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Ex-call girl hits out at prostitution plan

SHE is already known for penning one of the world's most controversial blogs – now former high-class escort girl Belle de Jour has sparked a furious row over plans to criminalise men who buy sex in Scotland.

Tweets by Brooke Magnanti, top, responding to a blog in The Huffington Post, headed by Arianna Huffington, above, have sparked anger in an MSP Photographs: Stewart Attwood, Getty Images
Tweets by Brooke Magnanti, top, responding to a blog in The Huffington Post, headed by Arianna Huffington, above, have sparked anger in an MSP Photographs: Stewart Attwood, Getty Images

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is trying to introduce a bill which would radically change prostitution laws in Scotland, making it illegal to pay for sex. She has said this will help the "majority of unwilling participants" involved in prostitution.

However, critics say the proposals will not end the demand for sold sex and would increase risks for sex workers by driving the trade into more dangerous, out-of-sight areas.

Author Dr Brooke Magnanti, a research scientist who became world famous after writing about her experiences of working as a call girl in a blog under the name Belle de Jour, tweeted that the politician apparently thought it "okay if people die b/c of her bill".

Grant has now branded Magnanti's comments "a lie". She has also turned her fire on an article in The Huffington Post which Magnanti was responding to in her tweets.

The Huffington Post blog, by Alex Bryce of the UK Network of Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP), said Grant had suggested "damage to individual sex workers was a price worth paying" when quizzed on her proposals during a meeting at the House of Commons last year.

Grant has denied making the remarks and said she did not agree with the premise that making it an offence to pay for sex would lead to more danger for sex workers.

She said: "People are being hurt daily and that is the aim of the exercise – to try and stop people being hurt, so the very premise of his question is wrong. There is nothing I said which could be vaguely misconstrued as that. It is not something I would think or believe. This makes me angry."

She says she has complained to The Huffington Post. Grant also said the way she had been portrayed and "absolutely misquoted" shows the weakness of her critics' arguments. She added: "I can't understand why people who are supposedly there to work with prostitutes, assist them and help them would think those thoughts and indeed try and stop legislation which would only help."

Around 950 responses were submitted to the consultation on Grant's legislation. These are currently being analysed by the Scottish Parliament's independent non-executive bills unit. It is expected a report will be published near the end of April. Grant will then require the support of 18 MSPs to take the proposals forward.

Magnanti, who has lived in Lochaber in the Highlands since 2010, told the Sunday Herald: "Regardless of how one feels about prostitution, the safety of the people involved has to come first.

"Unfortunately, it's been shown that where 'end demand' laws come in, violence against sex workers goes up. Instead of ending demand – which is impossible – we should be reducing harm."

However, Jan Macleod, development officer at Glasgow Women's Support Project, disputed the notion that criminalising payment for sex would lead to more violence.

"I think that is a bit of a myth, because street prostitution already takes place in dangerous areas," she said. "We are supporting the principle [of the bill], but calling for wider measures, such as decriminalisation of prostitution - for the individuals who are selling sex."

The UKNSWP's Bryce has accused Grant of choosing to ignore those who the legislation will affect most in order to impose "what seems like a moral judgment founded on ideology".

He denied he had misrepresented what Grant said at the House of Commons meeting.

A spokesman for The Huffington Post said: "Huffington Post offers users a platform to air their views and opinions through blogs.

"In the blog there are no direct quotations, however we have made note of Rhoda Grant's concern and we're working with the blogger to clarify them."

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