November 07, 2007

Classified ads, PunterNet and human trafficking

Writing about web page

There is an article in the current issue of the Economist titled Indecent proposals that looks at the relationship between classified ads that sell sexual services and human trafficking.

Just last month Harriet Harman, the Cabinet Minister for women has made a link between human trafficking and the “ugly” adverts circulating local newspapers. According to Frances Broderick of the Poppy Project, it is sending out the message of safety of selling sex, which is “very dangerous” itself.

The English legal system is still awkward around the issue of selling sex, struggling to balance between keeping it safe and public and not encouraging illegal activities that provide new sex workers. So far, the collaborative efforts to curb illegal immigration, sex trafficking and sexual abuse of children have resulted in a quasi-cooperation between the newspapers and the Met, whereby the newspapers now keep a record of transactions and, if required, will provide relevant information to the authorities.

The PunterNet

For a website that covers a supposedly glamorous industry (according to the ITV drama a Secret diary of a call girl made public that essentially interprets prostitution as paid one-night-stands), the PunterNet looks harshly primitive. However, many may argue that glamorising the website would indirectly glamorise the industry as well.

The webmaster is extremely cautious about the content and access to the material on the site. Perhaps disappointingly, there are no pictures of foxy prostitutes, but the site is valuable for the ‘user-generated content’ – the reviews and reports, available to registered users, on various escorts and agencies. It also features an integrated catalogue on sex services available throughout London and the UK, searchable by location, type of business (individuals, massage parlours or agencies) and range of sexual activities on sale.

The Charities

While the sex industry prospers, there has been an increasing amount of charities aimed at tackling various negative side-effects of free sex. These have different purposes and goals, ranging from freeing victims of sex-trafficking (the Poppy Project) to improving conditions of employment for foreign prostitutes in England (x:Talk).

Although the English law does not prohibit selling or buying sex, it should seek to establish a legal framework for the publishers to take part in preventing the abuse and illegal activities related to the sex industry while safeguarding access to sexual services.

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