Scotland politics

Consultation over plan to decriminalise prostitution

Woman in brothel Image copyright Reuters

Proposals to decriminalise prostitution and pave the way for legal brothels have been put forward at Holyrood.

Independent MSP Jean Urquhart is consulting on a member's bill aimed at making prostitution safer.

The plans include allowing more than one prostitute to work from the same premises and giving sex workers more employment rights in the workplace.

The bill would not be passed before the next election but Ms Urquhart hopes to begin a debate on the issue.

The Highlands and Islands MSP said: "Sex workers have been systematically ignored while laws which expose them to violence and stigma have been preserved or extended.

"These proposals take on board not only the experience and concerns of sex workers, but also reflect a growing international consensus that what sex workers most need is safety and labour rights, not the risks which come from criminalisation."

Human rights

Nadine Stott, co-chairwoman of sex worker rights charity Scot-Pep, said: "The purchase and sale of sex is currently legal, but in general, the law prevents sex workers from being able to work safely, and that must end.

"There is no reason why sex work should only be permissible if a single person works alone in their flat, for example. That law leaves sex workers vulnerable to violence and exploitation, as do the current laws on street-based sex work, which also seriously hamper sex workers' ability to move on to other work."

Dr Marsha Scott, Scottish Women's Aid chief executive, said: "Fundamentally, we would welcome any proposals that make women - and anyone involved in prostitution - safer, healthier, and more likely to enjoy a full range of human rights.

"We believe that giving them access to safety, protection, healthcare and support, as well as economic independence are of paramount importance."

George Valiotis, chief executive for HIV Scotland, said: "International organisations like UNAIDS and the World Health Organization have long called for the decriminalisation of sex work, and Jean's proposals are firmly based in that evidence.

"In 2012, the WHO called the decriminalisation of sex work a 'minimum global standard'. Criminalisation clearly inhibits sex workers' safety and access to services, including HIV-related services."

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