The Scottish Government is currently consulting on how to reduce men's demand for prostitution.
We strongly welcome this consultation. In order to reduce demand for prostitution it is vital that the Scottish Government updates the law to criminalise paying for sex. Victims of sexual exploitation should also be decriminalised and provided with support and exiting services. France, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Iceland, Israel and Norway have all adopted this approach - because to stop the exploitation, we have to stop the demand.
We encourage everyone who wants to tackle the demand that drives sexual exploitation to respond to this consultation. It's simple to participate - and we have provided some guidance and background information below.
Consultation title: Equally Safe: A consultation on challenging men's demand for prostitution, working to reduce the harms associated with prostitution and helping women to exit
Deadline for submissions: Thursday 10th December 2020
Maximum word count: No maximum
Who can submit to the consultation: Anyone
How to participate in the consultation: Submit written answers to some or all of the nine consultation questions.
Where to submit your answers
There are three ways you can submit your answers:
Submit your answers online: Go to https://consult.gov.scot/violence-against-women-team/equally-safe-reduce-harms-associated-prostitution/; click on ‘Begin consultation’ at the bottom of the page; then click on the page links under ‘Consultation Contents’. The text boxes where you can enter your answers are towards the bottom of each page.
Send your answers by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Post a paper copy of your answers to: Violence against Women and Girls and Barnahus Justice Unit, Scottish Government, GWR St Andrew’s House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG
NB: If submitting your answers via email or post you need to complete and attach the Respondent Information Form. The form is available here (click on 'Supporting files'). You will automatically be asked to complete this form if you submit via the web link above.
Background information to consultation questions
There are nine consultation questions. You do not have to answer them all. We have provided background information in relation to questions on tackling demand below.
Question 1: Do you agree or disagree that the Scottish Government's approach to tackling prostitution, as outlined in this section, is sufficient to prevent violence against women and girls?
We fully support the Scottish Government’s recognition of prostitution as a form of violence against women – and its focus on preventing this violence. However, we disagree that the Scottish Government’s approach is currently sufficient to prevent violence against women and girls because it does not include sufficient legislative mechanisms to prevent demand for prostitution, hold third-party exploiters to account and enable victims of sexual exploitation to exit and rebuild their lives. Specifically, the approach is insufficient because it does not prohibit paying for sex, it does not comprehensively prohibit enabling or profiting from someone else’s prostitution, and it criminalises victims of sexual exploitation via penalties for soliciting to sell sex.
Question 3: Which of the policy approaches (or aspects of these) outlined in Table 3.1 do you believe is most effective in preventing violence against women and girls?
The policy approach most effective in preventing prostitution and sex trafficking - which are forms of violence against women and girls - has four core components:
Paying for sexual access to another person’s body is criminalised.
Selling sexual access to one’s own body is decriminalised. This entails removing the offence of soliciting to sell sex.
Third-party enabling and/or profiting from the prostitution of another person is criminalised. This includes pimping, brothel-keeping and hosting online advertisements for prostitution.
Support and exiting services are provided for victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
This approach, referred to here as demand reduction legislation, has a normative objective: to change attitudes underpinning sex-buying behaviour by reducing the social acceptability of paying for sex, while also increasing the perceived and actual risk for those considering engaging in this crime.
Demand reduction legislation has been adopted by France, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, Israel and Northern Ireland. The approach was first adopted in Sweden in 1999, affording over two decades of evidence of its effectiveness in reducing demand, changing public attitudes and making the country less attractive to sex traffickers – and thereby preventing violence against women and girls. This evidence is highlighted below.
Research on the scale of demand in Sweden reveals that it has significantly decreased since Sweden criminalised paying for sex. Surveys conducted in 1996 and 2008 found that the proportion of men who reported paying for sex reduced from 13% to 8% (1). The most recent research on prevalence rates found that 7.5% of men had paid for sex. Just 0.8% of these men had paid for sex in the previous 12 months - the smallest proportion recorded in two decades and the lowest level in Europe (2).
An analysis in 2011 of the size of Sweden’s sex trade found that the number of people involved in prostitution was approximately a tenth of the size Denmark’s prostitution population - where paying for sex is legal. This was despite Sweden having 3.8 million more inhabitants than Denmark (3).
A review published by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security in 2014 to assess the impact of demand reduction legislation in Norway found the prostitution market had shrunk. Systematic field observations of the street prostitution market in Oslo reveal it has reduced by 40%-65% since the legislation was adopted (4).
Significant changes in public attitudes in Sweden relating to paying for sex have been detected since demand reduction legislation was adopted. In 1996, prior to the law’s adoption, 45% of women and 20% of men in Sweden expressed support for criminalising paying for sex. By 2008, support for this legal principle had risen to 79% among women and 60% among men. The most recent statistics reported by the Stockholm County Administration in 2015 revealed that 85% of women and 60% of men (72% overall) were in favour of the law criminalising the purchase of sex (5).
Research published by the European Commission on Sweden’s law criminalising paying for sex and decriminalising selling sex, documented in the report, ‘Study on the gender dimension of trafficking in human beings’, concluded: “all of the evidence assessed [here] shows a direction of travel in which demand has been reduced, and the scale of the Swedish sex market corralled at minimum, and shrunk at best.”…“Credence can also be afforded to the claims that the law has curtailed the growth of the sex industry, which is considerably smaller than that in neighbouring countries with smaller populations and compared with many other EU Member States. This, alongside pro-active policing, has created a less conducive context for trafficking... Through a process of change that combines normative shifts, sanctions, and pro-active law enforcement Sweden has begun to reduce demand within its anti-trafficking strategy.” (6)
In 2010 the Committee of Inquiry to Evaluate the Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services, a Government- appointed committee headed by Sweden’s Chancellor of Justice, published an evaluation of Sweden’s legislative approach. It states: "According to the Swedish Police, it is clear that the ban on the purchase of sexual services acts as a barrier to human traffickers and procurers who are considering establishing themselves in Sweden." (7)
A review published by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security in 2014 into the impact of demand reduction legislation concluded: “A reduced market and increased law enforcement posit larger risks for human traffickers…The law has thus affected important pull factors and reduced the extent of human trafficking in Norway in comparison to a situation without a law.” (8)
A study on rates of sex trafficking in European countries found that sex trafficking was most prevalent in nations with legalised prostitution regimes. The researchers observed: “Case studies of two countries (Norway and Sweden) that have criminalized buying sex support the possibility of a causal link from harsher prostitution laws to reduced trafficking.” (9)
A cross-sectional analysis of up to 150 countries found that trafficking flows are larger into countries where prostitution is legal (10). The study’s quantitative empirical analysis was corroborated by case studies of Sweden, Denmark and Germany.
Question 4: What measures would help to shift the attitudes of men relating to the purchase of sex? Do you have any examples of good practice either in a domestic or an international context?
Criminalising paying for sex is vital to shifting the attitudes of men relating to the purchase of sex and, crucially, changing their behaviour and reducing incidences of commercial sexual exploitation.
The majority of men in Scotland do not pay for sex. Just 4% of men in Scotland have paid for sex in the previous five years (11). For the minority who do pay for sex, this behaviour entails an active decision-making process; it does not represent a ‘loss of control’.
Demand for prostitution is context-dependent. Prevalence rates of paying for sex vary over time and place (12). For instance, surveys of 11,000 adults conducted in 1990 and 2000 found that the number of men in the UK who pay for sex doubled from one in 20 to nearly one in 10 men (13). A study by researchers at the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU) at London Metropolitan University on men who pay for sex concluded: “The data from this project demonstrates that men who pay for sex are diverse in terms of their demographics, circumstances and attitudes - neither socio-culturally deviant nor ‘everyman’; their decision-making processes are located within dominant discourses of gendered sexual mores and local availability of women who sell sex.” (14)
A significant factor in the level of demand for prostitution, and the size of sex trades overall, is the legality of paying for sex and activities relating to it. In an analysis by CWASU of prostitution regimes in nine countries, the researchers observed: “Studies of men who have paid for sex in other countries (Coy et al, 2007; McLeod et al, 2008) suggest that both legalisation and visibility affect decision-making: both increase the likelihood that men will purchase sex.” (15) A study by the University of Leicester published in 2018 asked over 1200 sex buyers the following question: ‘Would you change your behaviour if a law was introduced that made it a crime to pay for sex?’ Over half of the respondents said they would "definitely", "probably" or "possibly" change their behaviour (16). A separate study of men who pay for sex in the UK found: “More than three-quarters of interviewees acknowledged that greater criminal penalties would deter them from paying for sex” (17).
Available evidence suggests that attempting to shift the attitudes and behaviour of men who pay for sex solely by raising awareness of the possibility that the woman being paid for may have been trafficked or coerced would be an ineffective and inadequate deterrent measure. An international study on tackling demand for sex trafficking concluded: “irrespective of a buyers’ knowledge of human trafficking as a crime and as a phenomenon, it is unlikely that they will consider the possibility that a seller may be a victim of trafficking when purchasing sex.” (18) Similarly, an international study on disrupting demand reported: “Patterns of demand and the attitudes displayed by buyers in the six Member States reflect international research which consistently indicates a commodified and consumerist perspective, with buyers expressing a strong sense of entitlement as consumers to have one’s sexual demands met once payment has been made (Coy, Horvath and Kelly, 2007; MacLeod, Farley, Anderson and Golding, 2008; O’Connell Davidson, 1998). The primary concern of buyers is to have their sexual needs met; they are unlikely to be discerning or concerned about the means through which women entered prostitution, the circumstances they are currently in or whether they are coerced or trafficked.” (19)
1) M. Waltman, 'Sweden’s prohibition of purchase of sex: The law’s reasons, impact, and potential', Women’s Studies International Forum 34 (2011): 449-474.
2) Study on the gender dimension of trafficking in human beings, European Commission, European Union, 2016.
3) M. Waltman, 'Sweden’s prohibition of purchase of sex: The law’s reasons, impact, and potential', Women’s Studies International Forum 34 (2011): 449-474; Behind closed doors: organised sexual exploitation in England and Wales, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade, 2018.
4) Evaluering av forbudet mot kjøp av seksuelle tjenester, Rapport nummer 2014/30, VISTA ANALYSE.
5) M. Waltman, 'Sweden’s prohibition of purchase of sex: The law’s reasons, impact, and potential', Women’s Studies International Forum 34 (2011): 449-474; Study on the gender dimension of trafficking in human beings, European Commission, European Union, 2016.
6) Study on the gender dimension of trafficking in human beings, European Commission, European Union, 2016, p.139.
7) Selected extracts of the Swedish government report SOU 2010:49: “The Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services. An evaluation 1999-2008”, Swedish Institute, November 2010, p. 9.
8) Evaluering av forbudet mot kjøp av seksuelle tjenester, Rapport nummer 2014/30, VISTA ANALYSE, p.14.
9) N. Jakobsson & A. Kotsadam, 'The law and economics of international sex slavery: prostitution laws and trafﬁcking for sexual exploitation', European Journal of Law and Economics, 35 (1) (2013): 87-107, p.87.
10) S-Y. Cho, A. Dreher & E. Neumayer, 'Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?', World Development, 41 (1) (2013): 67-82.
11) Natsal-3: Key findings from Scotland, January 2015.
12) Behind closed doors: organised sexual exploitation in England and Wales, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade, 2018.
13) 'Twice as many men' pay for sex, BBC News, 1/12/05.
14) ʻItʼs just like going to the supermarketʼ: Men buying sex in East London, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University, 2007, p.25.
15) L. Kelly, M. Coy & R. Davenport, 'Shifting Sands: A Comparison of Prostitution Regimes Across Nine Countries', report, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University, 2009, p.38.
16) Sanders, T. et al (2018) 'Beyond the Gaze: Briefing on Customers who Buy Sex Online', University of Leicester.
17) Men Who Buy Sex: Who they are and what they know, Eaves, 2009, p.26.
18) Stop Traffick! Tackling Demand for Sexual Services of Trafficked Women and Girls, Immigrant Council of Ireland, 2014, p.68.
19) Comparative Report: Disrupt Demand, Immigrant Council of Ireland, 2018, p.19.