WOMEN from all over Scotland will gather this weekend to discuss issues around the purchase of sex, and violence against women and girls.
The Women for Sale? conference, focussing on the criminalisation of buying sex, is organised by the Scottish Women’s Convention (SWC) and will address questions such as: “Does a woman wake up in the morning and choose to sell her body? Or is she forced?” Key speakers will be former MSP and deputy presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament Trish Godman, Linda Thompson of the Women’s Support Project and Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant.
The SWC believes not enough focus is on the men who purchase sex and women are influenced by the men who continue to dominate the sex trade.
It also highlighted the role of social media in the exploitation of women, including revenge porn and highly sexualised images of women. Agnes Tolmie, SWC Chair, said: “Recently the dialogue around this subject has been moving towards one of sex work as a choice for women. As an organisation, it is our position that prostitution is a form of violence against women and is a consequence of gender inequality.”
The SWC said the current lack of legislation criminalising the purchaser of sex allows a degree of “invisible man protection” and believes attitudes such as “men have needs” and “boys will be boys” are perpetuated as those who buy sex are at present not accountable in the eyes of the law.
The convention said criminalising the purchaser also has potential to reduce demand and prostitution is a significant barrier to gender equality.
An SWC spokeswoman said: “Without legislation which criminalises the purchaser, women will continue to be subjected to exploitation and wider inequalities. The criminalisation of the purchase of sex would be a real opportunity to advance equality in Scotland and to send a clear message to future generations that prostitution is harmful to society as a whole.”
Grant said she had proposed in parliament to criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland but it didn’t receive enough votes.
She said: “I am in total agreement with the Scottish Government’s Violence against Women Strategy which recognises prostitution and sexual exploitation as violence against women.
“To do this we need a three pronged approach; decriminalisation of those who are exploited in prostitution; criminalising the purchase of sex and support for those who have been exploited to help them find alternatives and to deal with the problems that brought them into prostitution and the problems caused by their exploitation.
Thompson, of the Women’s Support Project, said she was happy to hear from those directly involved in the sex industry.
She added: “We see opportunities for discussion on the issue of how Scotland reduces the harm and impact of prostitution as vital.
“We are very happy to be sharing the experiences of those directly involved in the sex industry in Scotland.