Sex for Rent is illegal warns Women Housing Cymru
A campaign, launched today by Housing Women Cymru, aims to raise awareness and end the offering of accommodation or reduced rent in return for sex or sexual acts.
The launch, held at Theatre Soar in Merthyr Tydfil, marks the start of a week of action including a media campaign and direct action to tackle the advertising of sex in return for accommodation on social media platforms.
Campaign Lead, Katie Howells of Merthyr Valleys Homes says, “We know this isn’t a new issue but the use of social media platforms to advertise accommodation in return for sex means it’s a growing problem. In the past legal advice hasn’t been clear but it is now which is why we are making the public aware that anyone offering accommodation in return for sex is a criminal offence.
We are really pleased to have the support of legal firms and the police so that we can make sure people knows this is a crime and it will be taken seriously.”
Shelter Cymru’s survey of private tenants carried out by YouGov in 2017 found that 3% of women private tenants and 2% of male private tenants in Wales have been offered sex for rent by a landlord within the last five years.
This suggests there could be around 6,900 women and 4,600 men who have been offered sex for rent in Wales in the last five years.
Jennie Bibbings from Shelter Cymru says: ‘We often advise tenants whose landlords have demanded sexual favours, whether in exchange for clearing rent arrears or just because the landlord knows he is in a position of power and is exploiting that fact.
This is a problem that has its roots in the power imbalance between landlord and tenant, which is worsened by the housing supply crisis as tenants simply don’t have enough choice of affordable accommodation. The way out of this is to radically increase the supply of affordable housing to give tenants more choice, increase tenants’ security of tenure so they’re not so vulnerable to eviction – and ensure that the landlord licensing scheme, Rent Smart Wales, is able to track poor practices and revoke the licences of predatory male landlords. We are currently campaigning to increase private tenants’ rights by ending ‘no -fault’ evictions, which will help tenants to stand up to harassing landlords.’
Ending Sex For Rent in Wales I Housing Women Cymru Campaign Chair of Housing Women Cymru, Julie Nicholas called on people to support the campaign by using the pack of materials available to publicise the illegality of the issue and make people more aware of the organisations that are able to help if anyone finds themselves in such a difficult position that they are considering offering or taking up offers of sex for rent.
Julie says: ‘Vulnerable people must be protected from this outrageous situation.
While I acknowledge that men are also affected by this issue it is predominantly women targeted in the online ads. Our dysfunctional housing market is leaving women often in desperate situations open to exploitation by some unscrupulous men, we must acknowledge that this practice in some cases is being used as a form of sexual exploitation and male violence against women. The perpetrators need to understand that offering a place to stay in exchange for sex is breaking the law and completely unacceptable. As housing and homelessness professionals and activists; members of the Housing Women Cymru network are keen to help expose this terrible practice for the crime that it is.’