AT the end of the year many of us look back over the last 12 months and take stock. Despite all the turmoil and fierce debates going on both nationally and internationally, I realise I am proud to live in a country with a government that strives to develop a progressive agenda. A government which is committed to equality of opportunity and gender equality, and has recognised that prostitution is a form of violence against women.

In recognising prostitution in this way the Scottish Government has taken the first but very important step to address the issue. The next step is to develop legislation and an action programme that challenge and change the attitudes underlying this form of violence. This was the goal of the Nordic model, which criminalises the users of prostitution rather than the prostitutes themselves. Interestingly, when this legislation was passed public opinion was divided, but several years on research shows that public support is now much more favourable.

It interests me that whenever decriminalisation is debated, what is missing is the question “who gains?” There are two clear winners. First the worldwide multibillion-dollar sex industry, whose profits have soared in countries that have followed the decriminalisation path. Witness Germany and its high-rise brothels, which according to reports partly depend on a supply of women from poorer countries who are tricked or trafficked to meet the increase in demand. And secondly the power of patriarchy, which is reinforced by confirming women as mere sex objects to be bought, sold and abused. Given the post-Harvey Weinsten flood of accounts of harassment and abuse of women across all walks of life, is it not time we woke up and smelled the coffee?

The argument for decriminalisation is fatally flawed. How is it possible to “make safer or equally safe” behaviour which is predicated on a form of violence and the abuse of power (Those in the sex industry are not ‘equally safe’ in Scotland, The National, December 27)? This is a nonsense. We should be congratulating the tenacity of MSPs Rhoda Grant and latterly Ash Denham in continuing to pursue the criminalisation of the clients of sex workers. At last year’s SNP conference a motion in favour of the adoption of a Scottish model similar to the Nordic model was passed. All that is needed now is for the Scottish Government to take bold steps and change the weather.
Joan Skinner

IN her opinion piece on Equally Safe, the Scottish Government’s strategy on preventing and eradicating violence against women, Janine Ewen suggests decriminalisation of the sex industry as the solution to the violence and discrimination suffered by those working in it.

Unfortunately, those who benefit most from decriminalisation are the pimps and brothel owners, not the individuals on the ground. In countries where prostitution has been made legal it has increased both in demand and supply, as exemplified in the mega brothels in Germany and the increased use of young indigenous girls in New Zealand.

The sex industry is big business and this explains the opposition to the Nordic model, which criminalises the punter not the prostitute and has been adopted by Norway, Sweden, Iceland, France and Northern Ireland. I would recommend reading Pimp state by Cat Banyard.
Anne Brown

ONE Scotland? Apparently not. While listening to a local radio station on Thursday the discussion on air turned to people who cheat when scanning their purchases at the self-service checkouts in supermarkets. After some banter the female presenter went on to suggest the people who behave in this way are gypsies, tramps and thieves. If you suggested any other ethnic minority were dishonest it would be grounds for legal action, yet people from the Gypsy/Traveller community can be slandered on air in this way with apparent impunity.

These kind of remarks are not a joke, they have consequences. Children from the travelling community bullied at school and unable to finish their education because their people can be misrepresented in this way.

If we want “One Scotland”, an inclusive society, we must tackle harmful on-air banter.