Church of Scotland call to outlaw the purchase of sex slammed by campaigners
A charity representing sex workers has slammed the Church of Scotland for calling for the purchase of sex to be outlawed in Scotland.
The Kirk has called for the law to be changed towards the so-called Nordic model which makes buying sex illegal and is claimed to have been successful in reducing levels of human trafficking and exploitation.
A letter from Prof Hazel Watson, convener of the Scottish Churches' anti-human trafficking group, and signed by senior figures from a variety of other faith groups, including Muslims and Sikhs, makes the call to the Scottish Government.
Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery which is a crime against humanity, church ministers say.
It exists because of a demand for commercial sex which is exploited and profited from.
The current law, which criminalises the sale of sex, but does not address those who purchase it, fails to help women to exit prostitution, says the church.
The Nordic – or Swedish – model outlaws the purchase of sex and makes prostitution illegal.
However sex workers’ charity Scot-Pep argues that laws which criminalise clients also expose sex workers to HIV and violence and is calling for an urgent meeting with church ministers.
Sex workers say criminalising clients won’t stop people seeking prostitutes but will make sex workers more vulnerable to violence and exploitation.
Fiona, co-chair of Scot-Pep, said: “If the Church of Scotland think that this law will reduce trafficking they’ve been misinformed.
All migrant workers need their labour rights protected: that is what would genuinely fight exploitation
“The Swedish government cannot show a reduction in trafficking - but sex workers in Sweden are more vulnerable, isolated and afraid.
“The vast majority of trafficking happens into the agricultural industry and domestic service, and yet no one is recommending criminalising the purchase of groceries or the hiring of a cleaner.
“All migrant workers need their labour rights protected: that is what would genuinely fight exploitation, not more failed criminalisation that drives people away from support and services.”
George Valiotis, CEO of HIV Scotland, backed ScotPep: "HIV Scotland adopts the World Health Organisation (WHO) definition of sex work as referring to sex between consenting adults, in exchange for goods or money.
“While we share the view that human trafficking and forced prostitution are an abomination, failure to distinguish sex work as defined by WHO from human trafficking or forced prostitution can lead to harassment of sex workers.”
But Anne McIlveen, co-ordinator of the Salt and Light charity in Glasgow, which provides food, clothing and support and prayer to the women on the streets of the city, said the current law, which criminalises the sale of sex, but does not address those who purchase it, fails to help women to exit prostitution.
"A lot of these girls are in it because they've got addictions, they're living in poverty and it's the only way they can see to feed habits or to get drink or to pay the electric bill."
She added: "A lot of these men have been using girls and then they're going home and playing happy families.
"Their families should know exactly what they're doing."
The justice secretary, Michael Matheson, said he would write to representatives of the Church of Scotland to offer a meeting to discuss the issue.