Equally safe - challenging men's demand for prostitution: Scottish Government response

Our response to the findings of a public consultation seeking views on how best to challenge men’s demand for prostitution in Scotland, reducing the harms associated with prostitution and supporting women involved to exit.

Education and changing attitudes

  • There is consensus that additional sex and relationship education in schools that emphasises consent, respect and healthy relationships would be beneficial. Respondents hold opposing views on age-appropriate education about prostitution, with some respondents believing that it is necessary to educate about the harms of prostitution, while others believe it is important to remove stigma around prostitution in order to increase respect for those involved in prostitution and differentiate between consensual and nonconsensual activity.
  • Responses on the need to shift the attitudes of men in relation to the purchase of sex are polarised. A number of respondents believe that focussing on challenging or ending demand does not improve the lives of women involved in prostitution, which should instead be the focus of any initiatives in this area. Other respondents feel that criminalisation of men who purchase sex is the most effective tool for shifting men’s attitudes.
  • Respondents commonly identify that men’s attitudes towards prostitution are the result of wider societal issues, such as misogyny and societal inequalities, and that challenging these wider attitudes should be of primary concern. A rise in online pornography is often cited as an accompanying issue fuelling misogyny.

A view commonly raised by respondents was that men's attitudes are the result of wider societal issues, citing misogyny and the objectification of women as underlying factors to attitudes around the purchasing of sex. A rise in online pornography is often cited as an accompanying issue fuelling misogyny. The Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland has been set up to independently consider how the Scottish criminal justice system deals with misogynistic behaviours. This includes looking at whether there are gaps in the law that could be addressed by a specific criminal offence to tackle such behaviours.

Responses to both questions related to education identify a need for better education around sex and relationships in order to prevent violence against women involved in prostitution and promote positive behaviours in young people. The Scottish Government is taking forward actions aimed at developing mutually respectful, responsible and confident relationships amongst children and young people through the Equally Safe delivery plan, the Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy, the review of Personal and Social Education (PSE); and the work of the Expert Group on preventing sexually offending involving children and young people.

The PSE Review recommended a number of new measures to provide schools with the resources and support to address issues facing young people today, including a specific action to address the issue of sexual harassment through the provision of resources for staff and pupils. It also recommended that current guidance is reviewed to strengthen delivery of consent education, that is stage and age appropriate. This work is underway along with work to produce national guidance for schools which sets out the range of support and practical prevention and intervention measures available.

Consent and healthy relationships is a key part of the Scottish curriculum, Curriculum for Excellence, and is delivered as part of age and stage appropriate relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education. It is for education authorities and schools to decide which resources they use in supporting their teaching. One particular resource, www.rshp.scot, contains a learning activity on Prostitution and Paying for Sex. The current RSHP teaching guidance is being reviewed and updated and is expected to contain a specific focus on consent and healthy relationships.

In addition, the Scottish Government published a resource for professionals which aims to help them support young people in their understanding of healthy relationships and consent. Key Messages for Young People on Healthy Relationships and Consent sets out that relationships should be mutually respectful, consensual, positive, healthy and enjoyable.

There are a range of issues raised in the consultation around education and challenging demand which require further reflection as we take forward work to develop a model for Scotland against the context of a policy approach which attempts to challenge the systemic inequality which drives violence against women and girls. We will work collaboratively across the Scottish Government and with our partners to further develop our approach to this issue.


Email: vawgconsultations@gov.scot

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