Jean Urquhart has urged the Scottish Government to resist religious calls to criminalize the purchase of sex.
36 religious leaders signed a letter to the First Minister demanding Scotland adopt the ‘Swedish model’ of making buying sex a criminal offence, but sex workers say such a move would put them in more danger while doing nothing to help eradicate trafficking.
The most up-to-date study on the law in Sweden, released this week, concludes that there is no evidence that it has reduced demand, and that it has only made sex workers more isolated, vulnerable and afraid.
“Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes there is, and eradicating it will take a serious response, drawing on the best evidence. This effort to piggyback a knee-jerk, moralising reaction onto vital human trafficking legislation is deeply unhelpful.
“The ‘Swedish model’ that the churches call for in their letter cannot demonstrate any success at all in reducing trafficking. What it does do is put sex workers at greater risk of violence and sexually transmitted infections, which is why sex workers and international health organisations alike oppose it.
“What would absolutely help protect both sex workers and migrant workers from coercion and mistreatment would be measures to guarantee their labour rights. The better supported and organized both groups are, the safer they will be and the easier it will be to detect and prosecute crimes like trafficking.”
“The Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, has offered to meet the authors of the letter to discuss the issue. I have written to him to ask that he also meet with sex workers themselves, as they are the people who have real experience of the situation and who will be those most at risk if the churches’ campaign were to succeed.”