Unbuyable: A movement to end the exploitation of women and girls
Ash Regan, a former SNP leadership contender and community safety minister, has announced a new campaign to make buying sex a criminal offence in Scotland. The campaign, called Unbuyable, aims to challenge the demand for prostitution and protect the human dignity of women and girls.
Regan said: “Unbuyable is more than a campaign; it’s a clarion call to end the systemic exploitation of women and girls in Scotland. We are working to create a society where human dignity is non-negotiable and where women and girls are not for sale. With public support, we can turn this ambition into a reality.”
The campaign website, Unbuyable.org, states that buying sex is not a victimless act, but a form of exploitation that leaves lasting scars. It also calls for public awareness and education on the harms of prostitution.
The Nordic Model: A legal framework to tackle prostitution
The campaign is inspired by the Nordic Model, a legal framework that criminalises the purchase of sex, but not the sale. The model also provides support and exit services for those in prostitution, and challenges the social norms that condone sexual exploitation.
The Nordic Model was first introduced in Sweden in 1999, and has since been adopted by several other countries, including Norway, Iceland, Canada, France, and Ireland. According to the campaign website, the model has been effective in reducing the demand for prostitution, changing public attitudes, and empowering women.
The campaign also cites evidence from various organisations that support the Nordic Model, such as Tara (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance), the Encompass Network, Routes Out, and Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s position: A missing commitment
The Scottish Government has previously expressed its intention to develop a model for Scotland that effectively tackles and challenges men’s demand for prostitution. In its 2021-2022 Programme for Government (PfG), it stated that it would “undertake to develop a model for Scotland which effectively tackles and challenges men’s demand for prostitution”.
However, this commitment was absent from the two more recent programmes, for 2022-2023 and 2023-2024. The campaign website urges the Scottish Government to “reaffirm its commitment to ending demand for prostitution in Scotland” and to “work with us to make this happen”.
The campaign also criticises the current laws in Scotland as “unhelpful and contradictory”, arguing that they cast prostitutes as deviants and increase the risk of harm to them. It says that by criminalising public acts associated with prostitution, such as kerb crawling and brothel keeping, but not the purchase itself, the laws push women into more dangerous situations.
The public response: A mix of support and opposition
The campaign has received a mix of support and opposition from various groups and individuals. Some have praised the campaign as a progressive and feminist initiative that will protect women’s rights and dignity. Others have criticised it as a moralistic and paternalistic interference that will endanger sex workers’ lives and livelihoods.
Some of the supporters of the campaign include:
- Zero Tolerance, a charity that campaigns to end male violence against women
- Dr Jacci Stoyle, the secretary of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Commercial Sexual Exploitation
- Women’s Aid Scotland, a network of organisations that provide support to women experiencing domestic abuse
- Rape Crisis Scotland, a national organisation that works to end sexual violence against women and girls
Some of the opponents of the campaign include:
- Scot-Pep, a sex worker-led organisation that advocates for the rights and safety of sex workers
- Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI), an organisation that represents sex workers in Ireland
- Amnesty International UK, a human rights organisation that supports the decriminalisation of sex work
- Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon, a reader in psychology and social policy at Birkbeck University of London
The future prospects: A matter of debate
The campaign has sparked a debate on the issue of prostitution in Scotland, raising questions about its legal status, social implications, and ethical dimensions. The campaign hopes to influence the Scottish Government’s policy on prostitution and persuade the public to support its vision of a society where everyone is Unbuyable.
However, the campaign faces challenges from various stakeholders who have different views and interests on prostitution. The campaign also needs to address the concerns and realities of those who are directly affected by prostitution, such as sex workers, clients, and communities.
The outcome of this debate is uncertain, but it will have significant consequences for Scotland’s society and culture. Will Scotland follow the Nordic Model and ban paying for sex? Or will it adopt a different approach that respects sex workers’ choices and agency? Or will it maintain the status quo and leave prostitution in a legal limbo? The answer is yet to be seen.