A new campaign to stamp out prostitution in Scotland by targeting those who purchase sex was launched yesterday.
Glasgow City Council is behind the End Prostitution Now campaign which is pushing for a change in the law to ensure there is “no hiding place for the pimps, punters and brothel keepers who prey upon others”.
The campaign features a series of hard hitting posters to raise awareness of the harmful effects of prostitution.
And for the first time the focus will be on men who purchase sex rather than the prostitutes themselves.
The posters show actors playing ordinary men in everyday situations, such as at work or a football match, reflecting on the consequences of using prostitutes.
One poster shows a dad with his son on his shoulders musing about how men can “go to a prostitute then still go home to their wife and family”.
A dedicated website endprostitutionnow.org has also gone live asking for public support for changes to the law.
Those behind the campaign say they will propose changes to new and existing legislation which would affect men who buy or seek to buy sex, those involved in arranging or advertising the sale of sex, and those who provide accommodation where the sale of sex takes place.
The bid is backed by MSPs, councillors, unions and faith groups.
Councillor James Coleman, Deputy Leader of Glasgow City Council, is leading this latest campaign and has been involved in fighting prostitution for ten years.
He said: “Prostitution is an appalling form of human exploitation. It blights the lives of those involved, their families and the communities where this awful trade takes place.
“Tackling demand is the key to this issue. It is demand which fuels the vicious cycle of sexual exploitation that supplies vulnerable people in to the sex industry.
Mr Coleman said that recent legislation to tackle kerb crawling “went some way to address demand, but it left significant gaps”.
He announced: “The amendments we propose will extend the reach of the law so there is no hiding place for the pimps, punters and brothel keepers who prey upon others.
“By legislating against demand we will be sending a clear message that people are no longer for sale in this way.
“It is time to assign responsibility where it belongs, with the buyers of sex, and to end prostitution now.”
The basis of the campaign is a proposed amendment to section 72 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill, which is currently before the Scottish Parliament.
If successful the amendment would force the closure of premises involved in the “facilitation of the sale of sexual services”.
An amendment to the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 would then be used to create and define the offence of “facilitation of the sale of sexual services”.
If accepted Scotland would become one of Europe’s toughest legislators on prostitution.
Trish Godman MSP, who is tabling the amendments, said: “We believe these amendments present a simple but devastatingly effective means of challenging demand for prostitution.
“Introducing these amendments as law would ensure that anyone involved in the purchase, marketing or facilitation of sexual services would be criminalised whether these acts took place on the street or indoors.
She continued: “Every shred of evidence indicates that prostitution is inherently harmful.
“It is incredible that something which so clearly breaches an individual’s right to dignity, equality, respect and physical and mental well-being has gone unhindered for so long.
“We must end prostitution now and these amendments will give us the power to make that happen.”
Ann Hamilton, Head of Equalities and Women’s Services within Glasgow Community and Safety Services, said the campaign was not only about criminalising men who buy sex but also changing attitudes.
She said: “It will put out the message that if you are buying sex, you are doing something anti-social and harmful that is also against the law”.
“This isn’t just about fining and imprisoning the men who buy sex, it is about making a change in public perception about right and wrong”, she added.
Kerb crawling in Scotland is a criminal offence but it is still legal to pay for sex in a brothel or massage parlour.
Research shows that nine out of ten prostitutes surveyed would like to leave prostitution. Over 50 per cent of women in prostitution admitted to having been raped and/or seriously sexually assaulted and at least 75 per cent have been physically assaulted.