Information on prostitution

  • An estimated 80,000 people are involved in prostitution in the UK.
  • Up to 70 per cent of prostitutes spent time in care, 45 per cent report sexual abuse and 85 per cent physical abuse within their families. Many are homeless and up to 95 per cent of street prostitutes are on heroin or crack. (Figures are from Paying the Price: a government consultation paper on prostitution.)
  • Over the past 10 years, 48 women working as prostitutes have been murdered in the UK, according to figures from the Women’s Library in London.

Prostitution strategy
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.

Organisations supporting/lobbying on adults and children involved in prostitution
Barnardo’s – works with children exploited by prostitution

Josephine Butler Society – lobbies on prostitution reform

Ecpat charity – End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes

International Prostitutes Collective – reform campaign

National Christian Alliance on Prostitution – umbrella group of projects supporting people exploited by prostitution 

Poppy Project – supports women trafficked into prostitution

Prostitution reform – voluntary sector alliance on prostitution reform

UK Network of Sex Projectsumbrella group projects supporting sex workers

Resources on prostitution
Child and abuse studies unit, London Metropolitan University – info on prostitution

Young people involved in prostitution speak outjoint report by ECPAT, NSPCC, Barnardo’s, NCH and The Children’s Society.

Government publications on prostitution
Paying the Price consultation on prostitution (2004)

Prostitution strategy (2006)

Related articles on prostitution
Prostitutes and the charities working to help them leave the streets

Prostitution: what is it really like?

Senior support worker at the Poppy Project on why she loves her job

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

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.