Help for women involved in prostitution

£90,000 to support those impacted by COVID-19.

An extra £90,000 is being invested by the Scottish Government to support women involved in prostitution.

The money will help fund vital services run by Victim Support Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre and the Encompass Network.

The funding – which brings the total spent during the pandemic to £170,000 - was announced as the findings of Scotland’s first ever consultation on prostitution are published.

The Equally Safe consultation - which attracted over 4,000 responses - found the pandemic had exacerbated the harms experienced by women involved in prostitution and underlined the importance of a wide range of support to address their multiple, underlying needs.

Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham, said:

“As this consultation shows, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on women involved in prostitution. There was clear evidence that in many situations women were already experiencing poverty or additional challenges, such as immigration status.

“The pandemic put women into further precarious positions with some reporting that they had no choice but to continue to sell sex. The stigma and the hidden nature of prostitution has created a further barrier to getting help through mainstream services.

“I am therefore pleased to announce this additional funding for specialist services designed specifically for women involved in prostitution.

“The Scottish Government will build on the findings of the consultation and develop a model for Scotland to challenge men’s demand for prostitution, learning from other jurisdictions and international approaches.

“We will also bring forward a programme of work to engage with those with lived experience to help shape and strengthen services.”

Co-ordinator at the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre Katy Mathieson said:

“Women who sell or exchange sex often face immeasurable barriers, stigma and discrimination when it comes to seeking justice after an experience of abuse or violence.

“With this funding we will develop a pilot project which will enable us to identify the specific legal and advocacy needs of women involved in selling or exchanging sex and support them to exercise their rights.”

Chief Executive Officer of Victim Support Scotland Kate Wallace said:

“Victim Support Scotland has built strong relationships with partner organisations to ensure financial support reaches all those who need it, including those supporting women who sell or exchange sex.

“With today’s announcement, we are looking forward to building on these partnerships to ensure women who sell or exchange sex can continue to access this vital support.”

National Coordinator of the Women’s Support Project Heather Williams said:

“Women involved in the selling or exchanging sex or images have told us for some time that the lack of access to appropriate mental health support has been a problem.

“As such the Encompass Network welcomes the funding for the pilot project which will help identify the specific needs of women and will provide evidence of what is needed to fill the gaps within current provision.”


Launched last year, the Equally Safe consultation focused on challenging men's demand for prostitution, working to reduce the harm it causes and helping women to leave prostitution.

Read the consultation results

Read the Scottish Government response

£90,000 is being invested by the Scottish Government in three projects to support women involved in prostitution. None of these services are conditional on exiting prostitution.

  • £30,000 for Victim Support Scotland’s Victim’s Fund to ensure the continued availability for crisis funding for women engaged in prostitution in the financial year 2021-22 
  • £3,000 will be awarded to Encompass Network to continue their crisis counselling pilot which offers women access to free counselling for up to ten sessions
  • £57,172 will be awarded to the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre to deliver legal advice surgeries and upskill the SWRC legal team to deliver tailored information for women involved in selling or exchanging sex

Equally Safe, Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls, adopts the position that commercial sexual exploitation, which includes prostitution, is a form of gendered violence, but also recognises that all women engaged in prostitution deserve the support of services without fear of judgement and discrimination.

Demand for prostitution is mainly men purchasing sex from women: In 2020 the majority of people trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation were female and over the last ten years almost 100% of convictions for kerb crawling or loitering in Scotland were against men seeking to buy sex.


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