The biggest review of prostitution in 50 years was published by the government in 2006. The strategy challenges the established idea that prostitution is acceptable and clearly states that paying a minor for sex is child abuse.

“Street prostitution is not an activity that we can tolerate in our towns and cities. Nor can we tolerate any form of commercial sexual exploitation, whether it takes place on the street, behind the doors of a massage parlour or in a private residence,” it says.

The government wants to prevent people, especially children, from becoming exploited by prostitution, and offers more support for those already involved, including drug treatment programmes. It also promises tougher penalties for punters and people paying for sex.

Government guidance
Government guidance Safeguarding children involved in prostitution emphasises that young people should be treated as victims of abuse, not criminals. Since it was issued in 2000, cautions and prosecutions of young people involved in prostitution have dwindled. The guidance is due to be updated.

Some of the worst sexual exploitation is behind closed doors, in off-street prostitution. More research is needed on this, says the government.

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All Photos by Lydia Goldblatt.
From the exhibition Prostitution: What’s Going On? at The Women’s Library in London.

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