Annual Report 2006-07

In February 2007 the Scottish Parliament decided to ignore both the voices of sex workers and the Scottish Executive Expert Group on Prostitution, which had spent 18 months gathering information and evidence. A few brave MSPs chose to argue the case for sex workers' safety to be given priority - we thank Margo MacDonald, Iain Smith, Susan Deacon, Mark Ballard and the Green Party for their compassion and understanding. 

But 103 MSPs voted to criminalise clients of street based sex workers - despite the evidence from England that criminalising kerb crawling increases vulnerability and violence against sex workers. So as of 15 October 2007 sex workers will again pay a high price as Scotland’s politicians ignore the need to create safer working environments and choose “to send a strong and unequivocal message to those who attempt to purchase sex on our streets that kerb crawling will no longer be tolerated in a modern Scotland” (Tom McCabe MSP). However, the evidence from England clearly shows that tackling the demand for commercial sex through criminalising clients has not eradicated or significantly reduced street prostitution in England over the last two decades. We believe it is unlikely to succeed in Scotland - while it is a fact that 5 women were murdered in Ipswich in late 2006 after 6 months of zero tolerance of street prostitution. Yet Fergus Ewing MSP argued that “there is a strong moral case for making the purchase of sex a criminal offence in itself.”

How many more women must die before we consider the moral case for prioritising their safety and their right to equal protection from the law and from discrimination? The parliament also chose to ignore the recommendation to repeal the current offences criminalising street based sex workers despite Iain Smith MSP's reminder during the debate that "the practice of arresting women, fining them and, effectively, forcing them back on to the streets in order to raise the money to pay the fines makes no sense. That will not be changed by this legislation.” The failure of our government to tackle the actual violence experienced by sex workers and the on-going stigmatisation, scapegoating and marginalisation of sex workers and their clients requires society, and SCOT-PEP in particular, to maintain its essential purpose of delivering practical and emotional support and give voice to one of the most vulnerable and socially excluded communities in Scotland.