guardian.co.uk November 16 2008
The Home Secretary has attacked the ‘bizarre’ practice of City firms entertaining clients in lapdancing clubs, on the eve of a government crackdown on the sex trade which is expected to criminalise most men who use prostitutes. Jacqui Smith said she expected to see some lapdancing clubs, which have mushroomed in recent years, close and fewer new ones opened under reforms triggered by concerns over a seedy culture of sexual titillation creeping across city centres. She will outline plans this week to criminalise paying for sex with a woman ‘controlled for another person’s gain’. The new offence will carry a hefty fine and criminal record, which could prevent those caught from getting jobs in sensitive occupations.
The legislation will cover women who have pimps or drug addicts who work to pay off their dealers as well as the rarer cases of trafficked women. This is expected to include the majority of Britain’s 80,000 sex workers. Ignorance of a woman’s circumstances will not be a defence. Kerb crawlers will be ‘named and shamed’, while those who pay a prostitute knowing she has been forcibly trafficked could face rape charges.
The measures are highly controversial, with critics arguing that men will seek other outlets if prostitution is driven off the streets. Smith said it was ‘not mine or the government’s responsibility to ensure that the demand is satisfied’, adding: ‘Is this something about which people have a choice with respect to their demands? Yes, they do. Basically, if it means fewer people are able to go out and pay for sex I think that would be a good thing.’