Report Reveals London’s Sex Slaves

A recent report provides a snapshot of London's off-street prostitution, claiming that more than 8,000 women are working in brothels, saunas and massage parlors across the city, as well as businesses that put up ads in newspapers and websites. A closer look at the nationalities of these women, however, finds that three quarters of them are non-British, coming mostly from eastern Europe and southeast Asia, trafficked into the country and traded in what one police superintendent described as "a slave market." Due to the lack of legal status in the country, these prostitutes are forced to live under appalling conditions and treated horrifically by the pimps and traffickers that handle them. – YaleGlobal

Report Reveals London's Sex Slaves

Simon Jeffery
Thursday, August 19, 2004

More than 8,000 women are working as prostitutes in brothels, saunas and massage parlours in London, a report released today estimates.

Three quarters of them are foreign, with many smuggled into the country from eastern Europe and Asia as sex slaves.

Criminal gangs are increasingly turning to trafficking prostitutes because the financial gain for them is similar to the drug trade but the sentences are more lenient.

The Sex In The City report by the Poppy Project charity focuses on "off-street" prostitution. The six-month investigation on which it is based found 730 brothels operating in the capital and 66 supposedly legitimate lap-dancing clubs where dancers were offering sex to clients.

London boroughs had an average of 19 sites where sex could be bought, with between four and eight women on average working at each location.

The report's author, Sandra Dickson, said: "The off-street sex industry is largely ignored in most discussions of prostitution, yet the women working in it are also vulnerable to being exploited by violent and abusive pimps and traffickers.

"Women trafficked into prostitution told us they worked alongside other trafficked women all over London. These places are on our local high streets and they're not a bit of fun for the lads."

The report is the first to provide a snapshot of off-street prostitution across all London boroughs in saunas, massage parlours and businesses that advertise personal services in local papers.

Last year, the Metropolitan police's clubs and vice unit took 300 girls and women, including 10 children, out of brothels. Only 19% were British. The rest were from eastern Europe (25%), south east Asia (13%), western Europe (12%) and Africa (2%). Country by country, the largest numbers were from Thailand, Russia, Brazil and Kosovo. Superintendent Chris Bradford said: "It's like a slave market."

The report says it is not possible to estimate how many women in the London sex industry were trafficked into prostitution. Interviews with women and information from sexual health outreach agencies suggest that there are more women under varying degrees of control in the sex industry than previously estimated.

Women smuggled in are often raped by their captors before being set to work and have their passports and travel documents taken away so they cannot flee.

They are frequently forced to live in terrible conditions, sleeping on floors, and are then farmed out and moved around the capital. Women can be sold between brothels for up to £10,000 and may be sold on four or five times. Some are even advertised on the internet, which police believe is fuelling demand for trafficking.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004