A website offering sex workers ‘like takeaways’ is putting women at risk of exploitation, the BBC has warned.
Vivastreet, founded by a French businessman, is a classifieds website where users can list anything from cars to second-hand furniture for free. But there is also an ‘adult’ section where users can pay £50 a week to advertise sexual services, according to BBC Panorama.
While it is legal for a sex worker to sell their services in the UK, pimps and people traffickers use this same online platform to pose as women and bring in punters for cash.
Reporter Bronagh Munro investigated Vivastreet for Panorama: Online Pimps Exposed and found how it has become a go-to for pimps and is brought up ‘time and time again’ in exploitation cases.
Shocking scenes of a police raid on an address in Lancashire showed a woman standing alone in a filthy hotel room with a man, who she claimed to be her ‘boyfriend’, downstairs. The suspected pimp was found to be advertising a sex worker’s services and had adverts on Vivastreet. For £180 an hour, punters could pay for ‘kissing, massage and sex in different positions.’
A separate number listed on Vivastreet led an undercover reporter to a brothel where women offered to do ‘anything’ for £250.
BBC reporter Bronagh Munro investigated pimps and sex workers operating on Vivastreet for Panorama: Online Pimps Exposed and revealed how the website is facilitating the exploitation of women. She joined Lancashire Police in a raid on a property where officers found a woman (pictured) and a man who was arranging sexual services and listings on Vivastreet
Texts on the man’s phone revealed how punters paid £180 for an hour of ‘kissing, massage and sex in different positions’. He also had text messages from a Vivastreet telephone number
Vivastreet, pictured, founded by a French businessman, is a classifieds website where users can list anything from cars to second-hand furniture for free. But there is also an ‘adult’ section where sex workers and pimps pay £50-a-week to advertise their services to punters
Author and activist Kat Banyard said: ‘Vivastreet is a magnet for sex traffickers, and that’s because Vivastreet makes it so quick and easy to advertise women to sex buyers.
‘The website has the effect of concentrating and centralising demand from men across the country who are willing to sexually exploit women. That is the customer base for traffickers. Of course they are going to go there. It’s an absolute gift to them.’
Dame Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull North, who described the UK as a ‘pimp’s paradise’ and told the BBC: ‘I mean, Vivastreet is pimping women. That’s what it seems to me they are doing they’re enabling the pimping of women.
‘And in lots of other cases, pimping is illegal, it’s a criminal offence. In this case, it doesn’t seem to be. It seems to be that’s wrong and it’s something Parliament needs to address.’
Detective Sergeant Stuart Peall, from Lancashire …….