About 200 women's rights groups are calling for laws to make paying for sex a crime across the European Union.
Campaigners will present key policy recommendations for legislation to MEPs in Brussels on Wednesday. A campaign spokeswoman claimed:
Prostitution is a form of violence, an obstacle to gender equality and an open door for organised crime to develop.
The European Women's Lobby (EWL), which leads the campaign, wants EU member states to implement six key policies, including the criminalisation of all forms of procuring, and the creation of effective exit programmes for sex workers.
EWL spokeswoman Pierrette Pape ludicrously claimed to the BBC that even in totally consensual transactions: imposing sexual intercourse with money is a form of violence that shouldn't be accepted,
So far 36 European MEPs are already supporting the proposal, Pape said.
Initial response by the English Collective of Prostitutes
At a time of economic crisis when poverty among women and children is rising throughout Europe (see
EWL own research ) and more women, particularly mothers, are working in the sex industry to survive, the EWL chooses to mount an initiative against prostitution. To criminalise prostitute women's clients when all the evidence shows that this will push
prostitution more underground and make it harder for sex workers to get protection from rape and other violence, shows a total disregard for the lives of women in the sex industry. Criminalising clients will not stop prostitution, nor will it stop the
criminalisation of women. But it will make more dangerous and stigmatising for those of us who work as prostitutes.
Faced with no benefit or job, or only the lowest-waged jobs, many women will sell sexual services. Are we less degraded when we have to skip meals or beg in order to feed our children; stay with a violent partner to keep a roof over
our heads; or work 40 hours a week for under ?5 an hour unable to pay our bills? Is it surprising that many women would rather make three times as much working part-time in a brothel? Those who rage against prostitution have not a word for mothers
struggling to feed their families. Since student fees were raised, many more women students are paying for their education by working in the sex industry. If governments are offended by the work we do, they should stop welfare reform, abolish student
fees, reinstate resources for women fleeing domestic violence and bring in pay equity. With the urgent economic need women across Europe are facing, have women politicians nothing better to do than to attack sex workers?
The EWL proposal for the prohibition of the purchase of a sexual act (accompanied by the suppression of repressive measures against prostituted persons ) follows the example of legislation introduced in Sweden which
decriminalised sex workers and criminalised clients. Yet evidence shows that discrimination and stigma against sex workers has increased, that sex workers have been put more at risk of attack and are less able to call on the protection of the police and
the authorities: We have also found reports of serious adverse effects of the Sex Purchase Act -- especially concerning the health and well-being of sex workers -- in spite of the fact that the lawmakers stressed that the law was not to have a
detrimental effect on people in prostitution. Where is the outrage at the fact that a quarter of single mothers in Sweden now live in poverty, compared to 10% seven years ago.
Existing legislation in all EU countries already prosecutes anyone who forces or coerces anyone into the sex industry. Why extend it to consenting sex? The EWL proposal for the criminalisation of all forms of procuring will
result in anyone associated with sex workers being at risk of prosecution. Here in the UK there are laws against brothel-keeping, controlling and causing and inciting someone into prostitution, all of which are most often used against people who
associate with sex workers rather than people who exploit sex workers. For example, women who place an advert on the web for another sex worker or who pass on a client.
The European Parliament's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee has voted through a report that recommends the adoption of the Nordic Model of prostitution laws.
Put forward by Mary Honeyball, Labour MEP for London, the report recommends the EU takes on the Swedish model of prostitution laws, which punishes the clients of prostitutes, rather than the sex workers themselves.
Fourteen of the European Parliament committee members voted in favour of the Swedish model, with two against and six abstentions.
The report can also now be put forward to the full European Parliament to vote on. This will take place at one of the Strasbourg plenary sessions in February, most likely during the week starting the 24th.
Commenting on the vote, Honeyball said:
This is a fantastic outcome. It will form a key part of the sea-change taking place in the way we view prostitution across Europe. We are now a step closer to an approach which recognises the fundamental injustice that takes place when a man buys a
women's body. Related
La Strada statement ahead of the vote in the European Parliament on the Report of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality
La Strada International (LSI), the European NGO Network against Trafficking in Human Beings, and its partners in the LSI NGO Platform, united against trafficking in human beings, strongly oppose the report by the FEMM committee, prepared by
Rapporteur Mary Honeyball, which calls for criminalisation of clients of sex workers (the so-called Swedish model ) as the only prostitution policy that successfully combats human trafficking and protects the rights of trafficked persons.
The partners of the LSI NGO Platform have supported many women and men who were trafficked in the sex industry in the past nearly two decades. We know from experience that criminalisation does not solve any of the problems that our clients face,
nor does it prevent or stop human trafficking.
Criminalisation stigmatises and marginalises both domestic and migrant sex workers and it deprives them of the tools to protect themselves from violence and seek redress. It drives the sex industry even more underground, which results in less
access to health, social and legal assistance for sex workers, and significantly lower chances to identify individuals who have been trafficked.
We do acknowledge that the sex industry is one of the economic sectors in which human trafficking occurs, as it does in many other industries, in particular those where workers are invisible, unprotected, excluded and disempowered. Therefore, we
believe that sex workers rights organisations, just as trade unions, are important allies in the efforts to protect workers from exploitation, violence and abuse and to prevent trafficking in human beings.
By equating sex work to trafficking in persons, the very complex phenomenon of human trafficking is narrowed down to a moral issue, an approach that fails to address the economic, political and social root causes of trafficking. Moreover, by
doing so, trafficked persons in all other industries are not recognised and remain unprotected.
The conflation of sex work and trafficking in persons leads to inadequate counter-trafficking policies and to counter-productive prostitution policies. The two issues are both complex and need their own individual approach and policy.
Furthermore, it leads to a polarisation in the international counter-trafficking debate, which takes away the focus from what is needed now the most: the protection of the rights of those who have been exploited, violated and abused.
The partners of the LSI NGO Platform - united against trafficking in human beings, therefore call on Members of the European Parliament to vote against Ms Honeyball's report on sexual exploitation and prostitution and to support the Alternative
Motion for a Resolution on Sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality.
The European parliament has voted in favour of a resolution to criminalise the purchase of sex.
On Wednesday, 343 MEPs backed a report proposed by the London MEP and Labour spokeswoman for women in Europe, Mary Honeyball, which recommends legalising selling sex but criminalises buying it. Some 139 MEPs voted against;105 abstained.
The yes vote formally establishes the EU's stance on prostitution and puts pressure on member states to re-evaluate their policies on sex work. However it was not a binding vote that requires states to enact new laws.
Comment: Why the European Parliament Has Got the Sex Trade All Wrong
I recognise that a great number of those working as prostitutes are doing so as a result of having
being trafficked. The trafficking of human beings is akin to slavery, it is a criminal offence and every one of us has a moral duty to fight against it.
But the problem with the proposals which will be put before the European Parliament this week is that they don't acknowledge that some women - and men - choose to sell sex for a living. Whether we approve or not of such an activity, it is the case
that some people enter into prostitution freely and without coercion or violence.
I don't believe that the EU should be telling anybody what to do and that includes what they do with their bodies. What's more EU member states have long held differing legal views on prostitution and it is not the job of Brussels to interfere in
the legal matters and decisions of sovereign nations.
In sound bites, the Swedish Government has been spinning their sex purchase ban, known as the Swedish model or sometimes the Nordic model though it is not adopted by all Nordic countries, as a success. However, research does not
show it has reduced sex trafficking or sex work. In addition, their own police report demonstrates it has pushed prostitution indoors with nearly three times as many Thai massage parlours in Stockholm and the vicinity:
Now, let's think about sex workers' rights in the UK and Ireland. Again, here we have two groups, but the conflation now is consensual sex work versus trafficking/coercion. The first group believe the propaganda they read from abolitionists, you
only have to look at my coverage of Abolition Scotland and their Nefarious road show to see just how inflated that information can be. This group really believe that those of us who have not been trafficked nevertheless require rescue because we
are undoubtedly the product of a broken home, abuse, addiction, low self esteem - the list is endless.
The second group are far more heinous. They know very well that there is a vast majority of independent and content sex workers who just do our work and pay our bills. This group have met us, debated with us and tried every trick in the book to
You're not representative, you're in an ivory tower. You consort with pimps, therefore your 20 years of experience is invalid. You are psychologically damaged, PTSD, therefore we cannot trust what you say.
Dozens of Danish researchers have protested against the EU parliament's decision last week to recommend that EU member states criminalise the purchase of sex.
The 26 researchers, who specialise in the areas of prostitution, sex work, human trafficking and sexuality, have signed their names to a petition because they argue that criminalising the purchase of sex will lead to a more insecure existence for
They further contend that the EU politicians are ignoring the vast research about the issue, including reports from the UN, World Health Organisation and Human Rights Watch, which recommend decriminalising sex work.
Christian Groes Green, a researcher at Roskilde University and one of the petition's signees, told tv2.dk:
When the EU chooses to ignore the research results, then it's down to ideological beliefs that it is morally wrong to sell one's body. The parliament has chosen to ignore all the international research that argues against criminalising buying
The researchers point to Sweden where the criminalisation of sex work has weakened the prostitutes' trust in the authorities and driven them underground and made them more dependent on pimps and other criminals.
It's problematic that they have ignored the research and it goes against tendencies in other areas such as drug abuse, which has been decriminalised. Apparently, it is different with buying sex: a battle based on old-fashioned ideas and beliefs.
That's why we've signed this protest.