LEADING male campaigners against violence against women are to call on the Scottish Government to introduce legislation to deter men from paying for sex.

The men calling for government action, including a former senior police detective and the founder of a service for male victims of sexual exploitation, will be speaking at an event titled Men Who Pay For Sex: How To Challenge Demand For Prostitution.

The anti-violence advocates will challenge the Scottish Government for continuing to allow men to pay for sex with impunity despite officially recognising prostitution as a form of violence against women.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) special representative for combatting human trafficking will also highlight the role of demand in fuelling trafficking for sexual exploitation.

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Four per cent of men in Scotland report having paid for sex in the past five years, according to latest figures. Equally Safe, the Scottish Government’s national strategy to tackle violence against women, recognises prostitution as a form of violence against women.

However, paying for sex is currently legal in Scotland, unlike in countries such as Sweden, Norway, Iceland, France, Israel, Ireland and Northern Ireland – where paying for sex is a criminal offence and women exploited through prostitution are decriminalised.

The men who are most likely to have paid for sex are single men, aged 25-34, in professional or managerial occupations and those who report high numbers of sexual partners – according to the most recent UK-wide National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.

A study by the University of Leicester in 2018 asked over 1200 sex-buyers: “Would you change your behaviour if a law was introduced that made it a crime to pay for sex?” More than half of the respondents said they would definitely, probably or possibly change their behaviour.

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Sweden was the first country to criminalise paying for sex but decriminalise selling sex – recognising prostitution as violence against women. Surveys conducted in 1996 and 2008 found that the proportion of men who reported paying for sex dropped from 12.7% to 7.6%.

Julian Heng, a health worker who founded a support service in Scotland for men who are sexually exploited, said: “The core harm created by prostitution is the repeated submission to perform unwanted sex. Prostitution is caused by demand, fed by economic inequality and takes advantage of all forms of discrimination.”

Valiant Richey, special representative and co-ordinator for combating trafficking in human beings at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said: “If we are serious about ending trafficking, we must address its root cause – that is the demand that incentivises it.

“Addressing demand is critical in both protecting victims from harm and disrupting the business model of trafficking.”