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Sex workers accuse MSP Rhoda Grant of locking them out of Holyrood meeting on Purchase of Sex Bill

Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation says campaign group Scot-Pep excluded because meeting was not forum for discussing criminalisation 'pros and cons'

Sex workers accused an MSP yesterday who plans to criminalise their clients of locking them out of a Holyrood meeting on the issue.

Labour backbencher Rhoda Grant was due to meet organisations and other MSPs yesterday to discuss her private member’s Bill that would make it a criminal offence to pay for sex.

But grass-roots group Scot-Pep members said they had been barred from the meeting.

The charity, which represents sex workers but not management of massage parlors and escort services, has publicly opposed the move, saying that clients who fear arrest will make it more difficult for sex workers to safely screen them.

Board member Neil McCulloch said: “Disastrous as this legislation would prove in Scotland, going by the international evidence, we nevertheless sought to play a constructive role in discussions and we are shocked to have been excluded entirely.

“It can’t be right for a politician to try to work in this way without even wanting to hear the voices of the people most directly affected,” he said.

Sex worker Cat agreed.

“It’s outrageous to hold a meeting to discuss sex work and to specifically exclude sex workers and sex-worker-led organisations,” she said.

The Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation’s Janneke Lewis said that the meeting with Ms Grant was “not a forum to debate the pros and cons of the criminalisation of the purchase of sex.”

Ms Grant said the meeting was “for those who support the principles of criminalising the purchase of sex.” She would be happy to meet with Scot-Pe’s representatives separately, she added.

In 2012 Ms Grant sought to fast-track her Purchase of Sex Bill without public consultation but the motion was rejected.

The snub follows reports from the charity earlier this month that police in Glasgow on a new door-knocking exercise were engaging in “raids in disguise.”

Police have said the unnanounced “welfare visits” under Operation Lingle are “categorically not about criminalising sex workers.”

Under current law trading sex for money is legal but outlawed brothels are defined as premises where two or more sex workers do business. The fear is that off-street sex workers who shared a flat for safety’s sake could risk arrest as a result of the visits.


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