Crackdown Pledged On Sex With Trafficked Women

The government will ensure that the “fathers, brothers and husbands” who have sex with trafficked girls are prosecuted, Harriet Harman vowed yesterday.

The women’s minister and leader of the Commons said tackling violence against women and improving the way female criminals are treated would be among her priorities, and she singled out the “modern-day slave trade”.

Reading out adverts from a local paper which promised “new Polish girls … Romanian ladies … beautiful girls daily, all nationals”, Ms Harman warned: “Britain is a major focus for the global trade of sexual exploitation of women by traffickers who trick or abduct young women and force them into prostitution. We need a consensus on how we should be dealing with the demand side – the fathers, brothers and husbands reading these words and fuelling … global exploitation.”

According to the government, 85% of women in brothels now come from outside the UK, while 10 years ago, 85% were British. But although about 30 men have been prosecuted for trafficking women into Britain to work as prostitutes, no men have yet been prosecuted for paying for sex with women or girls forced into the sex trade.

The former minister Denis MacShane warned recently: “The police and CPS have been woefully inadequate in dealing with the men who create the demand for sex slaves by being willing to pay for sex with trafficked women.”

Campaigners hope that the influence of home secretary Jacqui Smith, attorney general Lady Scotland and solicitor general Vera Baird will help the government’s drive to tackle violence against women. Rape conviction rates are below 6% and two women a week still die at the hands of partners or ex-partners.

Ms Harman will also focus on supporting families caring for older relatives, as well as children, and on empowering black and Asian women, in part by helping them to become councillors and MPs.

But Theresa May, the shadow women’s minister, said she was “disappointed at the lack of ambition” in Ms Harman’s statement, arguing that most of the specific proposals were already in place.

She added: “These are laudable aims and when she does come up with new policies we will support her.”

The government is already reviewing the support offered to carers and considering Lady Corston’s report on women in the criminal justice system, which looked at how better support could be offered to women who had offended or were at risk of offending.