Earlier this month, Zero Tolerance submitted a response to Jean Urquhart MSP’s consultation on reforming Scottish law. She is proposing a Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) bill, which would in effect lead to the ‘New Zealand model’ of full decriminalisation of the sex industry.
We welcome Jean Urquhart’s proposal to decriminalise the selling of sex. That has been the position of women’s equality organisations in Scotland for many years, and we have actively lobbied for that in previous policy consultations. We also welcome a conversation about the safety of women (and men) involved in prostitution, and how this issue affects individuals and society.
However, we are fundamentally opposed to the the proposals to enact a 'New Zealand model' of full decrimininalisation. We see prostitution as a form of violence against women and children and a huge barrier to full gender equality. The Scottish Government has also described it as such in the ‘Equally Safe’ VAW strategy. Full decriminalisation of sex-buyers would be very damaging to gender equality – and such negative implications can’t be mitigated, as the core of the proposal is to enshrine in law a system of exploitation which is rooted in, and thrives on, gender inequality.
Prostitution is a deeply gendered issue; yet the debate around prostitution too often makes men who have power, privilege and free choices invisible, whilst pitting women against each other, creating an undue focus on how much individual women ‘chose’ to be involved. But prostitution is not individual – it is structural. If the current debate achieves anything, it ought to bring the men who buy sex out of the shadows and ask why they think it is acceptable. If that is our starting point for law reform, there may be a very different outcome to what is currently being proposed.
To read our full consultation response, please click here.
To read our most recent blog post on prostitution law reform, please click here.