Controlled prostitution queried on BBC Radio

The BBC is questioning an MP’s assertion that 80 per cent of prostitutes are controlled for another person’s gain.

Listen to an extract from BBCRadio 4′s Today programme

In November new proposals were announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to tighten the laws on prostitution, making it illegal to purchase sex from someone who is controlled for another person’s gain.

Former Home Office minister, Fiona Mactaggart, says eight in ten prostitutes are controlled by someone else, such as a drug dealer or sex trafficker.

Fiona Mactaggart, who is in support of the new proposals, admitted the difficulty in getting exact figures for the number of women controlled for another person’s gain.

She said the 80 per cent figure relating to controlled prostitution arose from a combination of studies which are quoted in ‘Paying the Price’, a 2004 Home Office consultation paper.

Miss Mactaggart said the figures “demonstrate that between 60 per cent and 93 per cent of women in studies are drug addicted.”

She added that information from the UN on trafficking “suggests that there is a very large extent of trafficking and most of it is women or children.

“And that the experience of most women in prostitution is akin to that of being trafficked.”

But the BBC’s Ruth Alexander claimed on Radio Four’s Today programme that “experts” she had spoken to had cast doubt on this.

She does not doubt that there have been “horrific” cases but she says “no-one really knows exactly how big a problem this is.”

Studies however show there are an estimated 80,000 prostitutes working in the UK with 95 per cent of street prostitutes addicted to class A drugs.

A few days ago Norway announced new legislation which will make it illegal to pay for sex in a bid to stamp out human trafficking and exploitation.

Authorities in Amsterdam also announced in December that they would be closing half the city’s brothels in a bid clamp down on organised crime.

In recent years the entertainment industry has been a contributing factor to creating a blurred image of the prostitution ‘industry’. Movies such as Pretty Woman and a more recent ITV drama, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, about a ‘high class’ prostitute have written out the abuse and drugs which huge numbers of prostitutes face.

Commenting on proposals to clamp down on the licensing of lap-dancing clubs operating in the UK, Katherine Rake of the Fawcett Society said: “People have suddenly woken up to the fact that our city centres have changed very dramatically and that has an impact on us all, it being part of the culture of sexualisation.”