A charity which represents sex workers has come out to police in Scotland over a number of arrests for prostitution in the city center during the pandemic.
Umbrella Lane says the charges have ‘punished’ women who were trying to make ends meet as some struggled to access financial support during Covid-19.
Figures revealed by a Freedom of Information request show that there have been eight arrests for prostitution offenses in the area in the past two years.
While police insist law enforcement has been taken to crack down on organized gangs and sexual exploitation, Umbrella Lane says some workers would have had no choice but to take to the streets.
A spokesperson for the charity said: ‘It is saddening to see that even in the midst of a global pandemic, police efforts were still to target those trying to survive, to arrest them rather than to help them get the resources they needed so they wouldn’t. must put themselves in danger.
“The driving force behind those who engage in sex work is economic need, and punishing sex workers with arrests and penalties does not address the root cause of the problem.
“Laws that punish sex workers are symptomatic of a system that fails to protect them.”
Figures show there has been an overall decrease in prostitution offenses in the city center over the past three years – from 15 charges in 2018 to five last year.
Meanwhile, for Glasgow as a whole, the number of crimes associated with prostitution has dropped dramatically, from 322 in 2011/12 to 27 in 2020/21.
In May 2020 – during the national lockdown – an investigation by the Glasgow Times revealed that Glasgow residents were flouting Covid rules to meet strangers for sex.
Dozens of online ads on the Craigslist website offered cash rewards for “fun” and sex. Those who posted ads offered customers to come to the accommodation from abroad or to host it themselves.
The Umbrella Lane spokesperson added: “The statistics presented in the FOI application are not surprising, as sex workers who have been able to walk away from in-person work during the pandemic have done so.
“Many sought out alternative forms of income when available, whether it was switching to online income streams or applying for Universal Credit or SEIS. However, not all sex workers have been able to do so, and they are often the poorest and most marginalized, with the least access to resources.
“When you have to choose between working and earning money to survive, and not working and being unable to pay rent or buy food, obviously survival comes first.”
Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi admitted crimes associated with prostitution in Glasgow may have decreased during the pandemic due to the movement of sex work online.
He said: “We recognize that some people freely choose to prostitute themselves, but a significant number of people are forced, coerced and put at risk of violence, abuse and exploitation.
“Our approach to combating sexual exploitation focuses on the well-being and safety of those involved and identifying criminal gangs that pose a threat.
“Selling sex in a public place is a criminal offense and Police Scotland have a legal duty to enforce the law.
“These data show that the number of arrests for public prostitution has fallen by two-thirds over the past four years, but this may reflect the shift from street to off-street prostitution.
“However, our primary concern remains to keep people safe and we will continue to work with partners to ensure the well-being and safety of people who engage in prostitution. Where there is information suggesting that people could be in danger, we will take action.