The UK has become a “pimp’s paradise”, a senior MP said today as she called for sexual exploitation websites to be criminalised.
Dame Diana Johnson described the country's sex trafficking problem as a “national scandal” ahead of an online summit between UK and Romanian politicians today.
Around three quarters of women trafficked to the UK come from Romania and the majority are sold into the sex trade, the BBC’s Radio 4’s Today programme reported.
The show said the MP, who chairs All-Party Parliamentary Group on Commercial Sexual Exploitation, had described the UK as becoming a “pimp’s paradise”.
Asked why such high numbers of women came from Romania, Dame Diana said: “There is a variety of reasons, there is obviously poverty, there’s an issue around the lover boy approach where men befriend and become boyfriends of women and then coerce them into trafficking.
“We are very keen to look at what we can do to deal with this demand and, what we say is, one of the obvious things to do is to criminalise the demand for sex – for paying for sex – whilst you decriminalise for the victims and give them support.
“Also, you deal with this problem of these pimping websites which are bringing together advertising in a very easy way so men can access women in the areas that they live in and that means that the serious organised crime groups that are running this trade can move women between hotel rooms and brothels all around the country.
“This is a trade, it’s a business model that we are wanting to tackle.”
Dame Diana said they were supportive of the measures that the Home Office had put in place to tackle modern slavery including the helpline.
She said a report the APPG published in 2018 set out most men do not pay for sex but those that do are “fuelling a brutal sex trafficking trade that is destroying lives”.
The acts of buying and selling sex are not in themselves illegal in England and Wales. However, there are activities that can be associated with prostitution which are offences.
These include activities linked to exploitation, such as controlling prostitution, and activities that can present a public nuisance.
But Dame Diana, the Labour MP for Hull North, added: “We need to do much more. The fact is we have options of what we could do now and one of them is to deal with these pimping websites. We could deal with that.
“Priti Patel as Home Secretary could bring forward legislation to criminalise the use of those websites and to close them down. That is one very practical thing the government can do.”
She also said they could follow the model of Northern Ireland where paying for sex was criminalised five years ago.
Dame Diana added: “Those are the key things that we believe should happen to start to tackle this trade in human misery and abuse of women who are being raped and sexually assaulted in brothels and hotel rooms all around the country.”
In July, two brothers who forced a sex slave to work as a prostitute after becoming pregnant with a client's baby were jailed.
Ilcic Dumitru, 19, and Ioan Dumitru, 24, duped the 20-year-old woman into coming to the UK from Romania on the promise of a factory job but made her sleep with up to 15 men a day.
She was threatened with being attacked if she did not make money for the pair of pimps.
A Home Office spokesperson told the Standard: “The Government is committed to tackling the abhorrent crimes of human trafficking and modern slavery and giving victims the support they need to rebuild their lives.
“It is our priority to protect victims from harm and exploitation, and target those who exploit vulnerable people involved in prostitution.”