Inquiry into sex trafficking in Scotland wants to hear from men who use prostitutes

Jun 30 2010 By Annie Brown

AN inquiry into sex trafficking in Scotland is asking punters who use prostitutes to talk to them – in secret.

Baroness Helena Kennedy, who is heading the probe, said men who buy sex can help build a realistic picture of the extent of the trade.

Kennedy said: “I want to hear from these men. I need to hear directly from people who have experiences of trafficking.

“I think if you want to have a proper sense of the problem, it is better to hear from witnesses themselves directly.

“It might be they are men who have used prostitutes and they have had an experience where they have been with a woman who was clearly coerced into prostitution.

“We need help to understand the scope of the problem but those who can do that are often the very people who, through shame or fear, don’t want to step forward.

“We will guarantee them absolute anonymity.”

The probe will focus on Scotland but will have an impact on policy across the UK. It is the most far-reaching study of trafficking in Britain.

It will look at ways in which the country can tackle the blight of trafficking, from policing and border control to how well victims are supported when they are found.

Kennedy and her team have talked to police, voluntary organisations and experts but want to widen their evidence-gathering over the coming months to punters and the victims of trafficking themselves.

The inquiry is being run by the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland and, although all trafficking will be covered, the emphasis will be on the women and children brought in for sex.

Police have reported an increase in the demand for foreign women from men buying sex.

She said: “Senior police officers do think that there has been a shift. Perhaps because men are travelling much more, certainly on stag weekends and buying sex abroad.

“They are experiencing sex in a more exotic way, activities that they don’t participate in with their wives and partners. It becomes something that they want here.”

The demand for so many different nationalities is perpetuating the horrific trade in human beings.

Kennedy said: “This is the underbelly of globalisation. The same things that make global markets work, make black markets work too.

“You get international crime now in a way that we didn’t have before. Everything is marketable and sadly that includes human beings.”

Kennedy, born in Glasgow, is one of the world’s most respected legal brains and she has championed human rights for almost three decades.

The size of Scotland is one of the reasons for holding the inquiry here. It will be easier to get a country-wide picture because there are fewer police forces, social work departments and agencies which deal with trafficking.

Kennedy said that, contrary to speculation, the inquiry wasn’t rooted in Scotland because we have a disproportionate scale of trafficking.

She said: “The truth is, we just don’t know the size of the problem because this hasn’t been done before. And what makes it a substantial problem?

“Fifty, 100 women? If we were talking about the sexual abuse of children, we would never consider any number acceptable. If this is happening at all and it is, we have to ask, how do we prevent it?”

She realises a truly accurate picture is virtually impossible because trafficking is a covert criminal business. She said: “This kind of human rights abuse is like a poison. Trafficking leeches into our society as a whole.

“We want to identify ways in which it is happening and ensure that weaker members of society aren’t abused in this way.”

A final report from the probe will be out next year.

See original at the Daily Record

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