IT’S been a week since I wrote about ‘sex for rent’ — the exploitation of women by landlords asking for sex in return for shelter. A lot has happened in a week, and given the scale and seriousness of the issue, it’s more than deserving of a few more hundred words.

After the story broke on April 13, thousands took to social media to share their shock and express their concern over this abuse of power, and even to share their own stories. The #sexforrent hashtag became of a growing testament to not just collective concern, but the volume of women who have been propositioned in this way, both online and off. More media outlets picked it up, and it is thanks to this continuing public conversation that the issue made its way to the radar of Labour, Green and SNP MSPs (notable absence of the Conservatives, even though Ruth Davidson signed a Zero Tolerance pledge to protect women and girls from violence alongside other party members on December 4 2015).

True to their word, they took it to Holyrood. Within days, Nicola Sturgeon stood up at First Minister’s Questions, reiterated her commitment to protecting women, that all women should have the freedom to say no to sex, and promised an investigation into the matter.

This week we’ve witnessed democracy in action. I’m extremely proud to live in a country that takes the exploitation of women and girls seriously.

It’s encouraging to see swift action and leadership from our First Minister. Action that shows the Equally Safe, Scotland’s strategy to protect all women and girls from violence isn’t just rhetoric, and is key to forging a better Scotland.

When working to end violence, it’s important to acknowledge the biggest picture possible. It’s easy and tempting to consider sex for rent in isolation, as transactional and about an equal choice between two individuals — but to understand it fully, it has to be acknowledged as a point on a spectrum. Gender inequality as a whole means men are favoured in social, political and economic terms. This creates a system where the balance of power is held by one group, and can be abused against the other. It also berms the stereotypes of dominance by that group, and passivity and submission of the other, that in turn creates the fertile conditions for that abuse. At one end you have dismissiveness and intimidation, at the other you have rape, female genital mutilation, and femicide. The potential to exploit a woman’s socioeconomic circumstances for sex is an interrelated point on that continuum.

It’s hugely encouraging to see that sex for rent hasn’t been dismissed by those with the power to enact change, and is understood as a symptom of gender inequality as a whole. We should all take heart that we have a government who understands that the threat homelessness can be exploited and used as a tool to coerce women into sex they would otherwise not have agreed to. Working to end this abusive propositioning makes Scotland safer for all women — we’re all just a crisis away from having to make difficult decisions with the potential to endanger us.

Having ministers who understand situational precarity and how that could be exploited gives me hope for the future. It demonstrates a commitment to a future where citizens are considered equally and the potential to enter dangerous situations is minimised through political action.

We are extremely fortunate to have a government that is willing to tackle the symptoms of inequality like sex for rent, but is explicit in their desire to tackle the underlying cause contemporaneously. Sticking plaster fixes don’t make a better country for all.

I would like to say a huge thank you to all of those who have read about ‘sex for rent’ and taken action. Everyone who tweeted, shared or engaged in discussion has been an agent for change, raising consciousness together in a way that swiftly reached our elected officials. Within a matter of days we saw this issue discussed in Holyrood, and our First Minister vowing to take action to end this virulent practice that puts women in danger. That is a testament to the good that can be done within 140 character tweets and Facebook posts, and how when used with collective purpose, we can all make a positive impact on society.

But don’t let it end there. Our job now is to hold our leaders to account, to ensure this doesn’t slip from view when the next issue comes along. Through the same mechanisms, we can all continue to play a part in making sure they follow through on their promises. Armchair activism has been often dismissed, but I reckon social media has never been a more powerful tool of democracy, taking it’s place alongside the importance of work offline.

They used to tell us it would be televised — but watching what happened this week, I reckon it might be tweeted.