Prostitution - challenging and deterring men's demand: strategic approach

Sets our our collective approach, working with stakeholders across the wider public and third sector, to challenge and deter men’s demand for prostitution and support those with experience of it.

Strategic Approach

This Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s collective approach, working with stakeholders across the wider public and third sector, to challenge and deter men’s demand for prostitution and support those with experience of it. In common with the Nordic Model the Strategy seeks to enable women to safely, and sustainably, exit from prostitution. The Strategy will also raise awareness and educate the public, relevant service provisions and mainstream public services to recognise that women with experience of selling/exchanging sex are victims of exploitation.

The Strategy will also provide the mechanism to continue the discussion around any future legislative considerations and the evidence to support that. In doing so, the Strategy will proactively challenge men’s demand for prostitution.

The key components which form our strategic approach, and which have been informed by our continuous stakeholder engagement are:

  • disrupting, deterring demand and tackling its drivers.
  • improving access to support and tackling stigma.
  • recognising those involved in selling/exchanging sex are victims of exploitation.
  • a new support pathway.
  • establishment of a multi-agency group to support the Strategy’s implementation and to inform our wider policy approach to tackling all forms of commercial sexual exploitation.

Policy Context

Improving support for those with experience of prostitution is at the heart of the Strategy, which is underpinned by a person-centred approach reflecting the values of our National Performance Framework and is aligned to the principles of GIRFE (Getting It Right for Everyone).

This Strategy, whilst focusing on prostitution, has relevance to other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, such as human trafficking and other circumstances involving exchanging sex. The Strategy recognises the links to wider forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG), forming part of our broader response to tackling VAWG.

Both the Strategy and its principles are relevant to those working across the Scottish Government, wider public and third sector, who are delivering or developing relevant policy and services. It should be read alongside Scotland’s Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 – updated 2023, Vision for Justice in Scotland and Equally Safe – Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls. A policy map giving an overview of wider related policies can be found on page 14.

In September 2020 we undertook a consultation on prostitution. This was an important first step in developing the approach to tackling prostitution within the context of how women and girls should be viewed in an equal society. There was a high level of engagement with over 4000 responses from individuals and organisations. The need to further recognise and address the structural and systemic disadvantages experienced by women and girls was a consensus viewpoint. The findings from the consultation informed the Strategy’s development as did lived experience engagement work, commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by an independent research team. The project aimed to understand current support service provision and the needs of those with experience of selling/exchanging sex. This research highlighted the importance of partnership working and the need to better understand and tackle stigma.

We want to ensure our policies work for those with experience of prostitution and future evaluation of the Strategy will continue to draw on lived experience. This will continue to be a key component part of our work.

The Strategy development also draws on international lessons learned on challenging men’s demand and supporting those involved in prostitution, with an international evidence review carried out by Scottish Government’s Justice Analytical Services, published in July 2022. This highlighted that key elements of international challenge demand approaches included support for victims and changing social attitudes.

Further background

The Scottish Government has committed to incorporating the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) into Scots Law, within the limits of devolved competence. Article 6 of CEDAW requires public authorities to ‘take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.’

The Scottish Government committed to the UN Sustainable Developments Goals in 2015. These are ‘global goals and targets that are part of an internationally agreed performance strategy. All countries are aiming to achieve these goals by 2030. SDG Goal 5.2 includes: ‘eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.’

Current Legislation

Current legislation is clear that no one can be forced into sexual activity without their consent. There are a number of specific offences which make certain activities associated with prostitution illegal, including:

  • Running a brothel
  • Trading in the prostitution of others and procuring for the purposes of prostitution.
  • Soliciting or loitering in a public place for the purpose of purchasing sex
  • Soliciting or loitering in a public place for the purpose of selling sex
  • Procuring or attempting to procure any woman or girl into prostitution.
  • Trafficking persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation

Note on the use of language

Different language is often used by individuals and organisations to refer to people who are involved in prostitution. This Strategy adopts terminology that aligns with the Scottish Government’s definition of violence against women which includes prostitution/commercial sexual exploitation, and is contained within the Equally Safe Strategy Refresh (women involved in prostitution, or women who sell/ exchange sex). Within this Strategy, where the abbreviation CSE is used, it refers to commercial sexual exploitation.



Back to top