Scottish Parliament debating chamber

Sturgeon urged to make buying sex illegal

6th Jun 2019 - James Mildred

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged by campaigners to bring in new legislation that would criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland.

Julie Bindel, who campaigns to eradicate violence against women said when it comes to making buying sex illegal, the First Minister needed to be “truly progressive”.

At the moment, selling sex in Scotland is not illegal but brothel keeping and controlling prostitution for gain are.

It is also SNP policy to change Scotland’s prostitution laws to the so-called Nordic model where buyers of sex are prosecuted. CARE for Scotland was influential in persuading the SNP to adopt this official policy.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on commercial sexual exploitation, Ms Bindel said that “allowing the bodies of women to be sold as a commercial transaction” was the same as “the slave trade which we abolished 200 years ago.”

Is buying sex illegal in the UK?

Criminal law is devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland and so there are some differences in the specific laws on prostitution in the UK.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where the purchase of sex is currently illegal. Since the law was introduced there have been some successful prosecutions

Last year there were calls at Westminster for the Government to change the law in England and Wales.

Growing number of countries where buying sex is illegal

There is a growing number of countries where laws to criminalise the purchase of sex have been introduced, including Sweden (1999), Canada (2014), Iceland (2009), The Republic of Ireland (2017), France (2016), Israel (2018) and Norway (2009).

Reports in both Norway and Sweden have identified the following positive effects of introducing a sex buying ban:

  1. Reduced amount of on-street prostitution

  2. Reduced number of men saying they have purchased sexual services

  3. The Police report deterrent effects on trafficking and organised crime involvement in prostitution

CARE’s view

CARE strongly believes in the importance of criminalising the purchase of sex as a proven means of protecting vulnerable people in prostitution and helping to reduce human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.

Read more

Our CARE for Scotland Director Stuart Weir argues in this article that it should be human right to not be in prostitution

In this article, Stuart says a Good Society addresses prostitution

A new campaign recently launched in the Netherlands to criminalise the purchase of sex – given the Netherland’s infamously lax prostitution laws, this is hugely significant


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