Prostitution Should Be Decriminalized, U.K. Panel Says

Jul 3, 2016 6:00 AM PST

LONDON — Sex workers should no longer be charged in the U.K. for solicitation offenses, the House of Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee said in a report on Friday.

Members of Parliament on the committee further suggested that sex workers’ past convictions should be erased to make it easier for them to get jobs.

Decriminalizing prostitution in the U.K. would be a move in step with countries like Sweden, France and New Zealand, which have recently liberalized their stances.

Paying for sex is not against the law in mainland U.K. — it was made illegal in Northern Ireland last year — but activities linked to it, such as brothel-keeping and public solicitation, are banned.

Around 11 percent of British men aged 16 to 74 — or 2.3 million individuals — have paid for sex at least once in an industry that involves around 72,800 women in the U.K., the panel said.

“Treating soliciting as a criminal offense is having an adverse effect,” committee chairman Keith Vaz said in a statement. “It’s wrong that sex workers, who are predominantly women, should be penalized and stigmatized. The criminalization of sex workers should therefore end.’

The committee stressed that the power to prosecute pimps should continue, along with “zero tolerance” to criminal sex worker exploitation.

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