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West End Extra - by JAMIE WELHAM
Published:19 September 2008
Shocking report reveals huge scale of ‘off-street’ sex industry

Westminster has greatest number of brothels of any London borough

WESTMINSTER is a mecca for prostitution with more brothels than any other borough in London, according to a shocking new report.

Of 921 brothels researchers from the Eaves’ charity’s Poppy Project uncovered in the capital, 71 were in Westminster.
The report – Big Brothel – reveals the alarming growth of the “off-street” sex industry in the West End as well as the proliferation of dangerous sexual practices which in some cases were being offered for as little as £10.
Male researchers from the charity, which offers support to women trafficked into the prostitution, posed as potential clients at “massage parlours” advertised in local newspapers.
In some cases penetrative sex was being sold for £15, while a number charged just £10 extra for unprotected sex.
Some premises offered “very young girls”, although they were reluctant explicitly to admit having under-age girls available.
Many of the brothels were operating as legitimate businesses, licensed as saunas or under the guise of massage parlours, although the majority were unassuming private flats in quiet residential districts.
The average age of the women surveyed in the brothels was 21 with an overall range between 18 and 55. Findings also point to the scale of human trafficking, with more than 75 different ethnicities represented.
Helen Atkins, co-author of Big Brothel with Julie Bindel, said: “It has been said that we are never more than six feet away from a rat in London.
“Apparently something similar applies to brothels, places where thousands of women are regularly exploited by men who buy sex.
“This research shows the disturbing prevalence of the sex industry in every corner of London – fuelled by the demand for prostitution services.
“Media misrepresentations of commercial sex as a glamorous, easy and fun career choice for girls and women further contribute to the ubiquity of London’s brothel industry. However, for most women involved in prostitution, the reality is a cycle of violence and coercion, perpetuated by poverty and inequality.”
Commenting on the report, minister for women and equality Harriet Harman said: “Prostitution is the abuse and exploitation of women by men, and this important research highlights the sad realities of the so-called ‘off-street’ trade in the capital.
“We have done much to end the evil trade in sex trafficking, including strengthening the law and supporting police operations and the Crown Prosecution Service to catch and prosecute traffickers as well as supporting victims.”
While the Westminster City Council has welcomed the report, they say that reducing the numbers of on-street prostitutes is the main priority.
Director for community protection Dean Ingledew said: “We work closely with the police and where there is community concern, evidence of risk or specific intelligence relating to trafficking in brothels we will do everything in our powers to get them closed down.
“However, our focus is to tackle on-street prostitution, which has a greater risk for those involved and has a greater impact on the local community.”
The report is available online at: www.eaves4women. co.uk/Publications.php

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