A piece in today’s Times:
Plans to criminalise paying for sex in Scotland are sexist and ignore the experiences of men working in the industry, a charity has claimed.
Last year the Scottish government launched a national consultation and outlined its position that it regarded sex work as violence against women.
Ash Denham, the community safety minister, said: “Prostitution is a form of commercial sexual exploitation and is, therefore, part of what we consider to be, and respond to as, violence against women. This consultation is an opportunity for a national discussion about how we address this form of gendered violence, protect the dignity of women and improve outcomes.”
However, Umbrella Lane, a charity and welfare rights group that represents hundreds of sex workers in Scotland, claims that the proposals are inequitable, sexist and flawed.
“Around one in five of all Scottish sex workers are male,” Jeff Canuck, a member of the charity, said. “And yet the Scottish government had not factored us in at all to their plans for a proposed overhaul of Scotland’s sex work laws.
“Ash Denham and her SNP colleagues have recently concluded a consultation that is geared towards changing the law to make the purchasing of sex a criminal offence, on the grounds that sex work is a form of ‘gendered violence against women’.
“This approach is utterly perplexing for male sex workers like me, who provide consensual sexual services to other men with no women involved. We are a large minority within the sector but have been totally ignored by Ash Denham and others who claim they want to protect the interests of those who sell sexual services.”
The exchange of sexual services for money in Scotland is legal but associated activities, such as brothel keeping and kerb crawling, are outlawed.
In Edinburgh a network of “saunas” — brothels whose existence is tolerated by the authorities — are allowed to operate.
The Scottish government will have to decide whether to maintain this policy or adopt the so-called Nordic model, in which the buying of sexual services is criminalised. This system has been adopted in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Ireland and Israel.
Critics claim that the model would put lives at risk by driving the industry underground.
“After a similar law was introduced in Ireland, violence against sex workers rose by 90 per cent, given their need to work in more precarious, hidden and isolated ways,” said Dr Anastacia Ryan, the director of Umbrella Lane, which received £50,000 from the National Lottery last month to set up a street outreach programme in Glasgow.
“Sex workers’ reporting of crimes against them substantially decreased, meaning that sex workers became a target for violent perpetrators carrying out crimes with impunity,” Ryan added.
Rhiannon Spear, a Glasgow SNP councillor and the party’s former national women’s convener, has also expressed opposition to the Nordic model. “Evidence shows us that criminalising the purchase does not mean that it won’t happen,” she said.
“It means it pushed women into unsafe environments and means they are less likely to report abuse or access services.”
The Scottish government said that the consultation was within the context of how women and girls should be treated in an equal society, in line with Scotland’s Equally Safe Strategy and was the country’s first consultation to discuss the future approach to prostitution in Scotland.
It added: “The consultation analysis report will be published in spring and clearly any findings from the consultation, or subsequent work, could inform our approaches to prostitution wherever it exists.”
You can subscribe to The Times here.
Our last general election manifesto is here.
If everyone who read this gave us £5.00 – or even better, £5.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. £5.00 monthly would entitle you to Bronze party membership, details here. Benefits include a dedicated and signed book by Mike Buchanan. Click below to make a difference. Thanks.