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Sex trafficking case shows need for ‘sex buyer law’ in Scotland

Human Trafficking
26 June 2024
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A case involving the ‘ruthless’ exploitation of women from east Asia in Scottish brothels shows the need for reform of prostitution laws, CARE for Scotland has said.

The charity is calling for the purchase of sex to be criminalised in Scotland – an approach taken in Nordic countries that’s designed to challenge demand for sex.

This week, three people were jailed for a combined twenty years for involvement with human trafficking and prostitution in flats in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Young women, mainly from east Asia, were exploited by a criminal gang to provide sexual services in a scheme described as “degrading” by a Scottish judge.

Sitting at the High Court in Glasgow, Lady Justice Poole said: “Brothel keeping and trafficking women for prostitution involves the deliberate degrading of fellow human beings.

“Prostitution is a dehumanising experience. Women often end up being deprived of the ability to act in their own interests. They are valued not as people, but as a potential source of profit.”

Commenting on the case, Louise Davies MBE, Director of Advocacy and Policy at CARE, said: “Awful cases like this underline the need for a change in approach in Scotland.

“Sex buyer laws target those who pay for sex – primarily men – and in doing so, directly challenge a demand for sexual services that fuels criminal industries like human trafficking. Purchase of sex laws have been successfully embedded in several countries including France, Sweden, Norway, and Northern Ireland. Scotland should join them.

“To provide a disincentive to prostitution and drive down demand for sexual exploitation, the police should arrest and convict sex buyers. Men seeking to pay for sex with vulnerable, often exploited women – including women who have been trafficked – face no disincentive to their actions if they do not face the threat of criminal action.

“Convictions can be obtained through routine policing techniques, as evidenced abroad and in parliamentary research. In Sweden, convictions rose steadily as the country’s law was embedded, from 10 in its first year of operation, to 326 in its eleventh year. Scotland can introduce a similarly robust scheme that makes a real difference.

“We would urge the Scottish Government to introduce legislation that punishes men who pay for sex, creating a clear deterrent and making it clear that this exploitative manifestation of gender-based violence has no place in a modern Scotland.”

In February, the Scottish Government announced a new national hub that will "bring together specialist services which support women affected by commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) – linking them more closely with local services, such as housing, health and social security".

The government stated that: "Lessons learnt from the piloting of the Strategy will help inform any future legislative considerations, including whether to criminalise the purchase of sex."

CARE for Scotland has accused Ministers of ‘dragging their heels’ on the issue, as the government has long recognised prostitution as a ‘form of violence against women’.


Notes for Editors

CARE for Scotland is a social policy charity, bringing Christian insight to the policies and laws that affect our lives.

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