Campaign calls for ban on buying sex in Scotland

Prostitutes Image copyright PA

A new campaign is calling for buying sex to be made illegal in an attempt to stamp out prostitution in Scotland.

The End Prostitution Now campaign claims the move would decriminalise victims of sexual exploitation and protect vulnerable prostitutes.

The initiative is being backed by the Women's Support Project and the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership.

Northern Ireland recently became the first part of the UK to make buying sexual services a criminal offence.

The End Prostitution Now campaign is hoping to put pressure on the Scottish government make the same legislative change.

Opponents of the move said it would drive prostitution underground and make it harder for sex workers to operate safely.

At present, it is not illegal to pay for sex in Scotland.

However, activities such as public solicitation, running a brothel and kerb-crawling are criminal offences.

Challenging demand

Liz Curran, from the Women's Support Project, told BBC Scotland there had been "a shift across Europe" and many countries were moving to criminalising the demand for sex.

She said: "The crux of this campaign is about challenging the demand for prostitution which is inherently harmful to women. We have to tackle the root cause and from our campaign's point of view that is gender inequality and men's demand.

"The vast majority of women who are involved in prostitution are not there through choice. A small minority of women may make it a choice but the law does not represent the interest of minorities."

Scotpep is the sex workers' rights organisation which works with prostitutes on the streets and in saunas.

Molly (not her real name) from Scotpep told BBC Scotland the law criminalising buying sex had not worked in Sweden and Norway and there was no proof that there had been no reduction in the number of sex workers.

She said there was harm associated with the law, especially for street-based sex workers.

Molly said: "When the client is criminalised he is more jumpy.

"He needs to get away quickly and that means the worker has to get into his car more quickly if she wants to keep his business.

"That cuts down on the crucial time that she has to talk about services and prices and to assess whether he seems safe, whether he seems drunk, to write down his car registration number. So there is a huge increase in violence associated with laws like this."

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has submitted amendments to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill in the hope of tackling sexual exploitation.

She said: "Trafficking and exploitation of this kind are based on the basic principles of supply and demand, and we must tackle demand if we want to prevent vulnerable people being exploited in the first place.

"It's now illegal to purchase sex in Northern Ireland. We need to follow suit to stop Scotland becoming a haven for sex traffickers moving out of Northern Ireland and into a more hospitable environment here."

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