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Justice Committee – Evidence Session on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill.

On Tuesday March 3rd, Pam Cairns, SN President, had the privilege of representing Scottish Soroptimists at the Justice Committee – Evidence Session on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill.

Pam Cairns with Prue Watson and Hilary Hood, SI Dundee
Pam Cairns with Prue Watson and Hilary Hood, SI Dundee, outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Soroptimists were invited to join with Abolition Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, Migrant Help, Scottish Commission for Children and Young People, Scottish Guardianship Service, Scottish Refugee Council, Tara, and Victim Support Scotland in a round-table-format discussion on the Bill with the Justice Committee. The assembled group congratulated the Scottish Government on publishing the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill and were generally in favour of the content and structure of the Bill. Much of the discussion which followed centred on the legal aspects of the Bill in particular the status of children in the 16-18 age group and the need to appoint guardian’s for some vulnerable children.  The UN 2003 Palermo Agreement states that all victims under the age of 18 are children. Pam spoke out in favour of the Soroptimist’s view that the Bill didn’t go far enough but needed to include ‘the criminalisation of the purchase of sex’. Two other groups, Abolition Scotland and Tara similarly raised this issue. Pam went on to point out that as Northern Ireland had recently criminalised the purchase of sex in their Human Trafficking Law that this would make Scotland more vulnerable to traffickers if we didn’t take similar action. Later in the discussions Pam took the opportunity to highlight the work of Scottish Soroptimists who have been raising awareness of modern slavery in their communities for several years.  Pam, a retired GP, recommended that it was not only Police and Social workers who needed to be trained on the indicators of modern slavery, but doctors and nurses too as occasionally they had to deal with young, foreign women accompanied by interpreters. With training the medics might view these consultations somewhat differently and if suspicious would need to know how to proceed. To see written submissions by Soroptimists and other groups please visit:   Prior to the meeting Pam prepared a booklet about the modern slavery work of Scottish Soroptimists.  These were given to the secretary of Justice Committee for distribution to its members.   This has been an excellent opportunity for Scottish Soroptimists to raise our profile in our Parliament. Thanks must go to all Soroptimists, who over the years, have attended Cross Party Groups, lobbied their MSP’s or stood at stands within the Parliament. Without their effort we would not have received this invitation. March 2015