Clause 14 of the Policing and Crime bill passed through Report Stage unamended in the House of Lords last Tuesday 3rd November.
Clause 14 aims to protect vulnerable and exploited people by shifting the focus of the law onto those who create the demand for prostitution. The clause makes it an offence to pay for sex with someone who is subjected to force, deception or threats.
During the debate Baroness Scotland, the Government Minister in the Lords said “We are faced with a choice tonight: do we speak for the victims, do we stand up for those who have no voice for themselves, do we stand in the breach for them—or do we provide a cloak of anonymity and protection for those who do not wish to face what they do when they purchase sex from a woman or a man, quite often of tender years, who has been coerced or forced into that position?
I need to be clear that the Government’s view is that those who purchase sex from people in that position commit a wrong. They enable a situation that is avoidable to continue. We have a choice tonight to decide on which stand we will set our mark. Who will we support, and who will we defend?”
The succesful passage of this clause is a huge victory for women who have been exploited by the sex industry, especially given the amount of opposition to the clause and the totally unbalanced media coverage of the issues involved. But there is still a long way to go. Eaves Housing and OBJECT have orchestrated a campaign called Demand Change to challenge the legitimacy of the demand for prostitution.