Scottish Government seeks views on challenging men's demand for prostitution
The Scottish Government is seeking views on ways to challenge men’s demand for prostitution.
The public consultation is asking for suggestions on what can be done to reduce the harms associated with prostitution, how to help women find a way out and how the needs of women involved can be better recognised.
Views are also being sought on how to promote “positive attitudes” among young people in relation to consent and healthy relationships.
The government consultation paper defines prostitution as “the activity of buying and selling sex, including women and men, and from ‘on-street’ or indoor environments” and describes it as “a form of commercial sexual exploitation”.
It refers to a 2014 European Parliament resolution recognising that prostitution, forced prostitution and sexual exploitation are gendered issues, and violations of human dignity and human rights. It also notes the UK’s stated commitment to the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
The consultation is also built around the Scottish Government’s definition of gender-based violence as set out in its Equally Safe strategy, reflecting prostitution as a form of gender-based violence.
Scottish Government commissioned research in 2017 looking into the reliability of international evidence on the criminalisation of the purchase of sex, and to explore the available evidence of prostitution in Scotland.
It found that there is a “lack of robust data on men and women engaged in prostitution in Scotland” and also that the use of technology means that it is now “less visible.”
The research also noted that in countries where purchasing sex has been criminalised, there appears to be a continued but decreased demand for prostitution.
Buying and selling sex in Scotland is not currently illegal but “brothel keeping” and “controlling prostitution for gain” are.
The Scottish Government has pledged to reform laws surrounding prostitution and it said the findings from the consultation and subsequent work may “benefit anyone involved in prostitution and society’s understanding of the issue.”
Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said: “The Scottish Government supports measures to help reduce the harms caused by prostitution. Scotland’s ‘Equally Safe’ strategy, co-owned with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, outlines our ambition for everyone to be equally safe and respected – where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse and the attitudes that perpetuate that.
“Men have a critical role in challenging violence, including reducing the demand for prostitution. It is vital that we break down gender norms, stand up to the normalisation of harmful behaviours and work together to achieve greater gender equality in our society – something which will benefit all of us, our families and communities.
“This is an opportunity for everyone with an interest and with insights to help inform future policy decisions about how we address this form of gendered violence, protect the human rights and dignity of women and improve their outcomes.”
Linda Thompson, on behalf of the Encompass Network, said: “We welcome this consultation for the opportunities it gives for discussion and exploration on how Scotland can improve consistent prevention, harm reduction and support for women involved along with clear approaches to support women who want to leave.
“We are pleased to note the framing of the consultation within wider inequalities with links with factors that push women towards this form of violence against women and girls.”