A BAN on prostitution would simply drive the Capital’s sex trade underground and leave women more vulnerable, campaigners warned today.
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is proposing a Bill in the Scottish Parliament to make the purchase of sex illegal. She argues strengthening the law against purchasers of sex would make Scotland an unattractive market for prostitution and disrupt associated criminal activities, such as people trafficking.
A similar move by Labour’s Trish Godman in the last parliament was rejected by the Scottish Government.
Lothians independent MSP Margo MacDonald said bringing the new Bill was a waste of public money because it was sure to be defeated.
Ms MacDonald said: “Rhoda Grant is a very nice woman, but I’m afraid on this she is utterly misguided. This is a rehash of the sloppy thinking that characterised the last attempt to make all paid-for sex illegal.
“I agree some paid-for sex should be illegal – where it can be proved the seller is working at the behest of someone else. But where the woman or man is making the decision for themselves, I think we must judge paid-for sex in a very different way.” Neil McCulloch, a board member of lobbying group ScotPep, said Holyrood’s 2007 law against kerb-crawling had already driven prostitutes from busy, well-lit streets to quieter ones where they were more vulnerable. And he said Ms Grant’s Bill would make things worse. “It would potentially push things underground and possibly into the hands of criminals,” he said.
Ruth Morgan Thomas, of the Edinburgh-based Global Network of Sex Work Projects, said: “Criminalising our clients increases stigma and vulnerability. I can’t think why some people in the women’s movement think they are protecting us.”
Edinburgh is known for its liberal approach to prostitution, including the licensing of saunas and massage parlours.
Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said it was fanciful to think prostitution could be eradicated and warned: “It may well be it becomes more dangerous for all those involved.
“When I was first elected to the council in 1988 we had a tolerance zone in my area and it worked. I had no complaints at that time, there was no under-age prostitution and fewer assaults.”