National consultation on prostitution in Scotland starts

A national consultation has been launched on how to tackle prostitution in Scotland.

Saturday, 12th September 2020, 7:30 am

A consultation has been launched which ministers say will challenge men’s demand for paying for sex.

It is also seeking to explore the affect the pandemic has had on women involved in the sex industry.

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Research conducted by the Scottish Government in 2017 highlighted the range of risks associated with prostitution, including general physical and mental health, and women’s safety. The study said prostitution was a form of gender-based violence.

The consultation document said the Scottish Government was determined to ensure women and girls lived free from all forms of violence and abuse. It followed the launch of a policy document entitled Equally Safe, drawn up with local authority umbrella body Cosla.

Community safety minister Ash Denham said men had a critical role in challenging violence, including reducing the demand for prostitution.

She said: “Scotland’s Equally Safe strategy outlines our ambition for everyone to be equally safe and respected – where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse and the attitudes that perpetuate that. It is vital that we break down gender norms, stand up to the normalisation of harmful behaviours and work together to achieve greater gender equality in our society.”

Ministers are also asking for observations on the effect the pandemic has had on women involved in the sex industry.

A paper published alongside the government consultation said concerns have been reported that, during lockdown, “women in prostitution were resorting to higher-risk practices” such as offering unprotected sex.

The consultation document said: “There has been a noticeable shift from on-street to indoor prostitution.

“The scale of indoor prostitution, which is now thought to comprise the vast majority of the market, is much less ­visible than on-street activity and therefore commonly acknowledged as even more difficult to estimate.”

Linda Thompson, from the Encompass Network, a group of charities working with those involved in commercial sexual exploitation, said it welcomed the consultation.

She said it would help Scotland improve prevention, reduce harm and offer support for women involved, as well as providing clear approaches to support those who want to leave prostitution.

The consultation, which closes on 10 December, will also seek views on awareness among young people about consent in relationships.

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