AN alliance of survivors and frontline organisations is today calling on the Scottish Government to overhaul Scotland’s “outdated and unjust” prostitution laws.

It says that under existing legislation, running a pimping website and paying for sex are legal activities in Scotland, while women exploited through the sex trade can face criminal sanctions for soliciting.

Survivors and services working directly with victims of sexual exploitation want the Government to shift the burden of criminality off victims and place it on to those who perpetrate or profit from sexual exploitation.

The alliance, which launched its campaign at an online event, says the call for reform comes in the wake of a Scottish Government election manifesto pledge to develop “a model for Scotland” that challenges men’s demand for purchasing sex.

It says “Equally Safe”, the Scottish Government’s strategy to tackle violence against women, recognises prostitution as a form of violence against women and that Community Safety Minister Ash Denham announced in Parliament in June: “We are committing to develop a model specifically for Scotland that will reduce the harms of prostitution, support women to exit it and, crucially, challenge men’s demand for purchasing sex.”

The Minister’s announcement followed an inquiry by the Cross-Party Group on Commercial Sexual Exploitation which found that commercial pimping websites – which contain online “catalogues” of women being advertised for prostitution – incentivise and facilitate sex trafficking in Scotland yet are allowed to operate freely under Scottish law.

Diane Martin CBE, a Scottish survivor of sex trafficking and prostitution, is chairing the alliance of frontline organisations that work with women exploited through prostitution and trafficking.

The agencies, – which include Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (Tara) Scotland, the Encompass Network, Routes Out and Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland – are calling on the Scottish Government to:

  • Decriminalise victims of sexual exploitation by repealing Section 46 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982
  • Wipe previous convictions for soliciting from victims’ criminal records
  • Criminalise online pimping
  • Criminalise paying for sex
  • Provide comprehensive, resourced support and exiting services for victims of sexual exploitation.

Martin, vice-chair of the International Survivors of Trafficking Advisory Council, said: “Now is the time for Scotland to develop a new approach to prostitution.

“I am a survivor of so-called high-class prostitution in the UK and of overseas trafficking. I have also spent more than 25 years providing frontline exiting services and have witnessed first-hand the devastating reality for women. I want to be part of a Scotland that completely rejects the

idea women and girls can be for sale and treated as commodities by men who believe this is their right and entitlement.

“It is this demand that fuels the sex trade and Scotland must create a hostile environment for those who exploit victims. We must stand together to ensure this exploitation ends.”

Bronagh Andrew, operations manager for Tara Scotland and Routes Out, said: “Vulnerable women are being sexually exploited on a daily basis across Scotland by our domestic sex industry.

“A Scottish model which recognises the inherent gender inequality and harm of prostitution and takes robust action against those who choose to pay for sex and those who profit from this exploitation is necessary so we can prevent further harm.”

Rhoda Grant MSP, co-convener of the cross-party group, said: “Scotland’s laws on prostitution are stuck in the dark ages. While the Scottish Government has recognised that prostitution is violence against women for decades, our laws have not reflected this policy. This needs to change.”