Tough new laws aimed at combating sex trafficking will be debated by the House of Lords today as Peers consider the Policing and Crime Bill.
The Government wants to criminalise men who pay for sex with women being exploited by someone else, whether they know about her situation or not.
But a Tory front bench amendment proposes that a man would only be guilty if he “knows, or ought to know” that the woman he had paid for sex was being exploited.
Other Government proposals would soften the penalties for prostitutes convicted of a solicitation offence.
An offence would only be committed if solicitation was “persistent”, occurring twice or more in any three month period.
And when sentencing, a judge will be able to issue an order that the prostitute must meet with a supervisor three times within six months of the conviction. Such an order would replace a fine.
More than half of UK prostitutes have been raped or suffered indecent assault and three quarters have experienced physical violence.
A majority of the prostitutes involved in one study said that they had feared for their lives at least once.
An international study published in the Journal of Trauma Practice found that 68% of prostitutes met the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, with symptoms as severe as victims of torture.
The same study shows that nine in ten prostitutes want to escape prostitution but feel unable to do so.
Statistics from the ‘Crime and Disorder associated with Prostitution Initiative’ showed that 93 per cent of prostitutes were using non-prescribed drugs, including 88 per cent using heroin.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “Thousands of girls are being trafficked into the UK every year to be forced into prostitution by people who know they can make money from them. This will continue until the demand for prostitutes is cut.
“We believe that the Government’s latest proposals will go some way towards turning the tide on trafficking by deterring people from purchasing sex.
“However, we regret that measures dealing with the selling of sex are to be relaxed. Properly funded drug treatment orders are needed instead of the Bill’s cut price counselling. Prostitution is inherently harmful. Nine in ten prostitutes say they want to get out of the trade but can’t.”