The Women’s Institute is today launching a campaign against sex ads in local papers.
The move comes as deputy Labour leader and minister for women Harriet Harmman is today due to address WI members to voice her concern about adverts in local papers selling sex with women – many of whom may have been trafficked and forced into prostitutions.
A spokeswoman for the 200,000-strong WI told the BBC: “There are an estimated 4,000 females currently living in the UK who have trafficked to work on the street and off the street as prostitutes.
“Many of these women, some in their early teens, have been tricked and abducted from their own country and forced to live a life of exploitation and cruelty once they arrive in the UK.”
She said the adverts, often placed in local newspapers, were the most common way used by men to access sexual services.
She added: “We have so many members we believe we can make a difference on the ground and in our local community.”
The move comes a year after local press trade body the Newspaper Society agreed to work with the government to combat sex ads which may encourage human trafficking.
Guidance issued by the Newspaper Society points out that while prostitution itself is not a criminal offence, brothels and other venues where sexual services are offered are illegal.
It says that the Sexual Offences Act 2003 created offences of causing or inciting prostitution for gain(S52) and controlling prostitution for gain (S53), and adds: “Advertisements offering such services or requesting such service providers, should not be accepted if the publisher knows or has reason to believe that such activities are taking place.”
The Newspaper Society also runs an online service, Advertisement Points to Watch, an A-Z guide, which is available free to members and for £175 plus VAT to non-members.