New law on sale of sex 'could cut human trafficking'

Prostitutes Image copyright PA

A call has been made for the purchase of sex to be made illegal.

Churches and other religious organisations have written to the first minister saying doing so could have a significant effect on human trafficking and exploitation.

They said sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery which is a crime against humanity.

But their letter claimed it exists because of a demand for commercial sex which is exploited and profited from.

The Northern Ireland Assembly voted in December 2014 to criminalise the purchase of sexual services.

Nordic model

It joined a group of countries who have followed a Swedish law, passed in 1999, known as the Nordic model which is claimed to have been successful in reducing levels of human trafficking and exploitation involved in prostitution.

The letter was written by Prof Hazel Watson, convener of the Scottish Churches' anti-human trafficking group, and signed by senior figures from a variety of other faith groups, including Muslims and Sikhs.

Prof Watson praised the Scottish government for introducing the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill.

But she said: "We believe that there is an important element missing from the Bill and would urge you to consider supporting an amendment."

She added: "It would be good to see Scotland incorporating the Nordic model, with a funding package supporting women to leave prostitution, into its anti-trafficking legislation.

"Sex trafficking does not just exist because its victims are vulnerable - it exists because there is a demand for commercial sex that traffickers can exploit and profit from.

"The Nordic model effectively curbs demand and consequently reduces the trafficking for sexual exploitation into the countries that adopt it."

The move has been supported by Anne McIlveen, co-ordinator of the Salt and Light charity in Glasgow which provides food, clothing and support and prayer to the women on the streets of the city.

She said the current law, which criminalises the sale of sex, but does not address those who purchase it, fails to help women to exit prostitution.

"A lot of these girls are in it because they've got addictions, they're living in poverty and it's the only way they can see to feed habits or to get drink or to pay the electric bill."

Complex issue

She added: "A lot of these men have been using girls and then they're going home and playing happy families.

"Their families should know exactly what they're doing."

The Scottish government said it took a zero tolerance approach to the exploitation of women and has made significant progress in recent years by strengthening legislation.

A statement added: "Clearly this is a complex issue which requires careful consideration to ensure that any additional measures which may be required are necessary, practicable and sustainable.

"Any further proposed changes to the law in this area would need to be considered carefully to ensure they are practical in terms of enforcement and whether there is robust evidence to suggest that such proposals would reduce incidents of prostitution or trafficking."

The Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, said he would write to representatives of the Church of Scotland to offer a meeting to discuss the issue.

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