STUC youth conference demands independent inquiry into sex for rent scandal

Concerns have been raised at the STUC Youth Conference about how women have been exploited by male landlords on websites for sexual favours. 

THE STUC youth committee is calling on the Scottish Government to launch an independent inquiry into the sex for rent scandal.

A motion was passed at the STUC youth annual conference in Clydebank also calling for a report that will strengthen tenants’ rights and protect tenants from sexual violence.

The conference noted that some male landlords use websites, such as Craiglist, to advertise rooms that are available to rent at a discounted rate or for free in exchange for sexual favours.  

Erin McAuley who moved the motion on behalf of Unite the union said: “Our proposal is pretty clear that we are calling for an investigation.

“[They are concerns that] many women still do not know or they may not understand the arrangement that they have gone into or they may be too scared to speak out.” Erin McAuley 

“We are calling for the Scottish Government to strengthen the links with Better than Zero, to strengthen the links with the trade unions, to strengthen the links with housing charities because many women still do not know or they may not understand the arrangement that they have gone into or they may be too scared to speak out.”

Earlier this year, a report from Shelter found that more than 250,000 women across the UK have had a landlord ask them for sex or sexual favours over the last five years.

Over the last 12 months, 140,000 female renters have been offered sex for rent.

The motion was supported by the Public and Communication Services Union (PCS) who said that the ads are “sexual exploitation” of young people.

“The Scottish Government should already be looking into this. This is sexual violence.” Rebecca Borland 

Rebecca Borland spoke on behalf of the PCS union and said that these ads are “really disgusting” and “predatory”, arguing that the ads are usually located near high population centres such as universities and call centres. 

Borland added: “The Scottish Government should already be looking into this. This is sexual violence.

“These are adverts online for sexual exploitation.

“And here we are having to ask to be protected from this.”

McAuley discussed her personal experience after a landlord responded to her advertisement on an online property website offering a reduction of rent in exchange for sexual favours.

“But for some young women who are not part of our [union]movement who does not have a wider education of how these things are interconnected could easily be exploited.” Erin McAuley

McAuley said: “I was so appalled by the casualisation of these ads. It is a win-win situation [for landlords]. I think for me being part of the trade union movement naturally gave me the understanding that I was being exploited and all of these things are connected.

“But for some young women who are not part of our movement who do not have a wider education of how these things are interconnected, they could easily be exploited.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We take this issue extremely seriously and are doing all we can to help ensure people are protected from exploitation.

READ MORE: Shelter – The vile exploitation of ‘free rent for sex’ ads

“Forcing someone, in any way, to participate in a sexual activity is a crime and we encourage anyone at risk of coercion to seek advice or contact the police immediately.   

“The Scottish Government is committed to tackling all forms of violence, especially against vulnerable groups. We are working hard to implement our Equally Safe strategy and delivery plan which includes commitments to tackle commercial sexual exploitation.”

Picture courtesy of David Thomson