Home Secretary Priti Patel has been urged to crack down on “pimping websites”, which a senior Labour MP has described as a national scandal.
Dame Diana Johnson called on the minister to bring forward legislation to criminalise the use of such websites and to close them down.
The MP for Hull North said a “significant” number of women are being trafficked from Romania, leading to an online summit on Monday for concerned politicians and policymakers to get together to try to tackle the issue.
The chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Commercial Sexual Exploitation told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We produced a report in 2018 where we set out that although most men are not paying for sex, those that do are fuelling a brutal sex trafficking trade that’s destroying lives.”
Dame Diana spoke about poverty and women being coerced into trafficking through men befriending women.
She said: “One of the obvious things to do is to criminalise the paying, the demand for sex, for paying for sex whilst you decriminalise for the victims and you give them support and also you deal with this problem of these pimping websites which are bringing together advertising in a very easy way.
“So men can access women in the areas that they live in and that means that the serious organised crime groups that are running this trade can move women between hotel rooms and brothels all around the country.
“This is a trade, it’s a business model that we’re wanting to tackle.”
Asked about the modern slavery helpline, she said campaigners are “supportive of all the measures that have been put in place so far but we need to do much more”.
She said: “The fact is that we have options of what we could do now and one of them is to deal with these pimping websites.
“We could deal with that, Priti Patel as home secretary could bring forward legislation to criminalise the use of those websites and to close them down.”
Dame Diana referred to measures in Northern Ireland, adding: “We could adopt the model there where you … criminalise the demand for buying sex and you decriminalise for the victims.
“Those are the key things that we believe should happen to start to tackle this trade in human misery and this abuse of women who are being raped and sexually assaulted in brothels and hotel rooms all around the country.”