The current law
You can find it easily anywhere online, but in a nutshell it is not illegal to sell or buy sex in Scotland. Unfortunately, the only legal way to sell sex is the least safe one: indoors and on your own. And it’s a criminal offence to purchase services of a sex worker who is trafficked/ coerced, whether you’re aware of this fact or not.
Legalisation Vs Decriminalisation
Prostitution is legalised in Holland, Germany and a few other countries. This means that as a sex worker I have the right to offer my services in a designated Red Light District together with hundreds of other sex workers (which means that the prices keep going down. It is now cheaper to visit a prostitute than a hairdresser in Amsterdam). I would need to be registered as a sex worker, I will be given a registration number and a registration card which I have to carry on me all the time in case the police want to check it (other professions are exempt from this regulation, as you can guess). I will be subject to mandatory health checks and I will be working from the premises that are closely monitored for drugs, fire extinguishers and other unrelated items.
There is another set of laws for brothels where a brothel keeper can force a sex worker to see a client they want to refuse, perform services they do not wish to perform, see more clients a sex worker is comfortable with and work long shifts (up to 12 hours).
So yes, I can work legally and safely but only within my ghetto. I can’t work from home and I probably won’t find a lot of other job opportunities since I’m already registered as a sex worker. It will also be difficult to open a bank account or get a mortgage. I may lose my registration if I miss my forced health check. So a lot of sex workers still work illegally in these countries simply because they don’t want to register or want to work from home.
Decriminalisation is the route taken by New Zealand. Prostitution, brothel keeping, controlling for gain and street prostitution are all permitted – Prostitution Reform Act passed narrowly (60 for, 59 against and 1 abstained) in 2003. There I can work where I want, how I want and when I want and I do not need to be registered for it. Brothels need a license. 2 sex workers on the premises are termed as Small Owner Operated Brothel and there is no need in licensing. If I want to work on my own – no questions asked as long as the taxman is happy.
In the ideal world (the one where prostitution is decriminalised)
No registration, no ID checks, no names. I taught at school for a few years before moving on to a better paid occupation. Will I be able to go back to teaching if I have a word “prostitute” on my file? Even if the current law is repealed, and sex trade is completely decriminalised, the stigma attached to it will still be there for another couple of centuries. Say, I have children. Can you imagine what they will have to go through at school if everyone knows their mother is a whore? You think clients want it discreet? Think about us!
No forced health checks. My body is my livelihood. My health is paramount. There is no sick leave in this profession. So I do look after my health. I have to. But I don’t want to be forced to. I want to do it when there is need for it and it’s convenient for me, not when the law says so. Forcing sex workers to undergo check ups every 2 weeks only reinforces the public opinion that we are all disease-ridden bug-infested creatures.
Freedom to work in a group without brothel license. 2 sex workers together do not constitute a brothel on condition that none of them controls the other and they are together for reasons of safety and to keep the expenses down.
Freedom to work outside. Believe it or not, some women will choose to work in the street. If I can’t take work home and I don’t want to work in a brothel (because the hours don’t suit me/ because I can’t do as many shifts as the madame wants me to/ because I don’t want to share the money I make/ because most women working there are 25 and I’m 53) in most cases I’ll be left with the street as the only option. If a web designer can work from a cafe/ in a park, why can’t I? And no worries, women will not be standing next to schools and nurseries simply because these are not the places where you can meet men. Reintroduce toleration zones – it’s easier for you and for sex workers as in this case clients will know where to look for us.
Freedom to work from premises other than licensed brothels. At the moment, if I rent a flat to work from and the landlord doesn’t know about it – I break the law. If the landlord does know about it – he/she will be kindly asked by the police to evict me. So I end up in the street either way.
Licensed brothels don’t need to be inspected more thoroughly or more often than any other licensed business.
No more police raids without a reason. Police officers should be trained to treat sex workers seriously and with respect. Salacious looks don’t go with police uniforms (unless they are PVC and are on a sex worker).