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

Some thoughts on the Swedish model and a translation of “Farlige Forbindelser”.

I have written a translation of the paper “Farlige Forbindelser” by Pro Sentret.

Dangerous Liaisons

“59% of the participants in the investigation from 2012 said they had been the exposed to
violence in prostitution after the sex purchase law was introduced.”
If you are under the impression that the Swedish model protects sex workers this report will hopefully disabuse you of that notion.

An important point made in the report is that due to the fact that some clients have been scared off by the new law  sex work in Norway is a buyers market.

This result should have been obvious to everyone before the law was passed of course.

The prohibitionists claim that no one would voluntarily choose sex work, that sex workers have no other options.

But if that is true(and for some it probably is) then scaring off the clients will not lead to fewer sex workers, it will lead to sex workers that are more desperate.

Sex workers that will take more risk. That will accept clients they aren’t comfortable with and perform sexual services that they would previously have refused(like sex without a condom).

In a buyers market the terms are set by the clients, not the sex workers.

The clients have more power, not less.

Additionally the clients that are most likely to be scared off by criminalization are the ones that generally follow the law.

In other words not the kind of person that assaults sex workers.

People who think that abusing and exploiting sex workers is an acceptable thing to do generally aren’t too worried about breaking the law.

The result is that the client base in Norway has a higher proportion of violent clients after the sex purchase ban was introduced.

Again this should be obvious to anyone who took some time to think about the issues logically and rationally.

It seems clear that this law is not intended to protect sex workers.

The introduction of this law was fueled by moral outrage(and racism), not about violence against sex workers, but outrage at the fact that sex workers exist.

Operation “Husløs” shows that quite clearly.

In Norway it is illegal to rent out property that is used for sex work.

This means that sex workers who work from home will rarely contact the police because they might get thrown out of their apartments.

This obviously makes sex workers more vulnerable.

It also means that landlords will not rent to people they think might be a sex worker, which makes it difficult for sex workers to find a place to live.

Sometimes this means sex workers have to find a third party to rent on their behalf, this makes sex workers more vulnerable to exploitation because they depend on a third party.

The sex purchase ban has also reinforced the hatred that many people have for sex workers, they are seen as criminals despite the fact that they are not.

In Norway sex workers are seen as a dangerous and disruptive element in society.

The point of this law is not to make sex workers safer, it is to push them as far from public view as possible.

The majority of sex workers were either opposed to the ban or they were indifferent.

74% of the sex workers who participated in the 2007/2008 survey said that they believed their vulnerability to violence would change.

Of these 90% said that they believed they would become more vulnerable if the sex purchase ban was passed.

They were, of course, ignored.

The people at the center of this debate have no say in what policies are passed to “protect” them.

They are not only ignored, but silenced.

The prohibitionists are quick to accuse any sex workers who oppose criminalization as “not representative” or even as “pimps”.

One wonders what makes people who overwhelmingly have no experience whatsoever with sex work qualified to determine which sex workers are representative .

I really wish Norwegian sex workers were more organized and outspoken, although I understand why most aren’t.

Coming out as a sex worker is not only scary but potentially dangerous.

But I believe that organizing and presenting a unified front against the lies spread by prohibitionists like Ruhama and “Turn of the Red Light” is the only way things will get better for sex workers.

This is why I have the utmost respect for sex workers like Laura Lee and @pastachips.

I hope their example will inspire more sex workers to do the same.