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Violence against women Report calls for reform of sex trade law

Scotland reporter

PROSTITUTION, trafficking and violence against women can be reduced by a change in the law, according to a new report.

A Model for Scotland — an alliance seeking to reform of Scotland’s laws around sexual exploitation — published a new study yesterday that examined experiences of a shift to a demand-cutting model around the world.

The International Insights report looked at the effects of a shift in criminal responsibility from the abused to abuser and how clampdowns on websites once used for sex trafficking, such as Craigslist and Backpages, could have on the welfare of women.

The launch, hosted by Ruth Maguire MSP, co-convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on commercial sexual exploitation, heard from speakers from the US, Ireland and Iceland.

They said that the challenges involved included tackling entrenched attitudes and in some cases well-funded political lobbies.

Taina Bien-Aime, executive director at Coalition Against Trafficking in Women in the US, told the launch that a 2018 law preventing websites being used for sex trafficking faced a series of legal challenges funded by “a large pro-prostitution lobby” as well as “big tech,” which, while unsuccessful in the courts, had made the task of educating on the subject far greater. 

Resistance against changes in the law was of a more subtle nature in Iceland however, according to Drifa Snaedal of Stigamot, a support centre for women who have endured sexual violence.

“Even the chief of police, who is a feminist, has said that everything leaks from the police except the names of buyers,” she said.

“That’s the patriarchy looking after itself, and shows the power of men looking out for other men in the system.”

Mia de Faoite, a survivor of sexual exploitation who played a key role in the successful Turn Off the Red Light campaign for legal reform in Ireland, said police training was vital.

She added: “We’re in a much better place than we were when I walked off the street.

“When you put human rights of the vulnerable first and when people come together, good things happen.”

Presenting the report, UK Feminista’s Nina Humphries said she hoped the worldwide experiences in the report would “inspire, inform and give confidence to the Scottish government as it develops prostitution policy.”

Victims and Community Safety Minister Siobhian Brown said: “Commercial sex exploitation must be challenged wherever it takes place.“We have been working with a range of partners on a framework, to be published in the new year, that will challenge men’s demand for prostitution and support those affected.”

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