Our Response to The Limits of Consent: Prostitution in the UK - Equality Now

Our Response to 'The Limits of Consent: Prostitution in the UK'

We greatly welcome the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission’s new report The Limits of Consent: Prostitution in the UK and commend the Commission for providing a balanced look not only at the evidence regarding the impact of prostitution and related policies, but also for posing the important question as to whether sexual consent is something that can be purchased.

Remarkably, the broad range of stakeholders providing evidence were in agreement that prostitution is something that ultimately should be abolished, and that external factors - primarily the need to survive - have a coercive impact on freedom of choice in the context of sexual consent. We applaud the report’s conclusion that “the most effective way to safeguard sexual consent while reducing the market for prostitution to the greatest possible extent is to legislate to make paying for sexual services an offence”. 

The report offers a number of other key recommendations that we also welcome. These recommendations, if implemented, will help to address sexual exploitation and positively impact the lives of women and other vulnerable people who are most affected by sexual exploitation. We are particularly encouraged by the recommendations to repeal the offence of soliciting for sexual services, as well as measures to prevent the disclosure of historic soliciting convictions. 

We look forward to the government taking forward the recommendations calling for a review of how to best strengthen and expand existing exit services, as well as publishing a national strategy for streamlining and resourcing these much needed services. 

It is key, as recommended in the report, that steps aimed at reducing sexual exploitation and supporting people to exit are included in the next Violence against Women and Girls strategy for 2020 onward. This should also include a review of the vulnerabilities and inequalities that drive sexual exploitation, including when and how Government policies cause or perpetuate these vulnerabilities. 

Read more: Prostitution in the UK: Consent, power, vulnerability and impunity

Read the report in full here.