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UNSCRUPULOUS landlords who demand sex from tenants in lieu of rent should face the full force of the law, Labour has said.
The call follows a “sting” operation by the Daily Mail, in which more than 20 men in Britain were contacted after they had posted suggestive adverts on listings website Craigslist.
Reporters posing as a 21-year-old female student were repeatedly offered accommodation in exchange for sexual acts.
The men that proposed these “arrangements” included an HM Revenue and Customs employee and a former member of RAF Support Command, aged from their late twenties to their seventies.
Research by the charity Shelter suggests that 30,000 women in Britain have been propositioned this way since the pandemic began in March, with many adverts mentioning the coronavirus crisis.
Such “arrangements” are illegal and those convicted can be jailed for seven years, but there has never been a prosecution.
Shadow justice minister Peter Kyle said that placing the suggestive adverts ought to be an offence in itself.
The Labour MP also wants to create a specific offence in an amendment to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which could encourage more victims to report their experiences.
Under current legislation, victims must be legally defined as prostitutes, which is thought to be a deterrent to victims coming forward since they may fear that it will adversely affect their future.
Mr Kyle argued that Craigslist should be made accountable for the advertising, saying that the website is “profiting from the sexual exploitation of British youngsters,” especially in high-rent areas such as Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Oxford.
He added: “Instead of treating them as the pimps they are, they’re feted as Californian tech gurus.”
The Morning Star contacted Craigslist for comment.
Women’s Equality Party leader Mandu Reid told the Star that Mr Kyle’s campaigning on the matter is “positive,” but that Labour should go further by backing the Nordic model.
Such a move would criminalise those who pay for sex, educate young people about proper consent and prevent those who sell sex from being criminalised, she said.
Ms Reid said: “Calling for ‘sex-for-rent’ landlords to be criminalised, while failing to take on the far more widespread issue of trafficking, sexual exploitation and prostitution, misses the point entirely.
“Currently, it is overwhelmingly prostituted women who suffer the consequences of the sex industry, rather than the punters who drive the industry in the first place.”
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