Womens Support Project

Tackling commercial sexual exploitation: questions for prospective MSPís

Equally Safe, Scotland’s strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls, aims to tackle the broad spectrum of gender based violence, and recognises links between different forms of violence and abuse. We welcome the Scottish Parliament’s interest in and support of this issue, and call for more pro-active work to tackle the harm caused through prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation.

Prostitution continues to damage the lives of many women and girls.  We welcome the European Parliament study, ‘Sexual Exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality’, and the subsequent resolution adopted by the European Parliament which calls on member states to recognise prostitution as both a cause and consequence of gender inequality and a violation of women’s human rights.

We want to live in a Scotland founded on gender equality, and to help achieve this the Scottish Government needs to send out a clear message that prostitution is fundamentally unacceptable within our society.

We call on all candidates and political parties to make the following commitments:

  • Support the full implementation of Equally Safe
  • Support the decriminalisation of people selling sex. This would mean that they would no longer face being jailed for non-payment of fines for soliciting, and would also remove the barrier to future employment caused by convictions for soliciting.
  • Support the provision of prevention, harm reduction, exiting and long term support services for those exploited in the sex industry. Benefits would include reducing immediate harm in relation to substance misuse and sexual health, addressing the complex trauma associated with prostitution and enabling enable those involved to consider options to move on from prostitution
  • Extend existing legislation to criminalise buying sex in all settings - on street, off street and online. This would address the root cause of sexual exploitation and trafficking, change attitudes by putting the focus on the buyer, and support the implementation of Equally Safe.
  • Oppose the wholesale decriminalisation and legalisation of the sex industry. This would only legitimise the systematic abuse of women in prostitution by buyers, pimps, brothel owners, organised criminals and traffickers. Where else in law would you seek to legalise or decriminalise the actions of those who profit or benefit from the exploitation of others?

Suggested questions for candidate:

  • Would your Government make a policy priority of addressing the harms of prostitution and the sex industry?
  • What would your Government do to ensure that people involved in prostitution are able to access the support of a specialist service to help her exit prostitution and recover from the trauma?
  • What would your Government do to tackle indoor prostitution (including saunas and brothels) in Scotland?
  • What would your Government do to reduce the demand for prostitution and examine the case for introducing a ‘sex buyer law’ in Scotland?
  • What would your Government do to challenge the acceptability of buying sex in prostitution, and to ensure that young people learn about safe, equal and respectful relationships?

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