Response 3

December 18, 2012 at 12:01 pm 1 comment

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your consultation on the Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill. I am responding as a private individual: although I have a long history of engagement with these issues and knowledge of the academic literature in the field, my own work is not directly in the field of prostitution research, advocacy or support.

Although I am publicly identified with aspects of this debate in other contexts, I am asking for my response to be anonymised because I think it is important to acknowledge the hostile context in which so much of this debate is conducted. Those who speak out on this issue are often subjected to hostility, abuse and ridicule and, indeed, I know of women with more direct experience than me of the issues raised in this consultation document who are afraid to respond because of the potential personal costs. I cannot, of course, speak for those women – nor would I want to – but by replying anonymously I am seeking to make the fear and anxiety over personalised attack part of the public record.

Q1: Do you support the general aim of the proposed Bill? Please indicate “yes/no/undecided” and explain the reasons for your response.

I warmly support the primarily policy intention of the Bill, to challenge – and criminalise – the demand (primarily, though not exclusively from men) to buy human beings (primarily, though not exclusively women) for the purposes of sex. The buying and selling of access to the bodies of human beings for the sexual gratification of the purchaser – in which the experience of the person bought is immaterial to the transaction – is incompatible with equality, and the proposed legislation sends a powerful message that human beings are not for sale in Scotland.

 I acknowledge that some women in prostitution are there through choice and may be opposed to this Bill and its likely impact on their livelihoods. However, it is important to recognise that the testimonies from women involved in prostitution are extremely varied. There is also a huge body of evidence – from individual women as well as from quantitative surveys – to indicate that women are abused in and through prostitution. Factors including poverty, drug dependency, prior experience of abuse as well as ongoing gendered inequalities in the workplace and the persistent and pernicious sexual objectification of women in our culture, shape and constrain the possibilities of choice in relation to prostitution. Rather than pitting one group of women in prostitution against another to decide whose experience is more ‘authentic’, we therefore need to ask whether supporting a system for the sale of human beings is compatible with equality and with our vision for Scotland – as you have done in this document. This requires that we think about the implications not only on those directly involved in the sale and purchase of sex, but also what that system says about how women (and men) are treated and valued in our society more broadly.

Q2: What do you believe would be the effects of legislating to criminalise the purchase of sex (as outlined above)? Please provide evidence to support your answer.

 The criminalisation of the purchase of sex is important in sending a strong signal about Scotland’s commitment to equality. However, in itself this is not a full or robust approach: it is imperative that those who sell – or are sold as – sex are not subject to criminal sanctions and that the criminalisation of the buying of sex is accompanied by well-resourced support for women (and men) exiting prostitution.

Q3: Are you aware of any unintended consequences or loopholes caused by the offence? Please provide evidence to support your answer.

 As above: steps need to be taken to ensure that the impact – including the loss of earnings – to women (and men) currently involved in prostitution are minimised. This would involve, at the very least, support for those exiting prostitution that would include access to bespoke legal assistance, counselling, addiction services, job training and medical assistance.

 Q4: What are the advantages or disadvantages in using the definitions outlined above?

 I am uncomfortable with the designation “buying sex from a prostitute” as it suggests that the problem lies with a category of person (the “prostitute”) rather than with the activity of buying sex and thus turning another person into a commodity for purchase.

Q5: What do you think the appropriate penalty should be for the offence? Please provide reasons for your answer.

 Fines, on a sliding scale relative to income. The evidence about the efficacy of ‘john schools’ is mixed, and – rather than making this a compulsory penalty for the offence – I would prefer to see pre-emptive public education work to raise awareness of  prostitution as a system which is dependent on inequality and abuse.

 Q6: How should a new offence provision be enforced? Are there any techniques which might be used or obstacles which might need to be overcome?

Any new legislation in this area will only be effective if accompanied by a major awareness campaign, both for the police and for the general public, and if resources are also directed towards services for women (and men) exiting prostitution. This has clear financial implications (Q7): but what are the financial and societal implications of ‘doing nothing’?

 Q7: What is your assessment of the likely financial implications of the proposed Bill to you or your organisation; if possible please provide evidence to support your view? What (if any) other significant financial implications are likely to arise?

See above.

 Q8: Is the proposed Bill likely to have any substantial positive or negative implications for equality? If it is likely to have a substantial negative implication, how might this be minimised or avoided?

As noted above, the Bill is likely to have a substantial positive impact on equality. However, as also noted elsewhere in this response, the likely short-term impact on individual women (and men) currently in prostitution needs to be considered and support for those being required or encouraged to exit prostitution because of any new legislation has to be part of the equation.

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Entry filed under: againstsexualexploitation, prostitution.

A response to Rhoda Grants proposal response 2

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. scaser  |  December 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing with us.

    Reply

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