Decriminalise 'sex industry', says Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn has attracted criticism from Labour MPs for saying the "sex industry" should be decriminalised.
The Labour leader told students in London he wanted a society "where we don't automatically criminalise people", The Guardian reported.
Ex-Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said prostitution was "exploitation and abuse" not "an industry".
Labour sources said Mr Corbyn had been answering a direct question, not making a policy announcement.
They added that he believed sex workers should not be seen as criminals.
The Labour leader had been taking part in a question and answer session at Goldsmiths University, in London, on Thursday.
According to the Guardian, he said: "I am in favour of decriminalising the sex industry. I don't want people to be criminalised. I want to be [in] a society where we don't automatically criminalise people.
"Let's do things a bit differently and in a bit more civilised way."
In 2014, Northern Ireland became the first part of the UK to pass legislation making the purchase of sexual services illegal.
In the rest of the UK, paying for sex is not against the law but many activities linked to it, such as brothel-keeping, kerb-crawling and soliciting sex in a public place, are outlawed.
Backbench Labour MP Jess Phillips criticised Mr Corbyn's comments on Twitter.
"Man says we should decriminalize a known violence against women. Why did it have to be this man," she wrote.
But the English Collective of Prostitutes, which campaigns for decriminalisation, voiced its support for Mr Corbyn's comments.
Supporters of decriminalisation include Amnesty International, which says it would mean sex workers are "no longer forced to live outside the law".
Ms Harman tweeted: "Prostitution's exploitation and abuse not "work/an industry". Women should be protected and men prosecuted."
An attempt by former Labour Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart to change the law to criminalise paying for sex was defeated in 2014.
Sex workers had criticised the proposal, saying criminalising their clients will make their work more dangerous.