A NATIONWIDE campaign launches today calling for the purchase of sex to be made illegal in a bid to stamp out prostitution in Scotland.


The End Prostitution Now campaign aims to put pressure on the Scottish Government to tackle the demand for paid-for sex, described by campaigners as the "root cause" of the country's "commercial sexual exploitation".

Currently in Scotland it is not illegal to pay another adult for sex, but associated activities such as public solicitation, running a brothel and kerb crawling are classed as criminal offences.

Campaigners now want to see legislation introduced which ensures those who buy sex are punished by the courts, while those who sell it are not.

They are also calling for better support to help people get out of the sex industry safely.

Liz Curran, from Women's Support Project, the group leading the campaign, said: "Prostitution is abuse, often extreme or violent in nature. It is never a matter of choice, nor is it a human right as some campaigners argue.

"No reasonable person wants the right to be sexually exploited, abused, demeaned, disadvantaged, socially-excluded and marginalised. Prostitution ruins lives, and it is far more serious and harmful an issue than many people may realise."

Ms Curran added that many sex workers turn to drug use or other criminal activity to help them cope with the way they are being treated and warned that the public needs to made aware of the "realities which drive women into prostitution" - a step she hopes can be achieved through the campaign.

The drive to change the law will be accompanied by a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook highlighting the conditions many prostitutes work under.

The public are also being asked to write to their MSPs calling for their support in bringing about the new legislation.

Councillor James Coleman, chair of the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership, who are also backing the campaign, said: "The End Prostitution Now aims to engage with as many people as possible from all walks of life to make them aware of the horrific realities of prostitution and compel them to take action to help eradicate the serious harm it causes.

"Men's demand for sexual access to women's bodies is the ultimate cause of prostitution and all the misery it causes the world over.

"We believe the solution is three-fold. The End Prostitution Now strategy aims to secure legislation in Scotland which criminalises the buyers of sex, decriminalises those exploited by prostitution and provides support and services to help people involved to exit prostitution safely."

The launch of the campaign, which is also being backed by anti-violence group Zero-Tolerance and the Scottish Trade Union Congress, coincides with proposals by Labour MSP Rhoda Grant to amend the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, currently going through parliament, which would criminalise buying sex.

The politician has raised concerns about Scotland's future following a recent legislation change in Northern Ireland where is is now illegal to use prostitutes.

Ms Grant said: "Just last week I attended an event in Northern Ireland to mark the criminalisation of the purchase of sex coming into force. I fear that if Scotland does not follow suit, it could become a haven for sex traffickers moving out of Northern Ireland and into a more hospitable environment in Scotland.

"Prostitution is a form of exploitation which only causes harm, and I wholeheartedly support the End Prostitution Now campaign and its aims.

"I believe that the Scottish Government can and should introduce appropriate legislation to ban the purchase of sex, similar to Lord Morrow's Act in Northern Ireland.

"The longer we delay passing this legalisation, the more vulnerable individuals will be exploited in this way."

Although several parties also called for this measure to be introduced as part of the Trafficking Bill, the Justice Committee has said that, while the issue may be "worthy of further review", the Bill is not the "appropriate vehicle" for addressing it.

Scot-pep, a charity which represents sex workers, has also argued that criminalising demand will create a "black market" which could effectively serve as a financial incentive for traffickers.

The group has also claimed it will make clients and sex workers less likely to report a potential trafficking victim.

Following the creation of the single police force in Scotland, there has been a clampdown on saunas and sex workers. Edinburgh, which once had a reputation for taking a more lenient approach to the industry and awarded saunas public entertainment licences, has seen the use of such licences revoked and several raids on premises.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government takes a zero tolerance approach to the exploitation of women and has made significant progress in recent years by strengthening legislation in Scotland.  It is now a criminal offence to solicit or to loiter in a public place with the purpose of either buying or selling sex.  It is also an offence to run or manage a brothel, to live off the earnings of the prostitution of others or to traffick people for sexual exploitation.

"Clearly this is a complex issue though which requires careful consideration to ensure that any additional measures which may be required are necessary, practicable and sustainable. Any further proposed changes to the law in this area would need to be considered carefully to ensure they are practical in terms of enforcement and whether there is robust evidence to suggest that such proposals would reduce incidents of prostitution or trafficking."