Commission to launch inquiry
10 February 2010: The Equalities and Human Rights Commission believes the police and the immigration services may be unlawfully disregarding the human rights of foreign women forced into prostitution.
As such, the commission is launching an inquiry headed by the civil rights lawyer Lady Kennedy. It will investigate whether the UK is failing to meet its duties under European and domestic human rights legislation.
The inquiry will investigate whether British human rights legislation needs to be further reinforced and whether far tougher prohibitions on the abuse of women were required to be introduced, particularly targeting the men who use prostitutes.
The inquiry is also expected to investigate the true extent of sex trafficking. After a recent UK-wide operation `Pentameter 2’, police claimed they had arrested 528 people allegedly involved in trafficking women for prostitution.
The investigation, perhaps, the first in the UK by an equalities agency, is expected to focus primarily on Scotland after evidence emerged that Scotland may have a disproportionate number of human trafficking cases, but has seen no prosecutions for trafficking.Airing her views on the issue, Kennedy said human trafficking was recognised as a grave abuse of human rights, involving coercion and deception. It entailed ongoing exploitation and its victims suffered untold misery. The inquiry was about making a reality of people’s human rights and serving those whose rights have been violated.
The commission suspects the sexual exploitation of women from overseas is being treated in a routine manner as an immigration issue, with the women more often than not regarded as criminals, rather than as victims of coercion, violence and trafficking.
In fact, the commission and Amnesty International are of the opinion that many of the women detained during raids across the UK are not being treated as the innocent victims of crime. This was in potential breach of UK legislation and the government’s obligations under international treaties.
The EHRC’s commissioner for Scotland Morag Alexander, said they would examine whether there were areas where policy and practice could benefit from a clearer human rights approach.