The Government is urging tens of thousands of Women's Institute members to snitch on sex small ads in local newspapers.
But campaigners have slammed the move and say it will only drive prostitutes on to the streets - making them ten times more likely to be attacked.
In a speech to the WI, Minister for Women Harriet Hateman asked its 205,000 UK members to snitch to editors if they see the adverts in local newspapers.
She falsely claimed many of these sex workers are trafficked into this country and forced into prostitution.
However, representatives of the UK's estimated 80,000 prostitutes say Harman is grossly exaggerating the problem in order to launch an anti-immigration message - and a moral crusade.
Niki Adams, of the English Collective Of Prostitutes, told Sky News Online: It's appalling, it's absolutely terrible (what Harriet Harman is saying). It's ten times safer for women to work together in a house than on the street. And local
newspapers are one of the few ways women have to advertise. This sort of thing will force them out on to the streets - is that what the WI wants?
She added: The Government has fabricated the trafficking figures to make it appear worse. They are putting together violence and prostitution. We know the difference between consensual sex and rape.
Pat Marshall, chairman of Hampshire WI, held back on criticising Harman: We are waiting to see what Harriet Harman has to say and will think about that in the light of our resolution, she told Sky News Online.
But a spokeswoman for the national group said members would be encouraged to look out for adverts and write letters of complaint to editors if they found them. If our members find the adverts, we ask them to write to the paper and report back to
us so we can collate the results. We want our members to raise awareness of the damage that carrying these adverts can have on the lives of trafficked women and girls.
You will have seen the advertisements in the back of some newspapers: New young models. Open 24 hours. Come and relax and have a professional massage.
If Vera Baird, the UK Solicitor General has her way such ads will soon be a thing of the past. Baird, along with Fiona Mactaggart, Harriet Harman and other feminists in Westminster, is looking to the Republic of Ireland for inspiration on how to
legislate against third-party profiteering from the sex industry – namely by newspapers. Ireland's legislation, in place since 1994, reads:
A person who publishes or causes to be published or distributes or causes to be distributed an advertisement which advertises a brothel or the services of a prostitute in the State or any premises or service in the State in
terms, circumstances or manner which gives rise to the reasonable inference that the premises is a brothel or that the service is one of prostitution shall be guilty of an offence.
The legislation includes those advertising prostitution services in other ways, for example displaying notices or posters, circulating leaflets or cards (such as those in telephone boxes) or on radio, television, computer, telephone, fax or
At Baird's instigation the Crown Prosecution Service here in the UK has taken a close look at the legislation and decided that it could be useful in prosecuting those directly involved in profiting from this abusive industry and could also reduce
the numbers of men paying for sex.
If police can confirm that an ad being published or distributed is for a brothel the publisher is sent a warning of possible arrest and prosecution if the ad runs again. The penalty is a fine of up to £10,000.
Advertisements for massage parlours and escort agencies are to be banned in the next government assault on the sex industry.
Ministers plan to disrupt the sex industry by banning newspaper advertisements for prostitutes and brothels in a new law put forward in Labour's election manifesto. Failure to comply with the law could carry a £10,000 fine.
The clampdown is being led by Vera Baird, the solicitor-general, and Harriet Harman, the equality minister.
They are concerned that a request to remove the adverts has had only partial success. Although The Newspaper Society succeeded in persuading some newspaper groups to stop carrying them, ministers are concerned that many others have failed to do
The Crown Prosecution Service has already studied a similar law in Ireland and concluded that it would work in the UK.
The new law would also inform publishers which kind of ads will be banned by defining, for example, the difference between a massage parlour which is actually a brothel and spas offering therapeutic massages.
Sex phone lines, carried in many tabloid newspapers, would not be caught by the law unless they are a front for arranging prostitution.
It would also make it a criminal offence to print or distribute telephone-box cards advertising prostitutes. Under the current law, it is an offence only to be caught in the act of posting such a card.
Baird said: It is now appropriate to move against people who make money from advertising prostitutes. The Newspaper Society tightened its guidance on taking such ads but there is still a market that we now have to look to legislation to
Spain has announced that it will address women's issues during its turn at the rotating EU presidency.
The Spanish Minister for Inequality, Bibiana Aído, affirmed that the relation between the media and equality should be extensive and that they should be moving in the same direction and she stated that it is time to emphasise in
capital letters questions such as the struggle against gender violence and against sex trafficking.
The Spanish Minister also pointed out that it is time to eliminate publicity that trivializes prostitution (...) and which is an affront to the dignity of women , in reference to announcements for sexual contacts in some European
Newspapers which publish sex adverts could face prosecution by the Metropolitan Police.
As part of an investigation into sex trafficking, the Croydon Guardian reports that a senior police officer saying editors who continue to run adverts for brothels could be arrested.
Vice squad detective inspector Kevin Hyland told the paper: It is an offence to advertise for prostitution. If newspapers do run adverts there is a possibility of prosecution. The legislation we are thinking of using is
aiding and abetting offences of controlling prostitution for gain, offences of trafficking under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and possibly money laundering.
A Croydon Guardian article claims sex adverts were estimated to be worth more than £44m for the regional press in 2006.
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Service said its Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command was a specialist unit tackling trafficking and prostitution and a number of people had been jailed in recent months. She said:
In many of these investigations, the organised criminal networks have sought to advertise through local newspapers or advertising journals.
It is important that everyone plays their part in trying to reduce the opportunity of criminal networks to continue their illegal activities and their exploitation of vulnerable people through advertising sexual services.
The MPS is working with the media to tackle this.
Newspaper editors across London have been sent letters by police threatening that they could be prosecuted for sex adverts involving women who have been trafficked.
A letter was sent to more than 170 editors by the Metropolitan Police Service telling them they could be held criminally liable if adverts in their titles turn out to be linked to human trafficking, exploitation or proceeds of crime.
The letter from Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, head of the Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Unit, asks editors to put a system in place to ensure they do not accept adverts which are a front for such criminal activity.
The letter from DCS Martin says advertising in newspapers could play a key role in allowing the exploitation of trafficked victims. He writes:
The adverts in question often purport to be massage parlours, saunas or escort agencies, but are in reality a front for criminal networks to advertise trafficked victims for sexual services.
I am therefore seeking your support to help us address this issue by ensuring that your publications do not allow advertising space to be utilised to promote these practices.
Advertisements that offer multi-national or young women or which are sexually suggestive in tone are often the type found to be linked to the provision of sexual services and / or the presence of trafficked women.
It is these types of adverts I am seeking your support in preventing. I would ask that you put in place a system to satisfy yourselves that those seeking to place advertisements are genuine concerns or businesses and not a
cover for the types of criminal activity highlighted above.
As you will appreciate, criminal liability can arise in certain circumstances where evidence clearly shows that the advertising in question supports or promotes offences associated to trafficking, exploitation or proceeds
Two daily newspapers in Suffolk have banned adult services ads. Ipswich's Evening Star and its sister daily the East Anglian Times have ditched sex ads from their classified columns.
Star editor Nigel Pickover and the EADT's Terry Hunt admitted the move had cost a significant sum of money but said they believed it had been the right thing to do.
The move has been praised by local police bosses who this week wrote a letter of thanks to the two editors. Suffolk Constabulary's head of public protection, Det. Supt. Alan Caton said: Just a short note on behalf of Suffolk Constabulary and
the Joint Agency Strategic Group to thank you and your colleagues at Archant Suffolk for removing the 'Adult Services' adverts from your columns.
The two papers are part of the Archant group from which a spokesman said: The decision by Archant Suffolk's two daily papers to stop carrying adult services ads is a local decision.