Prostitutes should be banned from advertising their services to help combat people trafficking, peers have been told.
Tory Lord McColl of Dulwich, a former professor of surgery, described prostitution as “a form of violence against women”.
He told the Lords that the majority of prostitutes were “victims of exploitation and violence of one form or another”. Those selling sex were “incredibly vulnerable” and often had problems of homelessness, debt or drug addiction.
Introducing his Advertising of Prostitution (Prohibition) Bill, Lord McColl said a reduction in the level of prostitution was essential to help prevent trafficking.
The Bill would close an anomaly in the law, he said. While it was illegal to organise or profit from prostitution by running a brothel, it was not illegal to advertise such services in newspapers and on the internet.
The backbench peer said passing the Bill into law would send a clear message that “we as a society reject the culture of prostitution, which dehumanises women”.
Former lord justice of appeal and independent crossbencher Baroness Butler-Sloss backed the Bill saying the sex industry included many victims of exploitation and trafficking.
She dismissed claims by sex workers’ groups opposing the Bill that it would “warn off” responsible owners of escort services and allow less responsible people to take over.
The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Rev Alastair Redfern also welcomed the legislation, warning the cost to society of prostitution was enormous.
He said prostitute advertising “normalised” this sort of behaviour and “normalised being able to buy a woman for sex”.
For the Opposition, Lord Kennedy of Southwark said organised crime was often involved in prostitution, which could have “devastating” consequences for local communities.
He said the Bill would help disrupt the activities of those who sought to control the trade and trafficked women effectively as slaves.
Home Office minister Lord Bates said the Government was committed to tackling the harm and exploitation associated with prostitution.
Lord Bates said it was already against the law to advertise illegal activities and to place adverts for prostitutes in telephone boxes.
But he said many advertisements for prostitutes in newspapers were not explicit and difficult to “disentangle” from legitimate services.
The minister said there were a number of “legal and practical implications” stemming from the Bill but offered to discuss these with Lord McColl.
The Bill was given an unopposed second reading.