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British government expands sex industry crackdown

LONDON (AP) — Classified ads are the latest target of the British government’s crackdown on the sex industry.

Minister for Women Harriet Harman on Thursday urged members of the country’s largest women’s organization, the Women’s Institute, to complain to editors who run sex ads.

She said the ads were often disguised as advertisements for massage parlors or escort services, but she said sex is what is usually being sold.

“Many are young women from Eastern Europe, from Africa or Southeast Asia, tricked and trafficked into this country and forced into prostitution,” Harman said.

But a spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, which promotes the decriminalization of prostitution, said this is not true.

“Most immigrant women working in the sex industry are not being trafficked,” said spokeswoman Cari Mitchell. “Members of the WI are being asked to assume anyone coming from another country is being trafficked, which is an absolute lie.”

The Home Office last week announced plans to make it a criminal act to have sex with women forced into prostitution — even if the man did not know the prostitute was being “controlled for another person’s gain.”

Critics say that will only force the sex industry further underground and expose female workers to a greater risk of violence. They also say online versions of the ads will increase.

British lawmakers heard evidence in Parliament Tuesday against a separate ban that would impose stricter licensing requirements on lapdancing clubs.

Peter Stringfellow, who owns nightclubs that feature lapdancing, said the current licensing laws — those that treat his establishments and others like pubs — were sufficient.

“I’m not a sex encounter club, and I don’t want anyone coming in my club thinking they’re going to get a sexual encounter,” Stringfellow told the committee.

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