Scottish sex workers are supporting proposed changes in the law to make them safer as they host a gathering in Glasgow to raise awareness of the issue.
Organisations and charities have backed independent MSP Jean Urquhart's proposals to decriminalise
prostitution in Scotland.
Her proposed Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill would permit more than one sex worker to work from the same premises. A lone sex worker based at home is currently operating within the law but at much greater risk of
violence and theft, while two or more sex workers sharing a space for safety are breaking the law.
Urquhart wants up to four sex workers to be permitted to work collectively from the same premises and a licensing system to be brought in for
premises in which more than four sex workers operate.
Sex worker charity ScotPep, grassroots collective the Sex Worker Open University (SWOU) and community health Project Umbrella Lane support the changes. Speaking ahead of the gathering to mark
the international Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Urquhart said:
When I started speaking with sex workers in Scotland I was struck by what they told me about how the law makes them less safe. It should be
unconscionable that the law makes sex workers so vulnerable to violence and I'm proud to have brought forward proposals that are based on what people who sell sex say will keep them safe.
Cynthia Payne was an English brothel keeper and party hostess who made the headlines in the 1970s and 1980s, when she was acquitted of running a brothel at 32 Ambleside Avenue, in Streatham, London.
Payne first came to
national attention in 1978 when police raided her home and found a sex party was in progress. Elderly men paid with luncheon vouchers to dress up in lingerie and be spanked by young women. When the case came to trial in 1980, she was sentenced to
eighteen months in prison, reduced to a fine and six months on appeal. She served four months in Holloway prison.
In 1986, the police raided her home again, this time during a special party she was hosting after shooting
the film of her life had been completed. Although she was acquitted on this occasion, the resulting court case in 1987 made headlines for several weeks with lurid tales, some details of which she aired on The Dame Edna Experience in 1987, with co-guests
Sir John Mills and Rudolf Nureyev, on which she also launched her book, Entertaining at Home. The court case ended her career as a party giver.
On the programme, she expressed an interest in becoming a Member of Parliament in
order to change Britain's sex laws, which she followed through by standing for Parliament as a candidate for the Payne and Pleasure Party in the Kensington by-election in July 1988, followed by her standing in her own area of Streatham for the Rainbow
Dream Ticket in the 1992 UK General Election. She did not gain a parliamentary seat.
Payne made appearances as an after-dinner speaker and launched a range of adult services and products in 2006.
The Times reports that new laws which have made it illegal to pay for sex in Northern Ireland have resulted in just one arrest.
Sex worker support groups said that the figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, proved that the measures
could not be enforced.
The legislation, which came into effect in June means that sex workers are no longer able to make basic security checks such as getting to know who their customers are. Meanwhile it has the potential to destroy the lives of
men and their families just for wanting to get laid.
The Northern Ireland justice minister has said he disagrees with plans to make it illegal
to pay for sex in the Republic after The Times reported that just one man was prosecuted under similar legislation in the North.
David Ford said the laws, brought in after a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly in June, were the result of populism rather than practicalism
and are not useful.
Eaves has announced that it ceased operations on 30th October 2015.
Eaves was primarily a feminist group commendably supporting women who were victims of violence. However the group also got into political campaiging and became famous for its Big
Brothel 'research' with the Poppy Project that attempted to hype trafficking in UK brothels. The reports were widely derided by both academics and sex workers groups but the rubbished research was cited for years to come. A massive operation of
police raids on hundreds of brothels simply didn't find the claimed trafficked sex workers.
Eaves has been operational since 1977. With reference to the decline and closure of Eaves, Chair, Louisa Cox explained:
Eaves has had to contend with high rents, project funding that does not cover the core costs so an increasing deficit and most recently the tragic illness, and subsequent loss, of our inspirational CEO Denise Marshall. We have taken a range of measures
to diversify our funding base, increase donations, cut costs, move offices, but ultimately none of these steps was enough to save us.
Eaves has done its best to ensure service users have other services to go to and we have been
able to transfer some of our projects to other organisations.
An organisation of sex workers is opposing a private members bill which aims to ban the advertising of sexual services, on the grounds that it would push sex workers out of premises and into greater danger and and/or into the hands of exploitative
The Advertising of Prostitution (Prohibition) Bill [HL] introduced by Tory Ian McColl is due to have a second reading in the House of Lords. It aims to make it an offence to publish, or distribute, an advertisement of a
brothel or the services of a prostitute .
The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) is urging peers to oppose the bill. Laura Watson, from the ECP, commented:
Preventing sex workers from advertising would
undermine their ability to work independently and safely. Advertising is a safety strategy, allowing sex workers to screen potential clients and negotiate services. Banning advertising will force sex workers out of premises and many will end up on the
street where it is 10 times more dangerous to work. It could push sex workers into the hands of exploitative bosses leaving them at higher risk of violence, coercion, isolation and criminalisation .
Cybil, from Luton, who has
advertised on the web for two years commented:
I built my own website which meant I could be my own boss and leave the parlour where I worked and where they took a large slice of my income. Now I can work with complete
anonymity, from the safety and convenience of my own home. I keep every penny I earn, all without the interference of an agency or other ubiquitous middle man.
Sex workers are already prevented by the law from working safely
together. Brothel-keeping law makes it illegal for more than one sex worker to work from premises. Relentless police crackdowns on sex workers on the street, often in the name of targeting clients, break up safety networks and force women into isolated
areas where they are at greater risk of attack.
The ECP points to the moralistic foundation of the bill as the only visible support is coming from the Christian charity CARE which has a track record of homophobia and opposes abortion.
CARE campaigned ferociously against gay marriage and against the repeal of Section 28 , which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.
The Advertising of Prostitution (Prohibition) Bill [HL] passed its 2nd reading and is now to be considered by a committee of the whole house.
Religious moralists and the mega rich queued up in the House of Lords to support Ian McColl in his quest
to deprive sex workers of their income via an advertising ban.
There were two politicians who had bothered to think though some of the consequences of the proposed law, namely Quentin Davies and the government minister, Michael Bates. Bates noted:
There is a practical point to make on the application and enforceability of a prohibition on advertising. Noble Lords may be aware that most advertisements for prostitution are not explicit, they are couched in
euphemisms, which are difficult to disentangle from non-sexual services; for example, reputable massage services or saunas. It would also be difficult to apply the legislation to advertisement on the internet, which can be hosted overseas, as we are
experiencing in other areas of legislation.
The Government's first priority in this area is public safety. For example, the Home Office has worked with the UK Network of Sex Work Projects to support the establishment of the
National Ugly Mugs scheme, to which the noble and learned Baroness referred. This is an innovative mechanism whereby people involved in prostitution can make reports and receive alerts about incidents that have been reported to the scheme. Alert
information is also fed to police forces, regional intelligence units and police analysts. We are pleased that the evaluation of the scheme shows that it has been successful in increasing access to justice and protection for those involved in
Our focus on safety applies also to legislation: when considering legislative changes, we must consider carefully whether we are confident that they support the safety of the people involved in prostitution. For
example, I am aware of communications that noble Lords may have received, they have been referred to, from the UK Network of Sex Work Projects setting out its concerns, particularly about criminalising and further marginalising an already vulnerable
group, thereby exposing them to potentially greater risk or harm. I would be happy to discuss with my noble friend Lord McColl and other interested Peers the evidence of the extent to which such changes to the legal, and by extension ethical, position of
buying sexual services would reduce harm to those involved.
While the issues around prostitution are complex and contentious, as we have heard today, we expect every report of violence to be treated seriously. In this context, it
is important to reflect on the increased reporting rates for these terrible crimes, showing that, increasingly, victims have the confidence to report and can access the support they deserve. That is to be welcomed.
that at the heart of this Bill are the noble Lord's genuinely held concerns for the welfare of those involved in prostitution. He has made those clear in his considered presentation of his proposed Bill today. I thank him and other noble Lords for their
thoughtful contributions not only to this debate but to much of the Government's work to tackle exploitation in all its forms, whether it be modern slavery, child sexual abuse or violence against women and girls. I am proud of the progress that we are
making on a cross-party basis and we will continue to consider effective approaches.
In their present form, my noble friend's proposals would have a number of legal and practical implications, which I am happy to discuss with him,
that were perhaps not intended. However, we recognise his sincerity and desire to protect from harm those who are involved in prostitution and to offer people captured and trapped in that world a way out to a better and more healthy life for them and for
society as a whole.
McColl noted the comment that creating further grounds for police prosecution for placing advertising leaves sex workers even more liable to prosecution leaving them even less able to call on the police when
threatened with being victim of violence. He Replied:
I should like to address briefly one point that he raised. He suggested that my Bill will further criminalise women who are placing adverts. The Bill was drafted
with the intention, courtesy of Clause 1, to address those who facilitate and publish the advertising, such as newspapers and website operators. I shall certainly look into the question further and if I receive legal advice that Clause 1 could be
interpreted to apply to an individual placing an advert rather than only to the entity publishing it, I shall certainly look into bringing an amendment in Committee.
And before he could explain further as to why his nasty proposal
would somehow not endanger sex workers, he conveniently ran out of time. He said:
I find myself in a rather difficult position because there is much I would like to respond to but we are out of time. I should like to
put on record that I completely reject the suggestion that the Bill is unenforceable or that it will make life more dangerous for people in prostitution. I feel very frustrated that time does not allow me to explain why.
Calls by police to criminalise customers of off-street prostitution have been criticised as appalling and dangerous.
Street prostitution in Nottingham has decreased by 80% over the past decade, police say, but they believe there has been an increase
in off-street work. Nottinghamshire Police has said a law change would allow officers to arrest clients approaching sex workers in private premises.
Sgt Neil Radford, the head of Nottingham's prostitution task force, said:
On the street, the law allows you to deal with people who are purchasing sex. But there is no equivalent legislation for off-street work. If somebody goes into a brothel to purchase sex, it is possible he isn't committing any offence
at all. That's wrong and we have to be able to do something about it.
But a group representing sex workers explained that it would make work more dangerous. The English Prostitution Collective, an organisation of sex workers, said:
We are appalled that the best the police can come up with is a proposal to increase criminalisation. These proposals will further divert police time and resources from investigating rape, trafficking and other violent
crimes to policing consenting sex.
Criminalising clients will not stop prostitution, nor will it stop the criminalisation of women. But it will make it more dangerous and stigmatising for sex workers. Sex workers on the street and
in premises will find it harder to screen clients who will want to remain anonymous because of fear of arrest.
A feminist morality campaign group, White Ribbon Scotland, is slightly unusual in that it is run by men. The group is generating a little publicity by with a White Ribbon 'award' to the feminist extremists of Glasgow City Council forming Glasgow's
Violence Against Women Partnership (GVAWP).
GVAWP will also reveall the results of what it claims is Scotland's biggest ever attitudinal survey on the subject. The online questionnaire was completed by 1237 people who considered questions around
issues such as rape, domestic abuse, pornography, lap and pole dancing and gender inequality.
Councillor Jim Coleman has chaired the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership (GVAWP) since it was established in 2000. He accepted the award on
behalf of the city and inevitably took the opportunity to blame porn and sex work. Coleman said:
Today's presentation coincides with the roll out of Clare's Law across Scotland and stage three of the Human Trafficking
and Exploitation Bill. We very much welcome both these major steps forward and the protection they afford women but we are disappointed that the Human Trafficking bill seeks to protect those who have been trafficked and not all exploited in prostitution.
The root cause of human trafficking is the sex industry's demand for women and girls. This demand is created by men.
To eradicate human trafficking we need to eradicate prostitution and to do this we need to tackle the demand by
men. GVAWP will continue to campaign for a challenging demand approach on prostitution with legislation to decriminalise those selling sex and criminalise those who buy it. We believe it is the only way to end prostitution.
results of the attitudinal survey highlight the ongoing need to continue to change attitudes and challenge misconceptions. For example, one in five of respondents thought prostitution was a choice women make. This we know is a myth and worryingly one in
five also thought that pornography was not harmful, when in fact it contributes to violence against women.