WHEN Fiona Broadfoot was aged 15 she met a man she quickly came to think of as her boyfriend. Two weeks later he became her pimp.
“I immediately lost my identity,” the 48-year-old told stunned delegates at the SNP conference. “My already low self-esteem was lost also.”
For years her life was one of extreme sexual violence, where rape became an “occupational hazard”.
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Broadfoot, who described herself as a sex-trade survivor, told her story in one of the most passionate debates at the conference, with SNP members backing a motion for a Scottish model for tackling prostitution.
Edinburgh MSP Ash Denham proposed the motion, based loosely on the Nordic model of sex working, which would decriminalise the sale of sex and criminalise its purchase.
Denham told the conference that “a girl who enters prostitution at 14 will service the sexual demands of more than 4000 men before she’s old enough to drive a car”.
“Prostitution is fundamentally incompatible with the principles of respect, of justice and equality that the SNP stands for,”
the MSP added.
Others arguing against the motion said that it would harm sex workers by pushing them underground and further away from help.
But it was Broadfoot’s harrowing testimony that ultimately convinced delegates to back the proposal.
“After one particularly bad experience of being brutally raped for several hours by a sex buyer, I remember standing in the shower, scrubbing myself, and repeating in my head, ‘It’s like falling off a horse. Just pull yourself together and get back on’.” Within the hour she had returned to a street corner. She was just 17 years old.
Christina Cannon, who is standing to be an SNP councillor in Glasgow, argued against the model, and told delegates to be mindful of the motion in front them.
“For many, sex work provides an income where no other exists. Passing this motion would render these people unemployed. Could we really do with that on our conscience?”
Women in the trade, she argued, were opposed to the criminalisation of the purchase of sex, pointing delegates to a consultation held when Labour’s Rhoda Grant put forward a similar proposal in 2012.
“Sex workers themselves cited the fear of losing safe clients, low income forcing them to compromise on their safety, and not only their security but also their sexual health, and being pushed underground into abusive situations.
“Sex workers are some of the most marginalised people in society today. Shouldn’t we help them instead of further marginalising them?”
This motion, she argued, did not protect their rights, but would “push sex work into the shadows”. She added that sex workers and their advocates viewed this system as not only unhelpful but actually damaging.
There was plenty of support for Cannon’s attempt to have the motion “remitted back” to the SNP’s conference arrangements committee, but delegates ultimately threw their weight behind the call to adopt the “Scottish model” of prostitution.
Speaking after the debate, Denham said the party had now “taken a big step in tackling gender-based violence and preventing human trafficking in Scotland.”