U.K. to criminalize johns

Kerb crawling and paying for sex with trafficked women are to be outlawed.

Published September 23, 2008 10:15PM (EDT)

Starting next month, England and Wales will move toward outlawing kerb crawling, soliciting prostitutes in public and "paying for sex with someone forced into prostitution at another's will, or controlled for another's gain." Officials will also be allowed to shut down a brothel for a minimum of three months if it's run by a pimp or if the workers are trafficked.

On Sunday, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced the plan, which is largely aimed at curbing sex trafficking and follows a six-month review of prostitution laws in the Netherlands and Sweden. Smith said, "We must protect women from being victims of human trafficking -- the modern slave trade. The trade only exists because men buy sex, so to protect women we must stop men buying sex from the victims of human trafficking."

Some sex worker advocates cheered the plan, but others suggested it will put workers in greater danger. Cari Mitchell, spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, pointed out: "When kerb crawlers were criminalized in Scotland a year ago sex work projects reported that attacks on women almost doubled." She added: "Cracking down on kerb crawlers deprives women of time to negotiate with clients, forcing them to take more risks. Women cannot afford to just stop working." In other words, the demand on either side doesn't disappear, it just goes underground.

As for whether the plan will "stop men buying sex from the victims of human trafficking"? Supporters of Sweden's decision to criminalize buying sex argue that it curbed trafficking, while others point out that it increased violence against prostitutes. It remains to be seen whether there will be the same win-loss ratio with this limited criminalization of johns.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

MORE FROM Tracy Clark-Flory

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Love And Sex