A cross-party group of MSPs are calling on the Scottish Government to ban online pimping, after an inquiry found commercial websites are facilitating sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The inquiry into Sexual Exploitation Advertising websites was launched by MSPs in response to mounting reports that websites hosting prostitution adverts are fuelling sexual exploitation and organised crime in Scotland.
On a single day, the group found 570 prostitution adverts for Scotland on just one Sexual Exploitation Advertising website.
The inquiry concluded that Scotland’s laws against sexual exploitation have failed to keep pace with technological change.
The group are calling for a new offence of “enabling or profiting from the prostitution of another person” which would also apply to websites.
Ministers are also urging support services for victims of sexual exploitation to be strengthened.
Megan King, a survivor of sexual exploitation, told the inquiry: “[The] man who recruited me into prostitution managed to serve prison time and will be subjected to a proceeds of crime hearing to pay back the hundreds of thousands of pounds that he earnt from exploiting me and others.
“But the websites that directly profit off every booking, off every girl who advertises globally, have no repercussions for their exploitation. This feels like an extreme injustice to our trauma.”
Ruth Maguire MSP, Co-Convener of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation group, said: “Sexual Exploitation Advertising websites have turbo-charged the sex trafficking trade.
“The websites incentivise sexual exploitation by making it quick and easy for pimps and traffickers to advertise their victims to men who pay for sex.
“Online pimping is taking place on an industrial scale in Scotland. Yet the operations of these pimping websites fall through the cracks of our outdated prostitution laws – and the website owners exploit with impunity.
“The Scottish Government must lead the way in adopting laws against sexual exploitation that are fit for the 21st century.
“That requires making it a criminal offence to enable or profit from the prostitution of another person, tackling demand by criminalising paying for sex, and decriminalising and supporting victims of sexual exploitation.
“It’s time to put the traffickers and pimps out of business.”
Co-Convener Rhoda Grant added: “The commercial sexual exploitation of women harms both individuals and our society. It is a barrier to true equality.
“Websites that promote this exploitation and profit from it need to be held to account for their abuse. I hope this report provides the evidence and the catalyst to change that.”