I have been working hard to try and get the government to crack down on the recent phenomenon of ‘sex-for-rent’.
In case you’ve not heard of this, men are advertising on websites for ‘free’ accommodation their home in return for having sex whenever they want it. It is mostly aimed at young women but in some cases they adverts are aimed at young men too.
In Britain we have a housing crisis, cities like ours that have two universities, and new emerging web platforms where people can advertise for accommodation. These things have some together to create the conditions for sexual exploitation and our laws and law enforcement are struggling to keep up.
A year ago I got the law clarified by raising this in the Commons and with the Justice minister. I was told that this practice was an offence under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act. But the problem is that there’s not been a single arrest, let alone conviction, since then and the problem is getting worse and worse.
There are now more adverts for ‘sex for rent’ in Britain than the rest of Europe and America combined.
I wrote to Amber Rudd about this a few days ago and she immediately got in touch and arranged a time to meet. So this evening I sat with her and talked through the issue and why I felt that this was now an enforcement issue rather than simply about clarifying the law.
I try really hard to give credit wherever it is due, even in politics when it’s sometimes tricky to praise opponents! But I have to say, Amber Rudd was fully engaged and was horrified at the growth in sexual exploitation by ‘sex for rent’ and led a very frank conversation about possible ways forward.
I told the home secretary that I felt the law needed testing, that the Home Office must find agency to enforce it and start a prosecution, and if the law isn’t robust enough then we should consider legislation to strengthen the law. Finally, I explained that Craigslist had ignored all requests to discuss this and were acting like pimps and their role in facilitation of sexual exploitation needs examining.
I’m really pleased that these areas are going to be looked into and I’ll be keeping in close touch with her staff to make sure progress is swift.
If we’re not careful this type of exploitation will become normalised for young people so we really do have to act now. I for one won’t let this go until protection of the law is strengthened for those who need it the most and I’m really pleased that the home secretary seemed as animated by this as I am. You’ll be hearing more from me on this one!