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Clampdown expected on newspaper sex ads as tough new guidance is drawn up

Tough new official guidance on advertising is being drawn up for local newspapers by their industry body in the wake of new concerns of links between personal services ads, prostitution and people trafficking.

The text is currently being drawn up by The Newspaper Society after a meeting between its executives and Minister for Equality Harriet Harman and Minister for Women Barbara Follett.

It is expected to include suggestions on what type of ads to refuse, training for staff, consulting with police and local authorities and only taking payment by cheque or credit card so accounts can be traced.

Several newspapers are already reviewing their policy on small ads independently.

The Manchester Evening News, Reading Evening Post and Surrey Advertiser have ceased publication of all health club, escort and personal services advertising.

The Croydon Guardian earlier vowed to investigate all complaints about its advertising for adult services in the paper.

And Cardiff newspaper the South Wales Echo was accused of hypocrisy after running adverts for massage parlours that had been exposed in the front of the paper as allegedly being part of sex-trafficking industry.

Newspaper Society director David Newell, legal expert Santha Rasaiah and communications director Lynne Anderson met the ministers and their officials this week on the issue.

David said: “The Newspaper Society has raised this issue with local newspaper publishers and is updating its guidance to ensure it fully reflects new concerns about the link between prostitution and human trafficking. The regional press has demonstrated its commitment to work with the Government to help the campaign to eradicate this dreadful trade in trafficking.

“We would also welcome a coordinated approach from the Government, police and local authorities on this issue.

“Many publishers work closely with their local police forces to ensure the ads they carry are legal and published in accordance with guidelines agreed with the police.

“In some cases, the police have asked for the ads to remain in the newspaper to help keep prostitution off the streets.”

Harriet Harman said: “We are very concerned about the growing problem of human trafficking. We’ve changed the law, we’re backing up police operations and the Crown Prosecution Service and we’re also working across Europe with organisations like Eurojust.

“But unless we tackle the demand side we will not be able to protect women from this evil trade.

“Some regional press, including the Manchester Evening News and Reading Post, have already said they will no longer accept this kind of advertising. If other papers follow this example, and when the guidelines are implemented, we can make progress towards eradicating this intolerable trade.”

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said: “Personal classified adverts have been around for a long time but police tell us they can fuel the demand for trafficked women. We can’t talk about tackling demand without looking afresh at these adverts and challenging cultural attitudes more widely.”

Solicitor General Vera Baird QC MP said: “It seems clear that some papers do not take these advertisements. That suggests that they are not important to the bottom line. In addition, they will often clash with the editor’s wish to support local communities who do not want prostitution on their doorstep.”


peter (02/02/2008 00:13:53)
if papers advertised gay parlours,health clubs, the labour govt would’nt complain as they rely on the gay vote,perhaps labour should be called gaybour

Chris (04/02/2008 09:30:09)
This tarring of the entire sex industry with the brush of trafficking is a worrying move. Harman is probably good-intentioned but misguided if she believes that all women in the trade are there through coercion. And as Follett is minister for women why doesn’t she try talking to women, especially those for whom the sex industry is a voluntary, profitable and empowering choice.

W Stead (04/02/2008 11:16:44)
I commend Harriet Harmann and her latest move and would endorse it entirely. In my area, we have proven research that suggests that up to 84% of women in brothels are highly likely to be trafficked. This has been further evidenced by recent raids that have liberated women who were trafficked. It is also known that up 53% of men access sexual services via adverts in their local papers – removing the adverts is the best way to start to tackle demand which fuels the trade in trafficked women. It won’t stop it, but ti will help.

Duncan Spee (04/02/2008 15:25:29)
Harman and Follett are both quite right-wing, being pro-ID cards, pro-Iraq War, and also voted for student top-up fees and nuclear weapons. They are moralising neocons in Labour clothing, and they are able to stalk behind the sheep of political correctness to do it. Remember, Thatcher was a woman too.

tracey (12/02/2008 03:37:06)
as a member of the by choice adult industry i feel there are so many preconceptions and misconceptions the safety of women is put in great danger- trafficked women are not prostitues they do not receive payment (payment is made to their pimps) -the vile trade must of course be eridicated but not at the cost of the LEGAL industry, the licensed parlours are legal, distastfull but legal, street workers are victims and should be regarded as such, escorts and escort agencies are a completly seperate entities from these industries and to dicriminate against us is all to easy as the discretionary nature of our industry prevents us from standing together and stating our case as society does not accept our choices, whilst the papers make it harder for us to conduct our businesses in a legal fashion the ilegal industry grows, will the goverment refuse our taxes as they presently enjoy a substantial revenue from the escort industry, and will the newspapers continue to profit from us by simply increasing their rates in a bid to “deter” us as they do at present! to compare escorts and agencies to brothels and the vile trade of sex slaves is an affront, it is ignorance tarring us with the same brush as criminal gangs kidnapping and raping, or pimps inducing drugged teens to the streets suffering voilence and a life of degredation, is the ignorance so great that people in authority beleive these people advertise openly- they do not -word of mouth keeps these instutions afloat not press advertisng, this is a simple measure to raise prices for media groups and politicians to brush under the carpet the realities and appease the prudish masses. escorts charge for time (they may if they wish use sex as a tool to increase the time they spend with a client -they may not escorts have a choice and are invariably educated to a level sufficient to allow them to make such a choice) brothels are not agencies prostutues are not escorts and trafficked women and street workers are victims, make the distinctions, stop criminalising the legal industry and deal with the criminal elements with the might of the law, and leave the by choice industry to go about its law abiding business

A.Osbourne (21/02/2008 12:24:50)
It is with great concern that I have to make comment.
what are the government thinking of? do they realy think that by banning adverts from sex workers etc is going to stem the tide of women trafficing. Is it hell, she needs to take a reality pill, and stop trying to make a name for herself.All her interferance will do is increase the amount of fly adverts in phone boxes,which will then be seen by kids.
There are more women doing prostitution now than 10 years ago and operating from cities to country houses, the massive burden of taxation has forced girls to take up the proffession to survive.
Most girls who do escort are private eascorts who work entirly for them selves and have nothing to do with trafficing.
My wife is a sex worker and does it because she wants to
under no pressure from anyone.
She even registered for tax and keeps proper
books and pays her taxes.
They spent a lot of time and money getting girls off the street now they are going to force them back onto the street.
If they want to stop trafficing then allow registered premises and stop all these balken area peoples that are doing the trafficing from coming over here
No imigrants no problem

Sara (27/02/2008 22:06:56)
The adult industry is the oldest industry in the world, you will not stop the people who work in it or the punters who use the services provided. Its a supply on demand type of business. I agree that checks should be in place, however if prostitution was legalize, the government could control it. Its not and they dont. That is where the main problems lie. If a businessman owning an escort agency was registered and monitored, he would do well and others would follow. It would also help to get prostitution off the streets, clamp down on underaged and illigals. It would also help to protect the girls which is the most important thing in my humble opinion.