At present prostitution is legal in Scotland and throughout the UK. However particular activities related to prostitution are illegal, such as soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, pimping, brothel keeping and trafficking for the purposes of prostitution.
First and foremost, prostitution is a gendered issue. The demand to buy sex comes overwhelmingly from men, whilst it is mainly women who 'sell' sex. As with all forms of gender-based violence it stems fundamentally from gender inequality and is created and maintained by the demand from men to buy sexual access to women.2
There is a major power differential between the man who buys sex and the woman he buys, in terms of her poverty, unequal social status and abuse history.3
A 'Challenging Demand' approach does not see prostitution as legitimate employment but instead views it as a form of violence against women and a cause and consequence of gender inequality.
This approach decriminalises and supports those exploited through prostitution and criminalises the buyers of sex by making it an offence to buy sex in any setting.
Challenging demand approaches have been led by Equality and Women's Rights organisations, and are usually supported by prostitution survivors, and 'violence against women' organisations.Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Northern Ireland have adopted a challenging demand model whilst countries , currently considering this approach include France, Canada and the Republic of Ireland.
The Challenging Demand approach is formally supported by the European Union and the Council for Europe.
Given that Scotland's 'Equally Safe' strategy already defines prostitution as a form of violence against women, it would be a logical step for Scotland to adopt a Challenging Demand approach.
In line with Equally Safe, we support the establishment of a legislative framework in Scotland that is founded on addressing the causes of prostitution i.e. gender inequality and the demand for men to buy sexual access to women. Given this, we advocate that the Scottish Government pass legislation to:
This should be accompanied by work to address the factors which lead or coerce women into prostitution, such as economic inequality, poverty and violence against women and girls.
Decriminalising those selling sex would mean that they would: through prostitution:
Providing service support to those involved in prostitution would:
Legislation to criminalise the buyers of sex would serve to:
Evidence from countries where the purchase of sex is criminalised shows a shift in public attitudes, a decline in the numbers of men buying sex and a reduced market for traffickers. Evaluations confirm:4
Prostitution is underpinned by supply and demand.
The demand is created by a minority of men in Scotland, who currently feel entitled to buy sex, mostly from women but in some cases from children and vulnerable men, including those who have been trafficked.11
The practice of prostitution brands all women as something that can be bought and sold”12
The social acceptability of prostitution feeds into the demand to buy sexual access to vulnerable children and young people, including those who have been trafficked. In 2014, 61 UK girls and 11 UK boys were trafficked internally, an 18% increase from 2013.13
Prostitution is the main driver for trafficking, with evidence indicating that the majority of victims are female, reflecting the fact that the most common purpose uncovered is sexual exploitation.14
“Demand is a pull factor for destination countries. It’s therefore important that trafficking destinations like Scotland recognise that demand is an issue within their control and take steps to tackle it.”15
Simply put, if there was no demand from men to purchase sex, there would be no supply of women, vulnerable men or children.
Prostitution is incompatible with global and Scottish definitions of good sexual health:
Legalisation involves legalising the buying and selling of sex through applying various specific regulations to the sex industry e.g. licensing brothels and requiring the sellers of sex to sign a national register, undertake mandatory health checks, be employed and pay tax.
The decriminalisation of prostitution includes removing all laws against prostitution, without imposing any regulations specific to the sex industry.
In either case both the buying and selling of sex is legal, and pimping and brothel-keeping constitute legitimate business.
Approaches which seek to legalise or decriminalise prostitution often portray prostitution as a legitimate form of employment, and are supported, or sometimes led, by the sex industry and sex work activists.
1 Prostitution cannot be squared with Human Rights or the equality of Women., Dianne Post, 2013 www.cato-unbound.org/2013/12/06/dianne-post/prostitution-cannot-be-squared-human-rights-or-equality-women
2 Farley, M, Cotton, A, Lynne, J, Zumbek, S, Spiwak, F, Reyes, M.E., Alvarez, D and Sezgin, U. (2003) Prostitution and Trafficking in nine countries: update on violence and posttraumatic stress Journal of Trauma Practice 2 (3 / 4): 33- 74 www.prostitutionresearch.com/pdf/Prostitutionin9Countries.pdf
3 Elected Member Briefing Note, the Improvement Service, Scotland, 2010 www.improvementservice.org.uk/documents/em_briefing_notes/EM-Briefing-CSE.pdf
4 Waltman. M. (2011) The Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services’ an evaluation of the Swedish legislation from 1999 – 2008, published in 2010.
6 ‘Evaluering av forbudget mot kjop av seksuelle tjnester’ Rapport nummer 2014/30
7 Evaluation of CD law in Norway (2014)
8 Waltman. M (2011) See endnote Iix
10 Raymond J. G., Prostitution on Demand: Legalising the buyers as sexual consumers. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. Violence Against Women, Vol.10 No. 10, (October 2004)
11 Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland. Jan Macleod, Melissa Farley, Lynn Anderson, and Jacqueline Golding (2008)
12 Prostitution cannot be squared with Human Rights or the Equality of Women, Dianne Post, 2013
13 UK National Crime Agency - 2014 National Referral Mechanism
14 Inquiry into Trafficking in Scotland, EHRC, 2012
16 Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland. Jan Macleod, Melissa Farley, Lynn Anderson, and Jacqueline Golding (2008)
17 WHO Fact sheet on VAW No 239 (2014)
18 Fact Sheet on Prostitution, Women’s Support Project, 2008
19 Violence by clients towards female prostitutes in different work settings: questionnaire survey. S Church, M Henderson, M Barnard, G Hart – Bmj 2001
20 WHO Definition of Sexual Health (2006)
21 SG Blood Borne Virus Outcomes Framework 2008, updated 2015
22 A Survey of male Attendees at Sandyford Initiative: Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Behaviours in Relation to Prostitution. Dr UA Okara, 2004