QotD: “why we need to outlaw sex for rent ads”

The growth of online “sex for rent” ads is a dreadful indictment of the UK’s housing affordability crisis. Around a quarter of a million women have been offered “sex for rent” deals by landlords in the last five years, according to housing charity Shelter. Labour MP Peter Kyle says that there are more “sex for rent” ads in Britain than the rest of Europe and American combined.

To offer free or discounted rent in exchange for sex is a gross abuse of power. There are landlords getting away with it because of the desperate situation women, and sometimes men, find themselves in, as a result of increasing housing costs and the sharp cuts to working age benefits introduced by this government.

The Ministry of Justice has said that exchanging accommodation for sex is illegal, as it counts as inciting prostitution, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in jail. But this has never been tested in court; vulnerable women who can ill afford to lose their accommodation often fear reporting their landlords to the police in the first place. Moreover, advertising sex for rent is not, in itself, illegal and the site Craigslist, where many of these adverts are to be found, has refused to systematically remove them or meet Kyle, a longstanding campaigner on this issue, to discuss his concerns.

Kyle is right to argue that the government should test the robustness of existing law in relation to “sex for rent” and strengthen it if required. But the government must also do more to tackle the fundamental power imbalances that create the space in which these terrible abuses can happen. Homelessness is rising and rough sleeping has increased for the seventh year running. Abusive sex for rent arrangements thrive as a result of a lack of affordable housing.

From The Observer (which is less shitty than The Guardian on commercial sexual exploitation issues)

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