Why I Won’t Be Supporting Rhoda Grant’s Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill

I’ve recently had a number of constituents get in touch with me regarding Rhoda Grant MSP’s proposed Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill. Sex workers are among the most vulnerable workers in Scotland, and many work at daily risk of exploitation and violence.

The role of the law should be to protect the vulnerable from harm. I believe that should Ms Grant’s proposals become law, it would significantly increase harm suffered by sex workers in Scotland.

For this reason I will be arguing against the proposed Bill.

Regrettably, the consultation on this proposal largely dismisses the testimony of those most affected – sex workers themselves – and of those, such as drug services, who have witnessed the effects first-hand. If these voices are taken properly into account, a picture of serious harm resulting from hardline legislation in Scotland and elsewhere emerges.

Criminalising the purchase of sex causes clients to avoid visible locations, requiring sex workers to operate further from police and other services that protect their safety and health, including peer support networks. Sex workers will be more isolated and more vulnerable as a result.

The reduction of demand, which is the stated aim of the proposal, means that in order to continue working, sex workers will be forced to accept clients or working conditions that they previously would have rejected. This will include such dangerous practices as not concluding negotiations before accepting a client, not using condoms, and accepting clients known or suspected to be violent.

I am a member of the Cross-Party Group on Human Trafficking and take the reality of modern-day slavery very seriously. I believe the proposal would exacerbate the horror of trafficking and frustrate efforts to eradicate it. The effect of criminalising the clients of sex workers will be to prevent them coming forward if they encounter sex workers whom they believe to be trafficked, underage, or otherwise exploited.

I understand that many feel strongly about this issue on both sides of the debate. For me, the only reasonable starting point is to ask: what will best protect the safety, wellbeing and human rights of those most affected? The answer to that question is improved services, improved police training, and improved public understanding, not crackdowns that drive sex workers further from social protection.

5 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Be Supporting Rhoda Grant’s Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill

  1. Nicole June 14, 2013 / 6:21 pm

    Thank you for not supporting the Bill to criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland.
    I’m an independent escort working through my own choice. The overwhelming majority of my clients are ‘normal’ respectful people who do not deserve to be criminalised for what is essentially a consensual act.
    The Bill would put sex workers in danger. Clients will be more reluctant to reveal personal details (like telephone numbers, names or addresses) for fear of prosecution and the security checks that many sex workers rely on to keep themselves safe will be undermined.

  2. Smiffy June 15, 2013 / 8:59 am

    Possibly the most sensible thing I have heard a politician say in a long time. Why can’t Rhoda Grant see what is so blatantly obvious?

  3. Richard June 17, 2013 / 9:47 am

    Thank you for a constructive and useful contribution to the debate. You can count on my vote next time round!

  4. Kevin June 17, 2013 / 10:13 am

    I find it frustrating that those who support the bill keep mentioning the street scene – this is already illegal. There were deficiencies in Scottish law regarding kerb crawling until a few years ago, but that has now been remedied. So those who prey on the drug addicts etc. and blight the lives of people who wish to walk the street without being hassled by a man in a car, are already subject to arrest. The point of a new law is to permit people who aren’t already arrestable, to be arrested and prosecuted. The only situation where clients AREN’T arrestable currently is in the off-street business. Maybe the women hate their job, but lots of people hate their jobs; I know I hate mine. Many politicians have said prostitution is “not a choice but a choice made through lack of choice”. The same could be said of many jobs. These women know about Tesco’s and Asda and McDonald’s; they’re not stupid. But those jobs don’t pay £80/100 per hour. They certainly don’t pay £200 per hour which an attractive, young woman can get if she works for a “high-class” agency. It’s fairly obvious why some women choose this job – 2 or 3 days a week, working as you wish, and you’ve earned more than enough to live comfortably. Working 5 or 6 days a week and you could be earning as much as a dentist/lawyer. Yes there are seedier ends of the market, but they still out-earn normal jobs….that’s WHY drug addicts work as prostitutes, because they earn enough to support a heroin habit. So if you’re not a drug addict and are struggling for money it’s obvious why there’s the appeal. As long as the girl is an adult, and the client is an adult and nobody is being forced into the job by anything other than life’s normal pressures, then why should the client be prosecuted? Again, it’s off-street prostitution we’re talking about – that’s where the client cannot be currently arrested. So where’s the victim, other than in the head of the morally offended feminists?

  5. Nerd June 20, 2013 / 10:29 am

    Well I have been through all the responses to the consultation. A great many of those supporting the proposed Bill quote verbatim extracts that obviously come from a pre-prepared source as precisely the same paragraphs turn up in multiple letters (in at least 160 letters suggesting some degree of organization) and so these letters are not independent.
    Among the small proportion who do not support the proposed criminalization of the purchaser there are some worthy of note which are listed below To go to the response use http://www.rhodagrant.org.uk/xxx.pdf putting the number where the xxx are
    Responses from Sexworkers or ex sexworkers or sexwork organisations. These are particularly interesting as these have direct knowledge of the industry (as opposed to the vast majority of the consultations) who do not:
    Responses from clients (some are particularly moving (eg 192)): 105,127,178,192,202,348,379,417,435,750,773,876,953
    Tantric healers: 760, 794
    There are 32 responses which are confidential so there are no details at all-many of these may have been from sexworkers.
    There are a number of other responses which are informative (especially 170,279,613) 170,219,224,260,279,325,329,338,449,454,485,491,559,571,572,601,605,613,616,618,682,683,703,709,724,766,784,791,830,865,948,950

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