Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women: position statement

Our position statement on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Article 6: Exploitation of women

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.

6.1 Human Trafficking

The Scottish Government held a Human Trafficking Summit in October 2012, which led to the development of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015. Among other things, the Act consolidates and strengthens criminal law against human trafficking and exploitation. The offences in the Act now carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It also introduces trafficking and exploitation prevention and risk orders. The Act also takes forward improved protection for victims, through the Lord Advocate's instructions on the presumption against the prosecution of victims of trafficking and exploitation in certain circumstances, and by placing a duty on Scottish Ministers to provide support and assistance for adult victims of human trafficking. The first provisions came into force on 31 May 2016 and most of the provisions are now in force.

Children are supported through the child protection system and eligible children are given the additional support of an independent child trafficking guardian. The 2015 Act also requires the Scottish Government to develop a Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, and this was published in May 2017. The Strategy sets out a range of actions and outcomes to be achieved grouped into three broad areas: supporting victims of trafficking, tackling perpetrators, and addressing the conditions which foster trafficking. A range of activity is now underway to implement the Strategy, and Ministers will update Parliament on its progress on a yearly basis. The Strategy will be reviewed every three years.

6.2 Legislation

The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 obliges Police Scotland to direct victims of crime towards the Victims' Code for Scotland, which contains information about compensation and is available in a number of languages. In addition, victim support organisations routinely assist victims in understanding the support that may be available. In Scotland, the position of victims of trafficking in criminal proceedings and their access to legal aid is no different to that of other victims of crime with an interest in a criminal case. Access to legal aid on some human trafficking matters is not contingent on formal recognition of victim status. Beyond the provision of legal aid, assistance can be provided through grant funding programmes. An assessment of the provision of legal aid to victims of trafficking was recently carried out by the Scottish Legal Aid Board ( SLAB).

In October 2015 the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 was passed, which consolidates and strengthens criminal law against human trafficking and exploitation. The 2015 Act requires the development of a Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, which was laid before the Scottish Parliament on 30 May 2017 and will be reviewed every three years.

The Scottish Government introduced the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 this Act created a specific offence of sharing private intimate images without consent (commonly known as 'revenge porn'), with a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment, which came into force on 3 July 2017. The Act also includes a new statutory domestic abuse aggravator to ensure courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing an offender and statutory jury directions for certain sexual offence cases.

In March 2017, the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 was introduced to Parliament. This creates a specific offence of domestic abuse that will cover not just physical abuse but also other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour that cannot easily be prosecuted using the existing criminal law. The bill passed stage 3 on 1 February 2018 and received Royal Assent on 9 March 2018.

6.3 Prostitution

The Scottish Government's Justice Directorate commissioned a national scoping exercise of advocacy services relating to the criminal justice system for victims of violence against women and girls. The exercise included advocacy services for victims of domestic abuse, prostitution, human trafficking, rape and sexual assault, and advocacy services available for children and for men where these may have an impact on women's services.

On 24 November 2017, the Scottish Government published a delivery plan to implement Equally Safe, Scotland's strategy to prevent and eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls, including commercial sexual exploitation. This includes a commitment to establish a multi-agency group to strengthen collective efforts to tackle commercial sexual exploitation.

The focus is on a prevention and reduction of harm. The Scottish Government continues to work with both the Challenge Demand Project, which raises the awareness of commercial sexual exploitation, and the Women's Support Project to build capacity to deliver this across organisations.


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