This week a Scottish Labour politician, Rhonda Grant, has been trying to push through an outright ban on prostitution in Scotland.
It is difficult to believe that someone who has the power to influence legislative decisions about the issue may try to fast track a law without a real, solid, lengthy, inclusive public debate.
At the moment buying or selling sex is not illegal in the UK, but things like street soliciting, loitering and kerb crawling are.
Grant wants the purchase of sex to become illegal but MSPs have knocked back her request to fast track the bill, saying they will consider it through the proper channels over the coming months.
On Tuesday Grant said “My proposal will make the purchase of sex illegal in Scotland, with the aim of reducing the demand for prostitution”.
Will this decrease prostitution, sex trafficking? Is there evidence to suggest this? If so is Grant going to let us in on the facts that she has based her proposal on?
Most sex workers’ support groups have reacted by saying an outright ban will only serve to divide and marginalize sex workers, force the issue even further underground and increase the vulnerability of those involved.
A ban is not necessarily the answer. Certainly not without also putting support systems in place such as increased education, public awareness campaigns, free health checks, support for substance abusers, dealing with social exclusion and money earning bias relating to gender, help with poverty and social mobility etc.
Lots of people agree that the purchase of sex should be illegal, while selling it should not be illegal. So the onus of risk is on the client and not the vulnerable sex workers.
This intuitively seems to make sense, but campaigns like “Turn Off the Blue Light” in Ireland (made in response to “Turn Off the Red Light”) propose that it’s just not that simple.
Some support groups have also pointed out that when a zero tolerance policy was introduced in the Leith area of Edinburgh the number of violent attacks against sex workers increased quite dramatically.
It’s not a straight forward, one click issue. Legalisation may not be the answer either, but let’s talk it out and listen to the people who work in the industry.
Sickeningly Spain has just announced a suggestion from parliament to lift the ban on advertising for prostitutes and brothels, to make some money while the country is in crisis.
The economic situation around the world certainly means more prostitution, more gender violence, more rape, more vice in general. At this time we need to help, support and strengthen women and women’s rights.
Yet it is always the least powerful who get the short end of the stick when the proverbial stuff hits the fan.