Bishop of Derby supports Bill to prohibit the advertising of prostitution

“This is not about money or business; it is about abused and oppressed human beings” – Bishop of Derby, 23/10/15

On 23rd October 2015 the House of Lords debated the Advertising of Prostitution (Prohibition) Bill, a private member’s bill tabled by the Conservative Peer, Lord McColl of Dulwich, that would prohibit the advertising of prostitution. The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, spoke supportively in the debate. The Bill was given a Second Reading by Peers and will progress to its committee stage.

Bishop of DerbyThe Lord Bishop of Derby: I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and thank him for introducing the Bill and for his important work in this important area. I will make a couple of points about the context and about the issue that we are debating.

First, there is the scale of it. I was at a lecture on Saturday where somebody explained that demand for the purchase of sex increased enormously in the 1990s with the increasing availability of online pornography. The statistics went from one in 20 men buying sex to one in 10. That is a massive increase in the market. In its briefing paper, the Institute of Economic Affairs almost celebrates that by saying that it is a business worth £4 billion a year. This is not about money or business; it is about abused and oppressed human beings. As the noble Lord, Lord McColl, says, it is part of an increasing scenario of violence against women in our society and treating women as commodities that can be bought and sold.

This very week, some of my colleagues who work with prostitutes in Derbyshire visited a prostitute who advertises her services on the internet. This week, she was visited by somebody through that advertising and horrifically assaulted. Advertising can be an avenue for people to attack and abuse very vulnerable women, with horrific consequences.

Because many of the women who are drawn into this trade are vulnerable, as the noble Lord, Lord McColl, said, we have to look at being consistent with our concerns about safeguarding. We are rightly concerned to safeguard vulnerable adults and children. Many of the women drawn into this trade are vulnerable in the most terrible way. Some time ago, I met a women here in London who was trying to escape from prostitution. The advertising that her pimp organises led to her being raped 10 times a day—the advertising provided the means for that to happen. That is the kind of human cost that we are looking at.

There are some issues about whether this is practical. I remind noble Lords that in the 19th century there was a lot of debate in this House and the other place about legislation to stop women and children being exploited in factories. At the time, one of the arguments was that you would never eradicate it. Of course it never was eradicated—it still is not—and some families really suffered. The point of the legislation then, as with this modest proposal now, is about what kind of marker the state should put down to say how we value people and how we want to protect them. This would be a powerful marker in a world that is obsessed with and dominated by advertising. I would be interested if the Minister has any comment on what kind of marker the state should put down through this proposal.

Another issue is what it says about the health of society when sexual services are advertised so freely in the press and on the internet. All the research shows that the great majority of men who use the services of prostitutes are either married or in stable relationships. Think of the cost to our society of relationships that are so unstable and immature that all this is going on. The cost is enormous. Should we not be trying to go back a bit to look at what is fuelling this demand? What is happening in the upbringing of boys and young men so that, when they grow up and become older, they patronise this kind of industry?

Advertising, if it is allowed, normalises that kind of behaviour. It normalises being able to buy a woman for sex in a very unequal power relationship. There is nothing equal about it. To allow advertising normalises buying a woman for sex.

Also at the conference on Saturday, I was with a woman, a former prostitute, who talked very movingly about being drawn into a world of fantasy. People who respond to the adverts come into a world of fantasy. She said: “The tragedy was, nobody asked the right question about me. They just wanted me to play along with a fantasy world that everybody thought was fine”. Underneath, she was hurting, she was heartbroken, she was frightened, she was being abused, but nobody asked the right question. Is it mature and right to allow human beings to escape into these fantasy worlds at such terrible cost to fellow human beings?

My last point, on which the Minister may want to comment, is that a lot of this advertising is enabling organised crime to flourish. We need to look at the link between organised crime and advertising for illegal activities to take place. I hope that we will support the Bill.


The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): [extract] My Lords, I join all other noble Lords in paying tribute to my noble friend Lord McColl. As someone who is passionate and informed in trying to improve and reform our society, he epitomises all that is good about this House. Of course, he is the principal architect of the Modern Slavery Act, which has now come into effect. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby rightly observed, those who are trafficked are often trafficked in connection with prostitution, and therefore, that legislation will be effective in tackling this problem….

Lord McColl of Dulwich: [extract]…My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this debate and the Minister for his kind remarks about me. However, I should like to draw attention to the amazing work that has been done by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and the noble Lord, Lord Morrow. A big team has been at work…

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