Thank you to everyone who got in touch about the Sexual Exploitation Bill. I appreciate this is an issue on which there are a range of strongly held views.
As you know, the Sexual Exploitation Bill, which was introduced to Parliament as a Private Members’ Bill, would criminalise paying for sex, decriminalise selling sex, criminalise enabling or profiting from the sexual exploitation of others, and provide support services for victims of sexual exploitation.
This Bill was scheduled to have its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on Friday 5 February 2021. However, sitting Fridays have been suspended until further notice because of the current situation with coronavirus. In any case, the Sexual Exploitation Bill was very low down on the Order Paper for that day and was therefore unlikely to make further progress. While Private Members’ Bills are not often successful, they are a good way for individual MPs to raise important issues.
I am aware that similar legislation, known as the ‘Nordic Model’ or Sex Buyer Law, has been introduced in several countries, and has been advocated by different organisations. I am also aware that others wish to see the full decriminalisation of sex work, based on legislation in New Zealand.
In 2016, the UK Government noted that Northern Ireland has adopted the ‘Nordic Model’ and said it would assess the implementation and impact of such a change across the UK. In 2020, it said it had not seen unequivocal evidence that decriminalisation is the best way to reduce harm and exploitation.
I firmly believe that all sex workers should have full access to excellent, reliable and life-changing information and support. They should be treated respectfully, fairly and positively. Those who wish to exit sex work must be given genuine alternatives.
We must also mobilise all available measures to disrupt and respond robustly to sexual exploitation. It is very concerning that a 2018 inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade found that sexual exploitation of women by organised crime groups is widespread across the UK.
Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views. I assure you I will follow any developments in this area closely.