Scotland’s national police force has been condemned for requesting condoms to be banned in Edinburgh’s saunas.
The Gay Police Association, Scotland’s Equality Network and Stonewall Scotland have all raised significant concerns over the proposals.
Police Scotland said they would not want to see items of a sexual nature in saunas – but campaigners believe it would result in unprotected sex and higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Nadine Stott, a board member of the charity Scot-Pep, which campaigns for the rights of sex workers, said: “This goes against all basic common sense. It also places Scotland really out of step with the rest of the world.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) just last week released guidelines on sex workers and HIV that specifically stated where countries use condoms as evidence of sex work that should be stopped immediately.”
She added: “We are really shocked that, in private, the police have been quite clear to us. They said that the policy (on saunas) wasn’t changing.
“We think this highlights how inappropriate the police are as a regulatory body of sex workers in a criminal context.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police Scotland recently provided reports to the Council Regulatory Committee in respect of a number of public entertainment licence renewals.
“In cases where there was evidence of criminality or premises operating out-with the conditions of their licence, objections were made to those licences being renewed.
“Police Scotland will continue to work with partners to inspect and report on licensed premises operating within Edinburgh in order to keep people safe.
“Whenever criminal activity, or licensing contraventions are detected within these venues, officers will respond appropriately and report all offences to the relevant authority.”
HIV prevention campaigners in the UK, such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, have long argued that restricting gay and bisexual men from accessing condoms in saunas is simply a counter-productive move. Rather than trying to stigmatise clients of such venues – UK policy is based on working with saunas in helping those most at risk with condom use, testing, and general HIV awareness.