Campaigners call for Scottish Government to criminalise paying for sex

A group of campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to criminalise men who pay for sex in order to reduce demand for prostitution.

A group called A Model for Scotland is holding an online event on Wednesday to encourage ministers to introduce legislation which makes paying for sex a criminal offence.

Speaking at the event will be former detective superintendent of Suffolk Constabulary Alan Caton, who led the force’s response to the murders of five women in Ipswich in 2006.

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He says outlawing the purchase of sex would help protect women from violence and exploitation.

In this year’s Programme for Government, ministers committed to “develop a model for Scotland which effectively tackles and challenges men’s demand for prostitution”.

However charities which represent sex workers have said they would oppose any move to criminalise the buying of sex.

Umbrella Lane, which represents sex workers across Scotland, says these laws would hurt consensual sex workers and do nothing for those being exploited.

Ahead of the meeting on Wednesday, Mr Caton said: “There is currently a minority of men in Scotland who feel entitled to sexually exploit vulnerable women by paying them for sex.

Campaigners call for Scottish Government to criminalise paying for sex.

“My experiences in Ipswich taught me that society must never turn a blind eye to the abuses these men are committing.

“Men who pay for sex cause immense harms to the women they exploit, while their demand also drives a brutal sex trafficking trade.”

He continued: “Prostitution is violence against women. Yet the law in Scotland currently gives men license to pay for sex.

“That cannot be right. It is crucial that the law sends out the unequivocal message that paying for sex is never acceptable, and that law enforcement agencies have the powers to hold perpetrators to account.

“At the same time, women exploited through prostitution must be decriminalised and given the support they need to leave sexual exploitation.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government’s definition of violence against women includes prostitution and this is set out in our Equally Safe strategy.

“This year’s Programme for Government commits the Scottish Government to developing a model for Scotland which effectively tackles this behaviour and we are now taking this work forward.

“We will base our model on fundamental principles which embed equality, human rights and women’s safety at its centre.

“As part of that work, we will learn from other jurisdictions and international approaches and engage with those with lived experience to help shape and strengthen services.”

Dr Anastacia Ryan, founding director of Umbrella Lane, said her organisation and others which represent sex workers oppose the criminalisation approach.

She said: “It is unfathomable that a group of men are calling for laws that have been shown to increase violence against women who engage in sex work.

“Particularly shocking is the weighing in of a male former detective superintendent amidst growing awareness and outrage at the levels of institutional misogyny in police forces.

“Police and former police officers should be there to carry out the law, not campaign for increased criminalisation of an industry steeped in outdated, harmful laws.

“These laws already put women at risk forcing sex workers to work alone indoors or risking arrest through working alone, in hidden and isolated areas on the street to avoid police repression and possible prosecution.”

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