Harlots Parlour

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It is hard to express the sinking feeling, the feeling of disappointment and of utter disbelief that I felt when I read that the Edinburgh saunas had been raided. Read More

What a cruel, wicked, pointless and even barbaric thing to do.

I am from Edinburgh and it has always been a source of pride that Edinburgh had been a beacon of tolerance, a place of relative safety for sex workers. Such a contrast to Edinburgh’s rival Glasgow which has a zero tolerance policy to sex work but which still has street, sauna and brothel indoor sex work, probably much larger than in Edinburgh. Glasgow however unlike Edinburgh, certainly from personal and anecdotal experience, had fewer connections with organised crime which inevitably thrives when communities and individuals are excluded from society and from the protection of the law.

The Edinburgh sauna scene was in contrast a quiet and safe environment run from unassuming premises. The saunas were part of the character of Edinburgh, a living symbol of the tolerance of Edinburgh, in what is still sadly a sectarian Scotland, a nation where either the Kirk or Chapel still dominate the thoughts and lives of many. Edinburgh gave hope to liberals like myself that all was not bad, that there was hope for a tolerant and liberal and progressive future.

The anti sex work groups, the moralists within the new Scottish parliament of course hate any idea of tolerance, of accepting people’s sexual choices, of any right to consent and recently launched a legal challenge to Edinburgh’s council policy for their licensing of saunas.

12451174_Stephen House Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland Being interviewed by Dail-1783097 (1)

That challenge was a dark threat but of course no one really thought that the decision to amalgamate the regional police forces of Scotland three months ago into one force and to place that police force under the control of Stephen House, the former chief of Strathclyde, (and who is in thought and deed an emissary of the zero tolerance approach taken by Glasgow council) would result in such draconian intrusions so quickly into the affairs of Edinburgh.

People were of course surprised but I doubt it was truly unexpected. The dark intolerance of abolitionists has had a creeping influence in Scotland and in Edinburgh over the last few years.

The City of Edinburgh, once for example, had a tolerant approach to street sex work which allowed those on the streets to work in restricted but well known and traditional areas. This tolerance allowed those sex workers who worked on the street to be accessed by social services and also by those who lobbied for their rights. The fact that the police knew who those street workers were and that they were allowed to work together resulted in less crime and less abuse and violence toward those who sold sex on the street. The Edinburgh City Council however under pressure form anti sex work campaigners and their supporters within the new Scottish parliament eventually abandoned its tolerance zones policy for street sex workers with obvious and disastrous consequences Read More. As a result of abandoning tolerance zones attacks on sex workers, forced to work new areas, often alone, rose dramatically.

The sauna policy however at least remained. Indoor sex workers had places where they could work in comfort and safety under the protection of Edinburgh Council, where the police and social services could access them easily and check that everything was as it should be, or at least that is what they thought.

The raids on the saunas in Edinburgh have proven that dark times now lay ahead for Scotland’s sex workers. The zero tolerance toward sex work favoured by Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police, and supported by some MSPs, who seem to sadly place their personal religious morality before the safety and human rights of their constituents, is gaining ground rapidly.

The Edinburgh sauna raids saw sex workers and their clients paraded onto the streets and questioned. This reveals that the true purpose of the raids was to instil fear into sex workers and clients alike and had nothing to do with protecting sex workers which is the lie repeated so often by those who argue that sex work is an abuse. I would argue that it is cruel raids on brothels and the outing of people that are the real abuse.

Scots-Pep a charity established to care for and to lobby for the human rights of sex workers pointed out in this article their concerns over the treatment of sauna workers. Read More

Moralists such as Rhoda Grant MSP are already trying to introduce legislation based on the Swedish model which will criminalise the clients of sex workers in Scotland. Time will tell if she will be successful. These raids however are a wake up call that all of us who love freedom, liberty, who support the freedom to consent to sex, must be ready to fight the growing tyranny of intolerance that is spreading its dark shadow not only in Scotland but throughout the UK. Those in favour of criminalising clients care nothing about sex workers, they are moralists, tyrants who abuse the law and use it as a deadly fist to silence opposition, to destroy lives.

As another article suggests closing the saunas in Edinburgh will not stop people from either selling or buying sex but it will make their lives more dangerous. Read More


About Douglas Fox

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