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Scottish police want ‘items of a sexual nature’ removed from saunas

Faced with criticism, authorities deny they want condoms banned

Police Scotland is facing criticism for recommending the removal of "items of a sexual nature" from saunas. Credit: carols-sauna.co.uk

A gay police association and other advocacy groups are concerned about Police Scotland's call for a ban on "items of a sexual nature" in a number of Edinburgh saunas, fearing it could lead to the imposition of a condom ban and a subsequent rise in the rates of HIV.

Robert McKay, of Terrence Higgins Trust, says the proposal is "draconian," the Edinburgh News reports. Sex-worker organization Scot-Pep feels the proposal will turn back the clock on longstanding sexual health education efforts and says it goes "against all basic common sense." Board member Nadine Stott is quoted in The Independent as saying that police have been privately assuring that the policy on saunas isn't changing.

“We think this highlights how inappropriate the police are as a regulatory body of sex workers in a criminal context,” Stott says in the report.

According to a story in The Scotsman, Police Scotland denies advocating for a condom ban, as indicated in some media reports, saying it supports "proper measures for sexual health."

With Edinburgh city council reviewing some sauna's licences, Police Scotland issued a number of recommendations. They include a request that such spaces not be used as residences, that no one under the age of 18 be allowed on the premises, and that they be properly equipped to provide sauna and massage services.

According to The Scotsman, the police are focusing on five saunas: Carol's Sauna, London Street Sauna, Ambassador Sauna, 18 Albert Place and Steamworks.

The report says there's a belief that police are adopting a more aggressive approach against venues reportedly offering sex for sale, following the closure of six Edinburgh saunas in July. The closures occurred after police provided city council with evidence that the saunas flouted the terms of their licences.

The Edinburgh News recalled a raid of seven saunas and 11 other spaces by more than 150 officers earlier in the year in what it described as a "major blitz on Edinburgh's sex industry."

Margo MacDonald, an independent member of the Scottish parliament, expressed disappointment in local authorities' new policy of targeting the city's saunas.

She told the News, “I don’t know what their intention is but the effect of this would completely destroy the safer sex message that has been delivered to the sex industry and wider community over the last 30 years. With a line-up of expert and unimpeachable organisations opposed to this it makes the police look isolated and rather amateurish.”