Women involved in prostitution

Equally Safe, Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls, adopts the position that commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution, is a form of gendered violence. We are taking forward a series of policy actions to tackle misogynistic behaviours in society, this includes prostitution.

Programme for Government (2021-22) commits to develop a model for Scotland to challenge men’s demand for prostitution. A short life working group (SLWG) has been set up to support the design of the fundamental principles which will guide the development of the model.

We have also committed to incorporating a series of international treaties into Scots Law including the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). 

There are several legal instruments which are relevant to this area, these include the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women into Scots Law - Article 6 .

There are a number of laws in Scotland which make certain activities associated with prostitution illegal. These include:

  • running a brothel
  • public solicitation to sell or purchase sex
  • loitering to sell or purchase sex
  • controlling prostitution (including living on the earnings of prostitution)
  • procuring or attempting to procure, and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation

No one can be forced into sexual activity without consent.

Individuals involved in prostitution

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to disproportionate impacts for a number of groups of individuals. Our Covid Recovery Strategy (October 2021) focuses on the efforts we require to tackle inequality and disadvantage, which includes addressing the systemic inequalities made worse by Covid. Women involved in prostitution face additional risks during the COVID-19 crisis, including increased risk of poverty, fuel poverty and/or food insecurity.

Anyone engaged in selling or exchanging sexual services should be able to access support and mainstream services without fear of stigma, judgement and discrimination.

COVID-19 vaccination

Vaccination clinics are safe spaces and vaccinators are trained medical professionals who will answer questions in a non-judgmental and welcoming manner. They won’t ask about involvement in selling or exchanging sex, or enquire about sexual history.

Appointments can be made online at http://nhsinform.scot/covid19vaccine or by phoning the National Helpline on 0800 030 8013. Individuals can also attend local drop in clinics. Read more information about your nearest drop-in clinic on the NHS inform.

Guidance that may be relevant for individuals engaged in prostitution, or organisations who work to support them, includes:

Advice and support if you have been raped or sexually assaulted can be found at Turn to SARCS | NHS inform (Guidance for health professionals on supporting someone who discloses rape or sexual assault can be found on the Guidance for wider health professionals – April 2022).

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