During this Parliament I have worked hard to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation and to change the law to help protect children.
The Serious Crime Bill, which is going through Parliament, is an opportunity to remove all references to child prostitution from legislation, and I spoke in the House of Commons in January to press for amendments to the Bill which would consign this outdated term to the history books.
When I did my research for my Real Voices Report into child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester I was shocked to realise that there are still 16 pieces of legislation which use the term “child prostitute”. I think it’s shameful that the offence of “loitering or soliciting for prostitution” can still legally be committed by a child aged 10 or over. And that as recently as June 2014 a man in Bolton was charged by Greater Manchester Police and found guilty of “controlling a child prostitute for financial gain”.
In recent years there has been a change in attitudes, with people understanding how children are groomed into sexual acts. The use of the term child prostitute implies a consensual contract of giving sex in return for a reward.
There is no such thing as a child prostitute – only a sexually abused or exploited child. Children are given alcohol and drugs, threatened and coerced into sex. Language shapes attitudes – and to protect children and take away victim-blaming attitudes we need to remove all mention of child prostitution from our laws
I would like Parliament to do this to send out a powerful, simple message in the wake of the terrible grooming cases in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford, Telford, Derby and Stockport that there is no such thing as child prostitution only sexually exploited children. This is the reason that when the Serious Crime Bill which is debated next Monday I will again be demanding change.