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Scotland: New campaign aims to end prostitution by reducing demand

Publish Date: 08 Dec 2009
Source: Scottish Daily Record
By: Annie Brown

Exclusive: New campaign aims to end prostitution by reducing the demand

A GROUND-BREAKING campaign to ban prostitution in Scotland will be launched today with a hard-hitting series of posters focusing on punters.

For the first time the men who pay women for sex will be targeted instead of the women they exploit.

The move by Glasgow City Council could see Scotland with more radical legislation on prostitution than anywhere else in Europe.

The posters show actors playing ordinary men in everyday situations, such as work or a football match, contemplating the reality of having used a prostitute.

One shows a dad with his little boy on his shoulers. With each picture is a quote from a real punter.

The posters go against the idea that men buy sex because it is their only option. In fact recent Scottish research showed almost half of punters had wives and girlfriends.

The Stop Demand - End Prostitution Now campaign, which has the full support of Strathclyde Police, is pushing for amendments to proposed and existing legislation, which will create a range of offences designed to target the purchase of sex.

Despite kerb crawling becoming an offence in October, it is still legal to pay for sex in a brothel or massage parlour, but new laws would ban that, too.

The campaign is being led by Councillor James Coleman, Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, who believes that only cutting off the demand will help reduce the supply of sex services.

He said: "Prostitution is an appalling form of human exploitation. It blights the lives of those involved, their families and the communities where this awful trade takes place. 

"Tackling demand is the key to this issue. The amendments we propose will extend the reach of the law so there is no hiding place for the pimps, punters and brothel keepers who prey upon others."

In England and Wales it is an offence to buy sex from a woman who is controlled by force, but the Scottish change would go much further.

The amendment will be lodged by Trisha Godman MSP and if accepted, it could become law as part of the Criminal Justice and Licensing legislation in 2011. Ann Hamilton, Head of Equalities and Women's Services within Glasgow Community and Safety Services, said the campaign was a step towards changing attitudes.

"It will put out the message that if you are buying sex, you are doing something anti-social and harmful that is also against the law," she said.

"It's about targeting the demand as opposed to those who are supplying."

The new legislation would criminalise the buying, the advertising and facilitation of the sale of sex.

Ann said: "This isn't just about fining and imprisoning the men who buy sex, it is about making a change in public perception about right and wrong."

More than 50 per cent of women in prostitution have been raped and/or seriously sexually assaulted, while at least 75 per cent have been physically assaulted.

If it goes ahead, the legislation would place us on a footing with Sweden and Norway. The Swedes stopped punishing the prostitutes and instead criminalised the men who buy sex.

Before the legislation came in 10 years ago, 2500 women worked Stockholm's streets. Now there are fewer than 100.

The number of punters has dropped by 80 per cent and researchers found Swedish men were least likely of about 30 nationalities to use prostitutes as they considered it unacceptable.

Another phenomenon has been a fall in sex trafficking. It has fallen to 200 women, while Finland sees 15,000 a year brought across its borders.

Ann said: "There is a concern about the rise of trafficking and prostitution and an understanding it is very much about organised crime. We have struggled to highlight the men who keep this going. The challenge has been how to make this about men and not the women."

Ann said it was important not to demonise the men, but reflect the truth that punters are predominately average and often young men with partners and children.

"We don't want people to say I don't recognise that person, so it doesn't affect me," she said. "Prostitution affects all of us in some form."

A website is launched today which includes ways to help with the campaign and insights into the sex trade from punters and prostitutes.


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