THE stigma around prostitution and the criminalisation of female sex workers are to be examined by an expert group who will advise the Scottish Government on improving the safety of women.

Attempting to reduce men’s demand for prostitution will also be a focus for the working group of public sector and charity organisations before providing guiding principles to the Government.

Made up of representatives from the NHS, councils, women’s third-sector organisations and Public Health Scotland, the group will be advised by Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal.

It will make recommendations about women’s safety and the issues around prostitution, including from the perspectives of justice, health and the support available.

READ MORE: Scotland's outdated prostitution laws need to change – here’s why

Members met for the first time on Friday, with draft principles due to be published in early 2022.

A research contract has also been tendered by the Scottish Government in a bid to include and learn from the experiences of women in prostitution before any new guidance is issued.

Community safety minister, Ash Regan, said: “It is fitting that the first meeting of this group is held during the annual UN 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence and I am very grateful to everyone taking part in this important piece of work.

“Men’s violence against women takes many forms and the definition within Equally Safe, to which the Scottish Government works, includes prostitution.

“The work which this group will feed into represents an important commitment within our Programme for Government to effectively tackle and challenge men’s demand for prostitution.

“Keeping women safe must be our overarching goal whilst challenging men’s demand for the purchase of sex. I believe a model can be designed to effectively deliver on both.

“My vision is of a Scotland where all women and girls are treated with respect, not one where we turn a blind eye to abuse, violence and trafficking.”