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CAMPAIGNERS have called for Scotland’s lawmakers to reject a sex work policy after recent statistics showed that violent crime against sex workers almost doubled after it was introduced in Ireland.

Sex workers in Ireland have reported a 92% increase in violent crime since the “Nordic model” came into place in March 2017. This is a Swedish law which criminalises people who buy sex rather than those who sell it.

READ MORE: What do charities, campaigners and parties think of the 'Nordic model'?

The sharp increase was revealed after statistics were released in March by UglyMugs, an app where sex workers can report incidents of abuse and crime and receive alerts about dangerous clients.

Charities in favour of decriminalising sex work said the stats were “sadly not surprising” and added to evidence that the law hinders the ability of people “to report violent crimes, exploitation and abuse”. One called for a “Scottish model” of regulation.

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Groups in favour of criminalising sex workers’ clients argued that doing so reduces demand and holds to account “those who profit from the sexual exploitation of others” and from “human misery, such as pimps and human traffickers”.

Some sex workers described the Nordic model as an “ill-thought-out policy” that puts them at risk from “criminals and violent clients” by pushing the practice further underground.

They called on the Scottish Government to consult them regarding future policy-making.

READ MORE: GMB launches Scotland's first-ever sex workers' union

The Scottish Government said they were focussed on preventing “vulnerable individuals” entering sex work, reducing the prospect of harm and trafficking, and supporting those looking to exit the industry.

Sex work in Scotland is currently legal but aspects such as “soliciting” or “loitering” on the streets, as well as “brothel keeping”, are illegal. Sex workers working in pairs from a flat for protection are also said to have been prosecuted for brothel keeping, something the Scottish Government has acknowledged.

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There is fierce debate between politicians, campaign groups and charities about whether to criminalise further elements of sex work, or move towards decriminalisation.

A 2018 study by aid agency Medecins du Monde found that the law in Sweden had a “detrimental effect on sex workers’ safety, health and overall living conditions”. Some participants in the survey said the law had triggered a “decrease in condom use as well as increased difficulties continuing treatment for those who are HIV positive”.

READ MORE: Sex workers urge SNP to overturn conference support for ‘dangerous’ new prostitution laws

A Swedish Government report reviewing the impact of the Nordic model found that by 2008, street prostitution in Sweden had been reduced by half compared to when the law was introduced in 1999. It added that in the same period, “the number of women in street prostitution in both Norway and Denmark subsequently increased dramatically”.

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The report referenced a survey showing a drop in demand among male clients and said sex workers had not reverted to internet-facilitated sex work. The National Criminal Police believed the ban had acted as a barrier to human trafficking in Sweden.

It claimed fears that criminalisation would drive “prostitution underground”, increase physical abuse and worsen conditions for sex workers had “not been realised.”


GLASGOW-BASED sex worker Megara Furie said that her experiences of the Nordic model in Ireland and Northern Ireland had left her “fearful for the first time in a career spanning almost nine years”.

The law made it harder to vet clients who had taken to more clandestine operations, such as using “burner phones” and fake identities, said Furie. “The power imbalance this creates is terrifying.”

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Furie warned that “criminals and violent clients will be seeing this situation as easy pickings for committing crime as it is more likely workers will take bookings because a lack of screening will become the norm”.

“The Nordic model is the most ill-thought-out policy by people who have never set foot in the industry themselves and soon will be the biggest contributor to violence against workers. The very thing this insane policy is supposed to stop.”

Lydia Caradonna, a sex worker and member of the UK-based Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement, echoed Furie’s comments. She claimed that the Norwegian government had acknowledged that the law had created a “buyer’s market”.

Cardonna added that the law fails to reduce demand in the sex industry because it “completely fails to address the reason that most of us are here in the first place: financial need”.

“We need more rights and more opportunities, and most importantly we need safety. 

“We advocate for a decriminalised sex industry,” she said.


THE decriminalisation of voluntary sex work is supported by numerous international organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who both believe it will help to protect the human rights of sex workers.

The United Nations and its World Health Organization agency also advocate decriminalisation.

According to a 2014 UN report, decriminalisation “is key to changing the course of the HIV epidemics among sex workers and in countries as a whole”.
Decriminalisation is also supported by HIV Scotland. The charity’s chief executive, Nathan Sparling, warned of the “increased vulnerability to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections”.

He said that “criminalising sex work and HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission create barriers for sex workers living with HIV to realising their human rights and accessing justice”.

He added: “The Nordic model is one that retains an aspect of criminalisation, and with growing evidence that it increases risk to the safety of sex workers and to their long-term health, it is one that HIV Scotland cannot support.” 

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