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Harriet Harman could ban prostitute adverts

PinkNews Staff Writer March 9, 2010
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Escort adverts in magazines and newspapers could be banned if Labour wins the general election.

The party is putting forward a new law in its election manifesto which could impose a £10,000 fine for those who fail to comply.

The law is similar to one which already exists in Ireland and is being spearheaded by equality minister Harriet Harman and Vera Baird, the solicitor-general.

They are concerned that publications are profiting from prostitution and that the adverts are selling the services of women who may have been forced into prostitution.

The law will also affect rent boy adverts, which are carried in the back of many gay magazines.

In 2008, the Newspaper Society persuaded some newspaper groups to stop carrying the adverts but others continue to sell the space to prostitutes.

Mrs Baird said: “It is now appropriate to move against people who make money from advertising prostitutes. The Newspaper Society tightened its guidance on taking such ads but there is still a market that we now have to look to legislation to disrupt.”

However, there are fears that banning the adverts could make male escorts’ work more dangerous.

Male escorts are more likely to work alone than female escorts and use adverts to find customers, rather than being employed by a brothel or pimp.

One expert said that making their customer base smaller could lead to riskier sex and increased HIV infections.

Catherine Stephens from the International Union of Sex Workers told Boyz magazine: “I think the sex work scene is pretty quiet the moment and one of the things that happens when there’s a crackdown is that there’s even less punters and so less ability to negotiate price.

“We see a decrease in safe sex because people are more likely to do things they don’t want to do.”

A male escort who asked to be called Saul told the magazine: “I find this proposal deeply disturbing. It’s like they actually want us to turn to streetwalking. It’s much safer to advertise in the back of a magazine than to wander street corners in the dark or work for a pimp.”

London-based QX is one gay magazine which carries ads for male escorts. A spokesman from the magazine said the proposed law was “draconian”.

He told “As a publication, QX has provided a safe environment for male escorts to advertise and if they lose that safe environment both they and their clients will be at considerably greater risk.

“Current government policy will certainly bring back street prostitution and pimps, make it more difficult for health workers, and will have a knock-on effect on underage sexual exploitation as the profession becomes criminalised.

“The police have already criticised government policy on prostitution. QX supports sex workers working free from coercion, and any government policy should be based on the principle that sex working is a legitimate profession.”

The new law would also make it illegal to print cards advertising prostitutes for distribution in telephone boxes. Currently, it is only illegal to be caught in the act of posting up the cards.

Adverts for phone sex would not be illegal, unless they are a front for selling sex.

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