Dear Ms. Grant MSP,
I am writing to you today regarding your proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland. I hope this email can help you to open your eyes, change your heart, your mind and your proposal. I have highlighted below the questions I felt were properly answerable.
I am a private individual. I recently obtained my Criminology Masters from University College Cork and one of the areas that I studied was Prostitution. I wrote about and analysed whether or not it should be legalised. I honestly approached this topic weighing more on the ‘no’ side as I was under the impression from certain groups here in Ireland, that prostitution itself was wrong, the people involved were in it as a last resort and were being abused and trafficked. In researching this topic with an open mind, every view I held was challenged and overcome. I am now firmly in favour of legalising sex work and using all available resources to tackle the scourge that is illegal human trafficking. The two areas unfortunately are currently interlinked, but not as much as some NGO’s would like you to believe. I believe that with proper regulation, supervision and employment services, sex workers can openly contribute to society and the scourge of human trafficking can be tackled. I will attempt to answer some of the questions in your proposal while providing you with evidence from my research that shows the Swedish model of criminalising the buyer does not work.
. Q1: Do you support the general aim of the proposed Bill? Please indicate “yes/no/undecided” and explain the reasons for your response.
I do not support the aim of the proposed Bill. Criminalising the purchaser of sex services only makes the provision of these services more difficult. This Bill will not make sex workers disappear, the provision of sex services will not go away. All that will happen is that those who are involved in sex work will be made more vulnerable and will be forced to accept unsafe working conditions and sexual practices due to the very nature of Police evidence compilation. Condoms, lubes etc. are used as evidence in cases of sex purchasing in Sweden and Norway. The sex workers who I write about in this email will have the recognisable faces of the people we know. “Their circumstances may be different from our own but they are ordinary people living ordinary lives – the fact of their buying or selling sex is part of those lives rather than the defining characteristic of them.” (McKeganey et al. 1996: 1-2) Is prostitution actually a crime Ms. Grant? What harm do sex workers do to society? If it is your morals motivating you to propose this Bill – I will point out that it is not a crime to be unchaste Ms. Grant. I ask why is it a crime when two consenting adults conduct a business transaction for sex? In a sample of interviews with men in Glasgow, the overriding reason for buying sex was one of ease: “The attractions of prostitutes are that it’s easy. We both know what we want, there’s no charade. If I go to a club or something I have to work for it but with a prostitute it’s pure sex, no one’s kidding the other.” (McKeganey et al., 1996: 52) It is not a crime to go on a night out, spend money on a woman with the intention of sleeping with her. If two consenting adults conduct a business transaction for the purpose of a sexual act, why do you wish to criminalise the buyer?
It seems that two major groups have been established. On one side, ‘sex work’ liberals want to normalise prostitution and see it as just another form of employment which, however demeaning, is seen as being no better or worse than many other forms of service work which disadvantaged women engage in. The abolitionists and radical feminists, on the other side, claim that prostitution is a distinctively different form of activity than other types of service work and has damaging personal and social consequences.” (Matthews 2008: 136) What I am attempting to show is that the people who sell sex, their views and attitudes differ from the radical feminists and that people do decide to sell their bodies for sex – of their own free will. Prostitution like sex in general, is surrounded by myths, one of which is the belief that it always involves someone else; the woman who sells sex is never our mother, our daughter, or our sister but some anonymous other who is infinitely more desperate than those we love. Similarly the man who buys sex is never our father, brother, husband or boyfriend, but another whom we do not know and may not even wish to know.” (McKeganey et al. 1996: 1)
Sex work has a human face to it. Criminalising the buyers pushes sex work further into the underworld and makes everyone more vulnerable to the criminals you claim to be stopping.
. Q2: What do you believe would be the effects of legislating to criminalise the purchase of sex (as outlined above)? Please provide evidence to support your answer.
I believe the effects would be entirely negative. Sweden to the best of my knowledge, has not released a proper report into their criminalisation legislation. You have to go to Norway to get reports on the Swedish model. In 2004, a report by the Norwegian justice ministry “cited evidence of an ‘increased fear of attack’ among Swedish prostitutes, who found it harder to assess their clients because transactions had to be agreed hastily or on the telephone.” (The Economist, 2008) Skeptics have argued, indeed it has been widely reported in Sweden, that by “driving prostitution away from Sweden the authorities have simply exported it, sending sex-hungry Swedes to nearby countries or else to Thailand.” There was a report late last year in the Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet, that investigated the number of Swedes availing of cheap flights to places like Thailand to avail of sex. (www.aftonbladet.se; The Economist, 2008) Even in 2001, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern that “the Swedish legislation may have rendered prostitutes more vulnerable, and asked the Swedish Government to evaluate the effects of the law. (CEDAW 2001:79; cited from Bryngemark) The Swedish Parliament recently voted in favour of a proposal to undertake such an evaluation, but to my knowledge no investigation into the matter has been initiated as yet.” (Bryngemark, 2005: 50)
Following another investigation into the matter in 2010, Norway presented a Progress Report to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. It noted the following:
“Experience shows that it has become more difficult to have a good overview of and gain admittance to prostitution circles. In addition, it is reported that individual sex workers no longer want to carry condoms and lubricants out of fear that they will be used by the police as indicators of sale of sexual services. The support and health services for sex workers in Norway, describe increased vulnerability for sex workers. They argue that due to increased competition and greater stress on the market, sex workers are forced to offer clients e.g. unprotected sex. In addition, sex workers in escort services are forced to sell sex at the customer’s arena, which makes them more vulnerable to violence and abuse.” (Norwegian Ministry of Health cited through http://feministire.wordpress.com)
NGOs like Ruhama in Ireland who want the Swedish model implemented – (Ruhama are the main opposition to sex worker rights being established in Ireland and are also a powerful religious anti-sex work organisation. Ruhama is a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters, who have been ‘caring’ for Ireland’s ‘fallen women’ since 1848 and 1853 respectively. Please Google ‘Magdalene Laundries’ to see for yourself, the shining example of the care they provided Irish women) – they argue that another deterrent of this style of anti-prostitution law is that it would curtail the trafficking of women. On their website they say that prostitutes tend to be women who “were trafficked into prostitution in Ireland but a significant number were trafficked or prostituted into other countries but escaped to Ireland. Now while living here, they have sourced Ruhama for help” (Ruhama.ie) ‘In Whose Name?’ – the largest study of migrant sex workers in the UK to date raised a few issues. It argued that there is a climate of fear being created amongst sex workers due to increasing police activity that is driven by “hype and misinformation promoted by NGOs who are ideologically opposed to commercial sex.” (bbc.co.uk; 2011) This claim is backed by the rare voices of sex workers against the same campaign in Ireland. The Metro focused on the same study and reported “the majority of sex workers who were asked in a study say they prefer working in the sex industry to menial jobs where they are less likely to achieve such a good standard of living.” (The Metro, 2011)
Jesper Bryngemark is a lecturer in Law in Malmo. He argues that “one reason this law (criminalising the purchaser) became a reality in Sweden in the first place was that so few sex workers were ready to go public. Prostitution traditionally has been invisible in Sweden. Connected to this invisibility is the fact that the sex workers’ movement in Sweden is very, very weak. And feminism is very, very strong.” (Bryngemark, 2005: 49) Regarding the law, “a few reports have been written, although none of them meet acceptable scientific standards for methodology. Two Swedish official reports in 2000 and 2003, state that street prostitution appears to have decreased, but that no causal link can be drawn between this decrease and the law. The question, “What happened to the sex sellers who stopped working from the street?” is raised in both reports, but is left unanswered. According to the same reports, clandestine prostitution has increased since the law entered into force.” (Bryngemark, 2005: 50)
. Q3: Are you aware of any unintended consequences or loopholes caused by the offence? Please provide evidence to support your answer.
. Q4: What are the advantages or disadvantages in using the definitions outlined above?
. Q5: What do you think the appropriate penalty should be for the offence? Please provide reasons for your answer.
It should not be an offence. Prostitution and sex work should be legalised.
. Q6: How should a new offence provision be enforced? Are there any techniques which might be used or obstacles which might need to be overcome?
. Q7: What is your assessment of the likely financial implications of the proposed Bill to you or your organisation; if possible please provide evidence to support your view? What (if any) other significant financial implications are likely to arise?
Legalise sex work and the economic implications are entirely positive.
. Q8: Is the proposed Bill likely to have any substantial positive or negative implications for equality? If it is likely to have a substantial negative implication, how might this be minimised or avoided?
It creates massive inequality by not providing a safe work environment for sex workers. They will not stop working. They will only become inaccessible and invisible as Norway reported to the UN.