Sex workers rights

MPs want to make buying sex illegal

Who do you criminalise – the sex workers, the buyers, or neither?

A group of MPs have released a study saying 'pop-up' brothels are allowing for women to be trafficked around the country, often as 'sex slaves'. They want buying sex to be illegal – but not everyone agrees.

What it means: The debate over legalising prostitution has existed for a long time. It's a complex one because people can't agree on whether you should criminalise the work itself (aka the 'supply') or the purchase of that work (aka 'the demand'), or neither at all (aka 'none of your business').

It's difficult to measure how much we spend on prostitution, because so much of it isn't recorded. But by an estimate based on clients per prostitute per week, price, and cost of rooms etc, economists guess that prostitution adds about £5.65 billion to the UK economy (that's about the same as we spend on hairdressing, and around half the value of the advertising industry).

Gavin Shuker MP says the government should "shift the burden of criminality from those that sell sex to those that buy it." But some sex workers feel criminalising the purchase of sex will only make them more isolated. They say trafficking is only about 6 percent of sex work – in other words, we shouldn't assume the majority isn't consensual.

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