Ruth Maguire MSP has welcomed a public consultation from the Scottish Government which is seeking views on options to challenge men’s demand for prostitution.

The consultation, which opens today, also asks for suggestions on what can be done to reduce the harms associated with prostitution, how to support women to find a way out of prostitution, and how the complex needs of women involved in prostitution can be better recognised in mainstream support.

Views are also being sought on how to raise awareness and promote positive attitudes among young people in relation to consent and healthy relationships.

Research conducted by the Scottish Government in 2017 highlighted a range of risks and adverse impacts associated with prostitution in the short and longer term in relation to general and mental health, safety and wellbeing and sexual health.

The SNP MSP said: “I am grateful that the Scottish Government is clear on its position that prostitution is a form of violence against women and, importantly, is considering a more robust approach to tackling male demand for prostituted women and girls.

“As long as our bodies are objectified, commodified and reduced to something to be bought and sold, used and traded, we will not have equality or justice and women and girls will continue to suffer violence.

“This consultation is an opportunity to create lasting change for young women and girls and curb commercial sexual exploitation in Scotland.”

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said: “The Scottish Government supports measures to help reduce the harms caused by prostitution. Scotland’s ‘Equally Safe ’strategy, co-owned with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, outlines our ambition for everyone to be equally safe and respected – where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse and the attitudes that perpetuate that.

“Men have a critical role in challenging violence, including reducing the demand for prostitution. It is vital that we break down gender norms, stand up to the normalisation of harmful behaviours and work together to achieve greater gender equality in our society – something which will benefit all of us, our families and communities.

“This is an opportunity for everyone with an interest and with insights to help inform future policy decisions about how we address this form of gendered violence, protect the human rights and dignity of women and improve their outcomes.”

Linda Thompson, on behalf of the Encompass Network, said: “We welcome this consultation for the opportunities it gives for discussion and exploration on how Scotland can improve consistent prevention, harm reduction and support for women involved along with clear approaches to support women who want to leave.

“We are pleased to note the framing of the consultation within wider inequalities with links with factors that push women towards this form of violence against women and girls.”

The European Parliament passed a resolution in 2014 which recognised that prostitution, forced prostitution and sexual exploitation are gendered issues, and violations of human dignity and human rights. Under the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the UK has agreed to take appropriate measures to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women. The Scottish Government has previously pledged to act upon these international obligations and the 2019-20 Programme for Government included a commitment to consult on approaches to challenging men’s demand for prostitution in Scotland.

In the consultation paper, “prostitution‟ refers to the activity of buying and selling sex, including women and men, and from “on-street‟ or indoor environments. The consultation paper focuses on women involved in prostitution, reflecting on prostitution as a form of gender-based violence, the focus of support provision in Scotland and the majority of those who police come into contact with. Any findings from the consultation and subsequent work may benefit anyone involved in prostitution and society’s understanding of the issue.

Equally Safe is the strategy of the Scottish Government and COSLA to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls in Scotland.

People can read further details of the consultation and respond to it, before the closing date of 10 December 2020, on the Scottish Government’s consultation website.