More than half of the public would support a ban on the purchase of sex if it would help tackle human trafficking, a new Government poll shows.
The results of the survey will bolster calls for a change in the law to tackle the demand side of prostitution, led by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Harriet Harman.
The law is currently under review by the Home Office. Ministers recently visited Sweden, where it is illegal to pay for sex, with a view to adopting a similar approach in the UK.
The new poll, conducted by polling company Ipsos-Mori, showed that 58 per cent of men and women believe that such a ban should be applied in the UK if it would serve to reduce levels of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Among women, 61 per cent thought that buying sex was unacceptable, while 65 per cent felt the same way about selling it. For men the figures were 42 and 40 per cent respectively.
60 per cent of those of both sexes said that they would feel ashamed if a relative was working as a prostitute, although only 50 per cent of men were concerned about a relative buying sex.
Mrs Harman said: “Our survey suggests that there are double standards out there: Even amongst people who thought selling sex was a reasonable choice to make, the overwhelming majority would then find it unacceptable if a family member was working as a prostitute.
“While the majority of men and women agree that paying for sex should be made illegal if it will help stop the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, women and young people are much more likely to find the whole idea of paying for sex unacceptable.
“We know that paying for sex fuels the demand for trafficked women and children, but we can’t talk about tackling demand without challenging cultural attitudes more widely.”