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Campaign to end sex for rent launched

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campaign launch, end sex for rent, housing issues, Wales, Housing Women Cymru, Shelter Cymru, end no fault evictionsOffering accommodation in return for sex is a criminal offence.

A campaign launched recently by Housing Women Cymru aims to raise awareness and end the offering of accommodation or reduced rent in return for sex or sexual acts.

Shelter Cymru’s survey of private tenants carried out by YouGov in 2017 found that 3 per cent of female private tenants and 2 per cent of male private tenants in Wales had been offered sex for rent by a landlord within the previous 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.

Offering accommodation or reduced rent in return for sex or sexual acts is illegal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The campaign launch marked the start of a week of action and included a media campaign and direct action to tackle the advertising of sex in return for accommodation on social media platforms.

Speakers at the launch included ITV Wales journalist Sian Thomas, whose undercover reporting raised the issue earlier this year, and Dawn Bowden AM, and support has come from housing organisations throughout Wales.

The chair of Housing Women Cymru, Julie Nicholas, called on people to support the campaign by using the pack of materials that has now been made available to publicise the fact that demands for or offers of sex for rent are illegal and to make people aware of the organisations that can help if anyone finds themselves in such a difficult position that they are considering offering or taking up offers of sex for rent.

“The perpetrators need to understand that offering a place to stay in exchange for sex is breaking the law and completely unacceptable,” Nicholas said.

“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.”

Jennie Bibbings, from Shelter Cymru, said: “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.”

Campaign lead, Katie Howells, of Merthyr Valleys Homes, said: “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 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.”

You can join this campaign and show your support using the hashtags #EndSexforRent and #NotaLandlord

And please sign – and share widely – this petition calling on the Welsh government to ban ‘no fault’ evictions.

You can contact Welsh Women’s Aid or Safer Wales if you have been affected by this. Call the police on 999 if you feel threatened.

If you need housing help and advice, click here.

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