Men who pay for sex with women who have been trafficked into the sex trade could be prosecuted for rape, a British government minister told a Sunday newspaper.
“Whenever a man knowingly has sex with a woman against her will, that is rape,” junior Home Office minister Tony McNulty told The Observer.
“For example, if a trafficked woman told a man who had paid to have sex with her that she was engaged in prostitution under duress, then he could not reasonably believe she was freely consenting. To go ahead regardless would be rape.”
The remarks did not suggest Britain would change its laws, but could indicate a change in the way they are interpreted.
Paying prostitutes for sex in Britain is not a crime, although “kerb crawling” on streets looking for prostitutes is a punishable offense, as is pimping.
But rights groups say that allowing men to pay for sex with little fear of prosecution provides customers for organized criminal gangs, who traffic women across borders and force them into prostitution against their will.
“It’s time for honest language. When a man has sex with a frightened, beaten and intimidated woman there is only one word to describe it, and that is rape,” former government minister Denis MacShane, who has campaigned against trafficking, told the paper.
“I am pleased that the Home Office now recognizes that.”