OUR CONSULTATION SUBMISSION:
The Scottish Government Public Consultation on Prostitution Policy- challenging men's demand for prostitution, working to reduce the harms associated with prostitution and helping women to exit
WEP is a proud advocate of The Nordic Model approach. WE understand issues around prostitution and the 'sex-industry' through a VAWG lens. This is our Caucus submission to the Scottish Government policy consultation submitted on 10/11/20.
The Consultation closes on 10/12/20. Scroll to the bottom of the page for links.
1. Do you agree or disagree that the Scottish government's approach to tackling prostitution, as outlined in this section, is sufficient to prevent violence against women and girls?
The current 'equally safe' strategy is excellent, but we feel that it is undermined as its overarching aims are not ambitious enough. The Equally Safe Strategy must also include objectives such as reducing demand. For example include a broader education/information campaign with an embedded VAWG analysis of prostitution and the wider sex industry.
The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) recognises that prostitution is a VAWG issue & therefore all steps must be taken to reduce demand and harm. Any step towards legalisation of the sex industry would lead to an untenable situation where the state directly benefits from the rape, assault and trauma of women and girls. It would also allow individuals to legitimately monetise the rape, assault and trauma of women and girls.
We ask that the Scottish government recognise that a society that legitimises the sex industry through its legalisation will inevitably increase demand for the sex industry and access to prostituted women, and therefore directly increase harm, namely VAWG.
We advocate for progressive changes to the criminal justice response around prostitution. Current Scottish law needs to be reviewed to facilitate the prosecution of buyers. For laws to work as a deterrent we suggest the following:
We advocate for a law that is based on reasonable evidence that an attempt to purchase sex has taken place. We do not advocate for the current law which requires evidence that a sex act has taken place. This is an unreasonable burden of proof, resulting in few prosecutions and is potentially intrusive and humiliating for the woman involved
The arrest and prosecution of buyers result in a criminal record, a fine made payable to a central exiting fund for and accessed by prostituted women, and buyers are added to the Sex Offenders Register.
That this is a policing priority.
We advocate for the immediate end of criminalising prostituted women.
We advocate that women with criminal records for soliciting should have their records sealed as criminal records create additional barriers from exiting.
Prostituted women should not be fined.
Scotland must look to build a generous ring-fenced exiting fund. This should include person-centred, trauma-informed health and mental health provisions. it should also include practical packages of help, including but not limited to, bursaries, housing, career advice, employment and training.
2. What are your observations as to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on women involved in prostitution in Scotland?
Please explain your answer.
It is well documented that Covid-19, as a disease, has had the biggest impact on men, yet the Covid response policies have the largest impact on women. Add this to ten years of austerity (which was also impacted more on women than men) and we have a very bleak economic outlook for women. We also know that women are more likely to live in poverty than their male counterparts. They are also more likely to have financial dependants. This leaves women in a uniquely vulnerable position. It is impossible to discuss prostitution and VAWG without taking into account the context of poverty and the coercive role poverty plays in exposing women to VAWG.
Covid-19 has impacted in the following ways:
Covid-19 has seen an increase in women depending on an income from sexual exploitation.
Covid-19 has led to an increase in sex-cam/ web-cam/ online prostitution.
The increase in women going to online platforms like this has led to a saturation of the market, and a subsequent decrease in market value, meaning men are paying much less.
Web-cam exploitation leaves women and girls vulnerable in new ways to new crimes, for example image-based sexual abuse (revenge porn) and doxxing. These crimes can also create additional barriers to exiting. They also create additional trauma and worry as a woman’s image can be used without her consent, and will potentially be accessible even when she has exited.
This online commercialisation of women's exploitation is normalising and sanitising the purchase of 'sexual services'. it is perceived as an acceptable and victimless form of leisure. This increases demand and therefore increases overall harm.
There is a lag between the surge of online prostitution and building a tailored response to protect the women involved and respond to their needs.
Women are vulnerable as there is no robust criminal justice response to this surge in online exploitation. Law around online and digital crimes is not particularly strong. Although image-based sexual assault has recently become a criminal offence we ask the Scottish government to work with other countries such as Sweden to explore other legislative possibilities in this area. There is an upcoming consultation on this by the law commission.
3. Which of the policy approaches (or aspects of these) outlined in table 3.1 do you believe is most effective in preventing violence against women and girls?
We recommend adopting The Nordic Model - a policy adopted and promoted by the Women's Equality Party.
If prostitution is correctly understood through a VAWG lens, then any form of legalising the sex industry is antithetical to a civilised and compassionate society. There is no level of 'harm reduction' that can justify the legalisation of prostitution to become a marketed and legal industry. The harms experienced by women (even with harm reduction and safe-guarding mechanisms in place), are beyond what is fair and reasonable to be considered as an occupational hazard.
Scotland must embed a policy that looks to reduce and then end demand for prostituted women (and children). This is the only acceptable outcome for women and girls, and the only way to reduce harm in any meaningful way. The Nordic Model is shown to reduce demand and thus reduce harm.
The Nordic Model understands the fundamental role of poverty and previous trauma as factors in women entering prostitution so it understands the importance of addressing these fundamental issues when supporting women to exit. The Nordic Model ensures meaningful ring-fenced funding, focussed on the needs of exploited women. We refer you to the resources below.
4. What measures would help to shift the attitudes of men relating to the purchase of sex? Do you have any examples of good practice either in a domestic or an international context
We refer you to the research by Rape Crisis Scotland, that asked sex punters this exact question. The overwhelming answer was the only meaningful deterrent is a criminal justice response (including but not limited to, criminal convictions, fines, the Sex Offenders Register, being outed as a buyer/ punter in public). They cited Scotland as a poor example of working policy as Scottish punters felt that kerb-crawling laws were not a deterrent as enforcing them was clearly not a policing priority. http://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/resources/challenging-men-s-demand.pdf
A public information campaign around the harms caused by the sex industry could well be helpful. Please see similar campaigns here:
2-3 month ‘john programmes’ to be offered to men prosecuted for sex-buying. These are in addition to convictions and punishments, not instead of. The Scottish Government should commission longitudinal research into the efficacy of such courses. This project in Washington being a strong example: https://www.gq.com/story/cure-men-who-pay-for-sex-end-prostitution
Scotland could consider funding men’s organisations to continue and extend their activism in this area.
Civic institutions and public campaigns to support White Ribbon Day. https://www.whiteribbon.org.uk/
5 Taking into account the above, how can the education system help to raise awareness and promote positive attitudes and behaviours amongst young people in relation to consent and healthy relationships?
We ask that prostitution is not described as 'sex work' and is framed explicitly as 'sexual exploitation'. The terms 'prostitution' or 'monetised sexual exploitation' are more accurate, and should be used in all statutory documents, RSE documents, and other curriculum documents in schools.
We ask the Scottish gov to acknowledge that the exploitative reality of prostitution has been masked largely through linguistic changes. Prostitution is often referred to as 'sex work'. This language change is concerning as it erases the reality of prostitution: by linguistically masking VAWG it enables further sexual exploitation and the perpetuation of VAWG. This linguistic change is a mechanism for making the sex industry more marketable.
When teaching around consent and sexual exploitation in the RSHP curriculum, teaching must explicitly refer to prostitution, and clearly demonstrate the exploitative nature of buyer and pimp. It must also expressly explore that consent can not be given in exchange for money, due to the inherent coercive nature of the transaction. Teaching around the coercive and abusive nature of prostitution should also include teaching and discussions on pornography:
Scotland must counter the main-stream idea that 'sex work' is empowering. It must also counter the idea that responses to prostitution that do not support the legalisation are shaming, stigmatizing or demonising the women and girls involved in prostitution. it is time to clearly and loudly shift the shame of prostitution away from women and onto the buyers: https://nordicmodelnow.org/2018/07/20/how-the-swedish-sex-purchase-law-moved-the-shame-of-prostitution-from-the-women-to-the-punters/
6. How can the different needs of women involved in prostitution (in terms of their health and wellbeing) be better recognised in the provision of mainstream support?
Women need access to doctors and clinics with extensive training to understand the physical effects of prostitution. https://prostitutionresearch.com/the-physical-damage-in-prostitution-report-by-a-gynaecologist-from-street-work/
All services (Government provision, NHS, and NGO) must work with an explicit recognition that all forms of prostitution are inherently traumatic. Many service providers adopt the narrative of 'sex work', and ‘sex work is work’. Victim-survivors have stated that this narrative is deeply alienating and invalidates their trauma. If their experiences are framed as ‘work’, and the perpetrators of abuse are framed as clients/ customers, rather than abusers, then why should they feel so traumatised? This adds an additional barrier to accessing support for their PTSD and other trauma responses:
“I feel like I have no right to feel traumatised for what I went through. If what those men did to me was recognised as a crime (e.g. Nordic Model) then I might feel more validated in my pain and able to move on. Right now, however, I feel like I am being gaslit by society.”
We believe that if the Sottish Government adopts the Swedish laws (sex-buyer act) and Swedish sentencing model this will send a clear message to victims and service providers, that the ‘sex work is work’ narrative is deeply unhelpful and also harmful. It will support women and services to understanding the inherent trauma of prostitution. The criminal justice system will show women that they deserve justice and that our public and private spaces will be safer as a result.
We strongly recommend that the criminal records of women related to both poverty, trauma and prostitution are sealed to allow for women to move forward with securing work and training. https://nordicmodelnow.org/2017/07/20/campaign-to-wipe-womens-prostitution-related-criminal-records/
Women need to have a generous provision of single-sex safe spaces and single-sex services to respond to their needs. Single-sex provision as standard is needed in rape crisis services, women's aid services, homeless shelters, all therapeutic settings including drop-ins and outreach facilities for women in prostitution, women's centres, psychiatric units, drug rehabilitation services, prisons, to list a few. Scotland has seen a huge drop in women-only services in recent years. This is in part through its funding policies which are currently only funding unisex services. This is a huge step backwards for women and their rights and safety. Women have a legal right to single sex spaces.
i) The Scottish Government must deliver on its legal obligations and change its funding policy/ Public Procurement Policy with immediate effect to ensure providers of women-only services are adequately funded to reach demand.
ii) The Scottish Government must produce clear guidance to clarify the law to service providers that they are entitled to provide single sex-space where there is a proportionate means to reach a legitimate aim. This guidance must have clear case studies to demonstrate this.
For many, the most common barriers to exiting are as follows:
-PTSD & mental health
-Domestic abuse and coercive control via a pimp who is often a 'boyfriend'
-Homelessness/ insecure housing
-Disability & health
All services must offer meaningful support in addressing these needs. Evidence shows that services that acknowledge and respond to these needs are successful at reducing harm and providing a pathway to exiting.
There must be an explicit attempt to provide services for women of colour, ethnic minority & faith communities.
An explicit move to provide resources for women who do not speak or read English.
The Scottish Government must ensure that trafficked women who have been sexually exploited are never placed in immigration detention centres. We ask the Scottish government to frequently audit immigration detention centres to ensure no women have been wrongfully detained:
The Government must challenge the policy that removes welfare rights from asylum seekers. 'No recourse to public funds' that forces so many refugee and migrant women into prostitution:
7. In your opinion, drawing on any international or domestic examples, what programmes or initiatives best supports women to safely exit prostitution?
Sweden- the criminal justice model and approach to prosecuting buyers and traffickers.
Ipswich- a three pronged approach that is similar to the Nordic model- (not prosecuting women, substantial services to facilitate exiting, prosecution of buyers and traffickers). The police also used number plate recognition and were proactive in addressing street exploitation. Ipswich has also been proactive in identifying children and young people who are at risk of sexual exploitation and building preventative services:
France- since adopting a Nordic Model approach have arrested around 5000 men using the sex purchase offense and around 400 women have been supported to rebuild their lives and exit prostitution. A recent report found that its adoption was not widespread enough across France: https://www.igas.gouv.fr/img/pdf/2019-032r-prostitution-d.pdf
8. Support services are primarily focussed within four of Scotland’s main cities – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow – how can the needs of women throughout Scotland who are engaged in prostitution be met, noting that prostitution is not solely an urban issue?
It is crucial that the city hubs take a multi agency approach and can provide targeted outreach for women and girls who self refer, or who are flagged as vulnerable to sexual exploitation via schools, GP's, probation, care services, police etc.
Funds to be made available to women’s specialist VAWG services to hire spaces to run drop in’s. Funds to be made available to provide service-users with transport costs.
9. If there are any further comments you would like to make, which have not been addressed in the questions above, please use the space below to provide more detail.
We would like to flag the ‘managed approach’ in Holbeck, Leeds.