Human Trafficking Speech in the Scottish Parliament 05 February 2009

I begin by acknowledging the contribution of the Presiding Officer, Trish Godman, to ensuring that the subject has remained a political issue.
I appreciate that she is not in a position just now to express her views, but her record is there to be recognised.
I congratulate Murdo Fraser on bringing the debate to the chamber.
The importance of the motion lies in the fact that it not only describes something terrible but considers ways in which we can address the issues.
When I read the motion and became aware of the issues, the capacity of some people for cruelty and the willingness to perpetrate that cruelty against other human beings took my breath away.
The danger is that, in being appalled, we are also paralysed and fear that we can do nothing to address that level of cruelty.
If we do not act, however, we give up on so many people who are facing problems.
We have a responsibility to act.
One reason why I welcome the debate is that it enables us to consider how we can support action to address the problem.
It is clear that the issue is not particularly about women, but it is disproportionately experienced by women.
It is therefore important to make the connection with the abuse of women, male violence against women and the unequal status of women in this country and elsewhere.
I believe that those factors play a part in ensuring that it is disproportionately women who suffer from being trafficked and abused by men.
It is critical that we support the organisations and groups that reach out to vulnerable people, who might be fearful of speaking out and do not know where to go.
It is essential that we use the networks within communities to give people the confidence to speak out.
That is true domestically just as it is true for those who are trafficked into the country.
We also need to challenge the perpetrators—not just those who traffic, but those who go and use and abuse trafficked women
The Women's Support Project in Glasgow has done some significant research on the attitudes of men who use prostitutes.
One of its stunning findings was that, although a significant number of the men suspected that women were there through no choice of their own, that they had been forced to be there and that they may have been trafficked, that bore no relationship to whether the men would use those women.
The notion that prostitution is a fair transaction between men and women is exposed by that.
The men knew that the women could have been victims of trafficking, but that made no difference to whether they chose to continue.
We heard about Germany.
Why was there a demand for prostitutes there?
Who would use them?
I know that Trish Godman has made representations to Glasgow City Council about the Commonwealth games and the need to challenge attitudes there.
It is critical that we put the matter in context and address the question of the perpetrators.
As has been suggested, legislation might need to be developed on the Swedish model, but the Scottish Parliament passed relevant legislation before the 2007 election, and that legislation needs to be enforced, because it focuses on the perpetrators and puts the matter in that context.
I remind the minister that, although local authorities operate under financial constraints, there are soft budget lines, and those are the lines that should support groups that go out and support women.
However, there is nobody to speak up for that in the hard battle of financial choices.
I hope that the minister will address that problem.
We need education in our communities.
We need to talk about what is happening and the connection with violence against women.
We need to protect those who have been trafficked, and we need to ensure that the focus on perpetrators is not lost. People are appalled by the notion of trafficking.
That is straightforward, but it is more difficult to consider what creates the demand.
The minister will have the support of all members if he is willing to address that.
We should examine the legislative measures that are in place, consider how well they are working and encourage further enforcement of them, because they shift the balance from those who allegedly make the choice to go into prostitution to those who create the demand in the first place and continue to use prostitutes despite the evidence, which is visible to them, that some of the most vulnerable people have been placed there for abuse through no choice of their own.