Socialism, Feminism and Prostitution
Mhairi McAlpine, Falkirk Branch
Prostitution is currently a live issue in the Scottish Parliament with Margo McDonald anindependent MSP proposing a bill which would legalise prostitution within recognised“Tolerance Zones”. These zones would be established by the local authority following noticeand consultation with the police local health board, property owners in the area residentsgroups and the community council for the area. These would be in place for up to three yearsand designate the times that it would operate and a code of conduct for anyone using thezone. Setting up any such area would effectively legalise prostitution within its geographicaland temporal boundaries.The SSP’s six MSP’s were signatories to the first reading of this bill (which enables it to goforward for further discussion) appreciating that the current laws victimise poor women and assomething which should be actively considered within the Scottish Parliament. At SSPconference 2004, this issue was debated with three main positions being presented inmotions and amendments…1.To support the Tolerance Zones Bill as presented.2.To decriminalise prostitution3.To criminalise the users of prostituted women.Conference agreed to remit this debate for further discussion including a day school on theissue. This paper is submitted as a contribution to that debate.Position 1 supports the legalisation of prostitution within certain boundaries, while position 2calls for decriminalisation. It is unclear in which precise respects these would differ apart fromthe geographical and temporal boundaries. This paper considers the effects of legalisation incertain countries, only in New South Wales (Australia) was it decriminalised, which seems tohave combined the worst aspects of legalisation (increase in violent attacks, trafficking,under-age prostitution) with a lack of ability to enforce even the most basic health and safetylegislation.While it is acknowledged that there are significant numbers of prostituted men, this paper refers to male clients and prostituted women, as this is the most common form. Women buysex infrequently, usually from women and usually at the instigation of a male partner.However, criminalisation of clients would cover all who purchased sexual “services” whatever their sex or sexuality and whatever the sex of those who sold it.
Context of Prostitution in Scotland
Prostitution itself is not illegal in Scotland however many of the activities surrounding are.Street prostitution is dealt with under the Civic Government (Scotland Act, 1982, Section 48-1), which states that:
“a prostitute (whether male or female) who for the purposes of prostitution either 1.loiters in a public place2.solicits in a public place or in any other place so as to be seen from a public place or 3.importunes any person in a public placeshall be guilty of an offence”
Socialism, Feminism and Prostitution1