The changing landscape of Scottish responses to sex work: addressing violence against sex workers

Published: April 2016

Sex work is currently a topical issue in Scotland, having being subject to various legislative and policy developments in recent times. These have included attempts to criminalise the purchase of sex and sauna raids, purported to reduce harm and provide protection to sex workers and communities. Within this paper, I draw upon findings from my Ph.D research that explores responses to violence associated with sex work in Scotland, using qualitative interviewing methods. These are used as a basis for examining the nature and extent to which Scottish legislative and policy responses to sex work have changed, with a particular focus on how this involves and relates to violence. Specifically, the paper considers the role relationship violence has within current Scottish legislative and policy responses to sex work: how violence is defined in law and policy and by individuals; understood and experienced by both sex workers and service providers; how they conceptualise violence as it applies to law and policy development, and perceive the implications of such developments. It is concluded that more continuities (related to ongoing stigmatisation and marginalisation of sex workers, and service provision issues in engaging with sex workers) than changes can be attributed to recent law and policymaking surrounding sex work in Scotland, resulting in a climate of violence-involving further stigma, exclusion and marginalisation for sex workers, as well as access challenges for service providers, which may contribute towards increased violence and issues of safety for sex workers. An approach, which takes account of a variety of sex worker perceptions and experiences of violence, is recommended, in order to sustain positive social and political change relating to sex work and sex workers.

Authors / Editors

Research Themes

Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice