In Scotland, prostitution itself is not illegal but there is legislation
covering activities surrounding prostitution, such as soliciting, living off
immoral earnings and trafficking.
For a comparison of prostitution regimes across nine countries see the
2009 report Shifting Sands.
The first piece of Scottish
legislation to tackle the purchase of sex was introduced in October 2007. This made it an offence to solicit or
loiter in a public place for the purpose of obtaining the services of a person
engaged in prostitution. Prostitution Public Places (Scotland) Act 2007.
Currently it is not an offence in Scotland to buy sex, other than
"in a public place". There have been a number of proposals to
criminalise buying sex, the latest being Rhoda Grant MSP consultation on the
proposed Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill.
Although the Scottish Government has recognised prostitution as
exploitation and as part of the spectrum of gender based violence, those
selling sex on the street continue to be criminalised. Women and men selling sex can be
charged with soliciting under Section 46 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act
The impact of prostitution
There is much evidence to show that prostitution is harmful to women
directly involved, women in general, to men who buy women in prostitution to
families and to communities:
- Women and children abused in prostitution experience severe and long
lasting physical and mental health problems.
- Prostitution is harmful in and of itself, i.e. the constantly repeated
experience of submitting to unwanted sex is very damaging to women’s mental
health, self-esteem and sexuality.
- Having to endure unwanted sex leads to the need to dissociate – often
using drugs and/or alcohol. Whatever the reason for women entering prostitution, her drug and
alcohol use is likely to hugely increase.
- Many women involved in street prostitution do not have care of their
children (usually as a consequence of drug and alcohol misuse). This has a
strong impact on the women themselves and is a common issue they need support
on through services. It also
has an impact on the children, the extended family, for example grandparents
bringing up grandchildren, and on child protection services.
- Impact on family life, for families where women become involved, and
also families of men who buy sex: e.g. health risks, loss of income.
- Impact on communities, especially in areas where street prostitution
takes place: debris, noise, increased traffic from kerb crawlers, harassment of
local residents, witnessing sexual activity.
- Only 19% of women working as prostitutes in flats, parlours and saunas
are originally from the UK
- 3 out of 4 women in prostitution become involved aged 21 or younger,
and 1 in 2 aged 18 or younger (www.cwasu.org)
- 25% of men who had bought sex in prostitution expressed “significant or
shame” about having done so (Challenging Demand 2008)
- A Survey of Male Attendees at Sandyford Initiative: Knowledge,
Attitudes, Beliefs and Behaviours in Relation to Prostitution (PDF, 5.90MB)
The following figures are from the Home
Office report ‘Paying the Price’.
- 8.9% of men in London aged 16-44 reported having paid for sex in the
past 5 years
- 75% of children abused through prostitution had been missing from
- As many as 85% women in prostitution report physical abuse in the
family, with 45% reporting familial sexual abuse
- In the UK as many as 60 women involved in prostitution have been
murdered in the last 10 years 80,000 women work in ‘on-street’ prostitution in
the UK. The average age women become involved being just 12 years old
Vice Versa believes that condoning or accepting prostitution undermines
work on gender equality and on violence against women: what sense could we make
of work against rape, sexual harassment at work, stalking and underage sex if
men can simply buy these activities through prostitution?