We are all members of the Church and passionately believe in Jesus Christ and we
all endeavor to speak out against that which harms our fellow human beings. With
regard to the Church's position on human trafficking, I am certain that we do not
have any division of opinion. All members of the Church would concur fully that the
trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation is an abhorrent crime and
utterly violates them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I am aware
that human beings are trafficked for forced labour and other motives, but I wish
to focus today on those trafficked for sexual exploitation for two reasons.
Firstly, because the majority of people are trafficked for the purposes of sexual
exploitation (approximately 98% of these people are women and girls) and secondly,
because there is a concrete, specific and proven action that we can support that
will make a huge impact in diminishing this appalling trade.
Most of us, maybe all of us, would be in agreement, in viewing prostitution from
the perspective that it affects mostly those women and girls who are vulnerable due
to the causes of poverty, drug misuse, a history of child abuse, a childhood spent
in care and sometimes all of the above. Whilst this may be a profound cause for concern
within our church, there is often a dilemma about the solutions that are proposed
by society. They are not only contested, but are, for the most part, in direct opposition
to each other.
Commonly, for church members concerned for the plight of the women, the issue is
divided primarily into those who view prostitution as a form of violence against
women and wish to see the purchase (not the sale) of sex criminalized. And those
who see prostitution as a legitimate form of work by consenting adults and seek to
protect the women involved in prostitution from stigmatization, both from the criminal
justice system and the public at large.
However, there is a growing consensus amongst grassroots organisations, police, councillors
and governments that unless the demand for prostitution is tackled, the numbers of
women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation will only continue to rise. For
centuries, the focus of societal disapproval and criminalisation has always been
directed towards the woman, the punter has remained invisible, despite the fact that
he is the one in the relationship with power, status and wealth. In 1999 Sweden had
the courage to change this state of affairs and for the first time in history, they
criminalized the purchase, not the sale of sex, making the punter both visible and
responsible for his actions.
Currently, there are laws against human trafficking for sexual exploitation, but
there are few convictions. One of the biggest problems that law enforcers face is
that they require vulnerable, highly traumatised, terrified, women and children to
testify against their abductors. Often the victims of trafficking do not speak the
language; they face criminal charges because they are illegally in a country without
a passport and may be sent back to their country of origin where the whole process
begins again. In addition the criminal gangs that abducted them know where their
family live and have often threatened to kill them.
Furthermore, the situation becomes far, far more difficult to tackle in countries
where prostitution is legalized, condoned or tolerated, for the traffickers simply
have to say that the young women are paying back their 'air fare' and owe them money.
When it comes to prostitution, neither the pimps nor the punters care whether the
woman is trafficked or under the age of consent. If you look at the countries which
have legalized prostitution, such as the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and New
Zealand, far from protecting women involved in prostitution, as the reasoning would
have it, the numbers of women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation has
On the other hand, in those countries which have criminalized the buying of sex,
the traffickers have moved out as the demand has fallen so much that it simply isn't
worth their while setting up shop. The law works because punters have a lot to lose.
Typically, they are aged between 25 and 55, are married or co-habiting, have children,
are employed and will not risk being named and shamed.
If we take Sweden, which obviously has the longest history of using this method
to combat prostitution, (other countries have since followed their successful example)
we can compare the statistics with neighbouring countries to see the effects this
has had on the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation. According
to the National Raconteur for trafficking in human beings, even as soon as 2003 and
2004 the numbers of trafficked women and children in Sweden were down to between
400 and 600 a year compared to Denmark where up to 3,500 women and children a year
were trafficked and Finland where the numbers were as high as 15,000.
The crux of this motion is simply that you cannot discuss the ways of dealing with
human trafficking for sexual exploitation in a vacuum and pretend that the prostitution
of women and children is a separate and isolated topic. The demand for prostitution
has a direct, immediate and visible bearing on the numbers of women and children
trafficked for sexual exploitation. Therefore any formulations of policy that the
Church undertakes on trafficking for sexual exploitation must take into consideration
and account its unique, particular and inextricable relationship with the prostitution
of women and children.
The Bill for the Criminalization of the Purchase of Sex is currently going through
parliament in Scotland. It is a Labour member's bill and is unlikely to go through
if simply left to the SNP government. I urge this Church to lobby for the Bill to
become law. Let us send a clear message out to our community and the global market
that we want to shut up shop; women and girls are not for sale in Scotland.
Address by Jacci Stoyle to
the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church