Britain: Vulnerable women pay rent in ‘kind’

By | April 30, 2023

Nearly 1 in 50 women in England have accepted offers of ‘sex for hire’ in the last 5 years

Part high rents, part increasingly difficult economic conditions are the perfect combination for many British landlords to force financially vulnerable female tenants to pay for their accommodation in kind, namely by providing them with sex.

Sex-for-hire, when landlords demand sex in exchange for free or discounted accommodation, is a growing problem as financial conditions become increasingly difficult, and abusive landlords use it as a tool of abuse and control.

According to research by The Independent, around 30,000 women, from March 2020 to January 2021, were sexually harassed by their landlords or asked for sex in exchange for rent. Since then, the phenomenon has assumed much more alarming proportions.

According to a survey by survey firm YouGov, conducted on behalf of Shelter, a housing charity, almost 1 in 50 women in England have accepted offers of ‘sex for hire’ in the last five years.

A supplement to salary

UK charities warn that rising costs combined with their chronic underfunding mean women, including those with mental health problems, have to resort to sex in exchange for housing or other basic necessities.

According to the charity Beyond the Streets, cited by The Guardian in a related report, the cost-of-living crisis is driving those who are already vulnerable to resort to survival sex to cover the cost of bills and rent, which leads to further exploitation and abuse.

The charity’s support team worker said she spoke to women who are trapped, working as escorts or selling sex to “recharge” the low wages in order to survive.

“The cost of living crisis is a factor [του σεξ επιβίωσης] and for those who are already vulnerable, they face significant exploitation. There is a lack of government funding to support women’s needs and charities are struggling as their incomes fall, costs rise and they face more demands on their services,” a spokesperson for the charity said.

“I desperately need”

Latin American Women’s Aid (LAWA) has seen multiple “sex for exchange” cases in recent months involving female asylum seekers. In one case, a woman had been sleeping “here and there” for several months when she met a man who promised her lodging before sexually assaulting her while she slept.

It is also noted that the crisis is also making it difficult for those trying to get out of abusive relationships. Belén Ruiz, coordinator of the charity’s violence against women and girls advice centre, said: “It is unacceptable that women in such vulnerable circumstances are so often exposed to harassment and intimidation, doubly victimized and unable to seek compensation”.

It added that some cases involved the harassment and abuse of asylum seekers while in public accommodation facilities. “This makes them fearful of accessing these services, making them easy prey for abusers living in private accommodation.”

Tilly Smith, of the campaign group Generation Rent, said contract sex is “clearly still happening.” “As we look at a particularly bleak economic situation, the risk grows and grows.”

Women’s Aid said those who came into contact with the organization were in “desperate need” and that the rising cost of living was making it even more difficult for people to leave abusive relationships.

Lucy Hadley, the charity’s policy director, said: “In the difficult economic environment we find ourselves in right now, we know that women are experiencing increasing and worsening levels of control and financial abuse from perpetrators. “.

Government measures

Last week Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced she was considering a new law targeting landlords who exploit vulnerable people for sexual purposes and launched a call for tests. It followed the announcement last month of a judgment for lump-sum payments to help victims of domestic abuse leave abusive relationships.

The Home Secretary today announced a review of new sex-for-hire legislation by issuing an open call for evidence to establish the scale of sex-for-hire in the UK and to investigate whether existing legislation protects victims.

The government is seeking the views of victims, police and charities as part of a call for evidence starting today (21 April) to better understand the scale and nature of the despicable exchange of “sex for exchange” in the United Kingdom.

He “sex for rent” is an arrangement in which landlords exchange free or discounted accommodation for sex with their tenants. This is already illegal under the Sex Offenses Act and landlords can already be prosecuted for attempted sex for rent.

“It is completely unacceptable that vulnerable people, and particularly young women, are exploited in sex-for-exchange deals.” This is an abuse of power that puts people in desperate situations and has no place in our country,” said Interior Minister Suella Braverman.

money is short

A Home Office spokesman said: “Exploitation through ‘sex for hire’ is already illegal under the Sexual Offenses Act. The government recently issued a public call for evidence that will move us closer to ending this deeply damaging trend and better protecting victims.

“We are committed to ending all forms of violence and intimidation against women and girls, including domestic abuse. While we fund charities directly to help victims leave abusive relationships, we will also invest more than £230m more widely through our plan to tackle domestic abuse.”

But while Hadley said the fund was a “good first step”, the £300,000 fund fell short of the £1 million they had asked for and the sex-for-hire action was failing to address the root causes of the problem, which she said. it was homelessness. poverty and inequality.

Sources: The Guardian, ERT

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