Today Harriet Harman asked the WI to help tackle traficking and prostitution.

In theory this is a great idea. In practice it misses the mark and will probably do more harm than good.

Harman urged WI members to scan local newspapers for adverts for massage parlors that appear to be selling sex and where the girls and women in question maybe trafficked and then contact the newspaper in question to ask them to stop publishing the adverts. The proposal has the support of the Newspaper Association and apparently several papers have already agreed to stop printing these ads.

It is certainly true that many men make contact with prostitute through these adverts. However targeting the newspapers is NOT the way to make a difference and help trafficked women. The police are already well aware of the existence of adverts and use them as a way of tackling prostitution, trafficking rings and brothels. By contacting the newspaper and stopping them from printing the adverts the WI will only succeed in pushing everything further underground and hindering anti-trafficking units within local police forces.

This was one of the things that most stuck in my mind from the meeting we had last year with the Officier in charge of the Anti-Trafficking unit for South Yorkshire police. He talked about the way they use newspaper adverts to keep an eye on what is happening local, if the ads aren’t there is will be much harder.

If the WI really want to help, they should make links with Anti-Trafficking units and contact them after scanning the local paper rather then the paper itself. It seems to me that Harriet Harman was on the verge of a great idea here, but failed to see it through by not researching the issue properly. I can’t see how any police force would advise the removal of one of their key sources for information about prostitution, it just doesn’t make sense!

I hope that the WI are serious about tackling trafficking and prostitution, but I don’t think this is the best way to go about it!