My response to the proposal to criminalize the purchase of sexual services in Scotland.

Dear Rhoda Grant

I am writing to register my objection to your proposals to criminalize the purchase of sex in Scotland.

If the reason behind this proposal is a desire to help sex workers it is precisely the wrong approach.

The report that was recently released by Norway’s Pro Sentret show that the sex purchase ban has not reduced the amount of violence sex workers in Oslo experience, in fact it may actually have increased it.

This report points out various changes the market has been characterized by in recent years. It ascertains that the number of respondents that are exposed to violence in prostitution has not decreased. The numbers are if anything pointing in the opposite direction. In the 2007/08 survey 52% of participants reported experiencing violence in the course of their career in prostitution. In the 2012 survey 59% report violent experiences in prostitution in the last three years.
(Dangerous Liaisons: Section 5.2)

And despite claims that the sex purchase ban has been a resounding success in Sweden this is not backed up by the available evidence.

Even the official Swedish evaluation admits that:

When it comes to indoor prostitution in which contact is made at restaurants, hotels, sex clubs or massage parlors, the available information on the extent to which this occurs is limited. We have not been able to find any in-depth studies of these forms of prostitution in the past decade.
(The 2010 official evaluation)

And while the evaluation claims that the sex purchase ban acts as barrier to human trafficking a press release that was issued only months before the release of the evaluation said:

Serious organized crime, including prostitution and trafficking, has increased in strength, power and complexity during the past decade. It constitutes a serious social problem in Sweden and organized crime makes large amounts of money from the exploitation and trafficking of people under slave-like conditions.
National Police Board press release March 2010

The proposal also ignores the model for sex work that is internationally recognized as best practice for harm-prevention. New Zealand and New South Wales(Australia) have effectively decriminalized sex work. Despite claims made by sex work prohibitionists that this would lead to an increase of abuse this is not what has been observed in either New Zealand or New South Wales.

In New Zealand it was found that:

Despite the perception that most sex workers are coerced into entering the sex industry, only a very small number of sex workers reported being made to work by someone else at the time of entry and after (an average of 3.9% across the three sectors).
(Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee on the Operation of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003: pg. 15)

And the LASH report said:

Since the legal reforms in 1979 sex workers in NSW have had no use for pimps. Notably, the LASH study found no evidence that any of the women had been coerced into working in a brothel.
(The Sex Industry in New South Wales: pg. 22)

Decriminalization is endorsed by UNAIDS and sex workers rights organizations around the world.

In the report “Sex Work And The Law In Asia And The Pacific” UNAIDS states:

The UNAIDS Advisory Group on Sex Work has noted that there is no evidence that ‘end demand’ initiatives reduce sex work or HIV transmission, or improve the quality of life of sex workers.
(Sex Work And The Law In Asia And The Pacific: Executive Summary, p. 2)

And UNAIDS recommends:

Laws that criminalize sex work and the sex industry should be reviewed, taking into account the adverse impact of these laws on public health and the human rights of sex workers. To enable sex workers to fully enjoy legal rights to health and safety at work requires decriminalization. Decriminalization of sex work requires the repeal of:
a. laws explicitly criminalizing sex work or clients of sex workers;
b. laws that criminalize activities associated with sex work, including removal of offences relating to: soliciting; living on the earnings of sex work; procuring; pimping; the management and operation of brothels; and promoting or advertising services;
c. laws that require mandatory HIV or STI testing or treatment of sex workers;
d. laws that authorize the compulsory detention of sex workers for the purpose of re-education, rehabilitation or correction.
(Sex Work And The Law In Asia And The Pacific: Executive Summary, pg. 7)

“(ii) Recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law (2012)
Countries must:
1. Repeal laws that prohibit consenting adults to buy or sell sex, as well as laws that otherwise prohibit commercial sex, such as laws against ‘immoral’ earnings, ‘living off the earnings’ of prostitution and brothel-keeping. Complementary legal measures must be taken to ensure safe working conditions to sex workers.
2. Take all measures to stop police harassment and violence against sex workers.
(Sex Work And The Law In Asia And The Pacific: Executive Summary, pg. 34)

In a joint briefing paper on the Swedish model the sex workers rights organizations the Scarlet Alliance(Australia) and the Rose Alliance(Sweden) state that:

Sex workers in Sweden oppose the laws that have criminalised their workplaces.
Sex workers in Australia oppose such laws being implemented in Australia.
Sex workers globally oppose these laws.
(The Swedish Model of criminalising sex work since 1999 – Briefing Paper)

The proposal also depends heavily on a paper released by Melissa Farley, but Farley is a very controversial figure that has been extensively criticized.

The evidence she presented at the Canadian Supreme Court was found to not meet the standards set by Canadian courts for the admission of expert evidence.

Justice Himel said that “Accordingly, for these reasons, I assign less weight to Dr. Farley’s evidence.“ (Bedford v. Canada, 2010, [356])

The paper referenced in the proposal(“Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland: A Research Report Based on Interviews with 110 Men Who Bought Women in Prostitution”) has been lambasted for it’s unethical approach and its pervasive bias.

The interviewers in Farley’s study were drawn from a group with strong prejudices against men who buy sexual services, and it failed to meet even basic scientific standards as it had no control group.

There is also a pending complaint filed against Farley at the American Psychological Association, the complaint accuses Farley of gross misconduct and unethical behavior.

As stated in the complaint:

I believe that because of these breaches, Dr Farley should be removed from the membership of the APA.
Calum Bennachie

If this proposal is turned into policy it will not eradicate sex work, it will simply force it further underground and lead to untold harm. We need to focus on harm-prevention and empowerment of sex workers, and most importantly politicians and society in general need to respect and listen to sex workers.

There are many issues with this proposal and they are explored in further depth in my full response in the attached PDF document.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Larson

Full PDF: Submission the Scottish Consultation