whether the numbers are staying stable, or whether there has been any increase.

Heather: This Bill is to ban advertising, so how much advertising is out there for prostitution?

Louise: Over the last few years advertising seems to have particularly grown on the internet. The way that we use the internet has really increased over these past few years. Newspaper adverts in some areas do seem to be declining because of the policies that those individual newspaper groups have taken in relation to accepting these kind of adverts. However we think that the law really should step in and it shouldn't be reliant on newspaper groups to make these decisions for themselves.

Heather: So if this law came into force and it was made illegal, is it the type of law that could be policed and enforced?

Louise: I think in some areas it will be easier than others. Things that appear in print will probably be easier to enforce than the internet, which is obviously such a vast network. However it's not impossible for it to be policed. I think its biggest impact will probably be on influencing the behaviour of legitimate sites that will themselves be aware of the law and not want to fall foul of the law. It will make those sites reconsider and look more closely at anyone placing adverts through those sites. Obviously the police have a big job to do in terms of monitoring the internet and it won't be possible to stop all advertising, but we think this will be a step in the right direction.

Heather: And would it cover just websites that are hosted in the UK and not abroad?

Louise: The law can only impact materials that are published in England and Wales. It's an England and Wales Bill, which may present some difficulties. But the police are developing in this area all the time in relation to the cross border effects of the internet. I'm sure it's something that they will be able to work with partners on. It's also speaking to websites that are legitimate websites, where they can positively engage, even if they can't bring actual criminal proceedings.

Heather: So if this became law what effect would it have on those in prostitution?

Louise: There's evidence to suggest that prostitution in the main is something that is harmful; that the vast majority of people involved in prostitution have had some experiences in their past, or in the course of prostitution that make them particularly vulnerable. These are issues to do with things in their childhood, or alcohol addiction, or those who experience pressure and exploitation from pimps or boyfriends or family members, to get them to engage in prostitution. We think that it would be a benefit to them by reducing the demand for prostitution and hopefully provide these people with other opportunities to get out. Banning advertising for prostitution isn't in itself going to solve the whole problem, but we hope that by reducing demand for sexual services that will decrease the number of people who will find themselves ending up in prostitution. There's also been some evidence to suggest links between advertising for prostitution and people who have been victims of human trafficking, which obviously is something that also really needs to be tackled.

Heather: What are those links?

Louise: There has been evidence in the past of people who have been victims of trafficking who have been advertised, or the brothels where they have been exploited have advertised in these ways.

Heather: Do you think the general public would like to see these adverts banned?

Louise: I think so. For those members of the general public who still find these adverts in their local press and newspapers, that's not something that they really want to see in their local newspaper. There are also concerns in terms of the advertising on the internet, which in many ways is more explicit in its content than the advertising that can appear in print. There are obviously concerns about children and young people who accidently, or perhaps unwisely come across these adverts in that way. CR

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