Ronnie Cowan MP: Current laws surrounding prostitution are punishing the victims

Posted On: 
20th March 2017

Ronnie Cowan MP argues that we should consider adopting the Nordic model, which proposes decriminalising the selling of sex but prosecuting the purchaser.

Ronnie Cowan MP argues that there is a clear link between people smuggling and fully legalised prostitution.
Credit: 
PA Images

Prostitution is often referred to as the oldest profession in the world. If it is, then it true to say that abuse, violence and exploitation must have been around just as long, for these are the levers used to prostitute. Indeed the current laws surrounding prostitution can punish the victim.

At SNP conference, in an attempt to improve the current situation, we debated the introduction of the Nordic Model for prostitution. This model decriminalises the selling of sex and prosecutes the purchaser. Since Sweden passed laws in 1999 criminalizing the purchaser, Norway and Iceland have passed the same laws and similar legislation has been adopted in Canada, Northern Ireland and France. The Republic of Ireland shall be doing so soon. The Netherlands is trying to undo some of the damage caused by legalisation and the Deputy Prime Minister, Lodewijk Asscher, called it “a national mistake”. There have also been attempts within German politics to address the damage done by legalisation.

At the heart of this legislation is the desire to protect and educate vulnerable people that could be prostituted. The motion at SNP conference very importantly offered appropriate support for those wishing to exit commercial sexual exploitation. Men, woman and children that are being prostituted require the protection of the law and those seeking to gain from their exploitation should be prosecuted.

In countries where the purchasing of sex has been decriminalised, industrial brothels have sprung up and people are trafficked to fulfil the demand. If you compare Denmark, which does not prosecute the purchaser, to Sweden that does, Denmark has around four times the number of people trafficked to be prostituted than Sweden despite having around half the population. There is a clear correlation between people smuggling and legalised prostitution.

This represents human beings being bought and sold and I wonder what message it sends to the younger generation growing up in these countries. While prostitution exists those being prostituted will continue to be brutalised. We should be attempting to create a society where the purchasing of a human being for sex is inconceivable. Slavery should be confined to history and has no place in today’s world. I am delighted to say that conference voted for the motion.

Ronnie Cowan is the SNP Member of Parliament for Inverclyde