Friday, September 29, 2023

Regulating prostitution: the debate dividing Europe reaches the European Parliament

“We will never achieve gender equality as long as we accept the purchase of women’s bodies and prostitution,” said Sweden’s Helene Fritzon, vice president of the European Parliament and responsible for equality issues. The European Chamber voted on Thursday, after the previous day’s debate, a resolution calling for common European standards of 27 to guarantee the fundamental rights of people engaged in prostitution.

A priori, the review will continue with the votes of the European People’s Party, Social Democrats and the Left. The ranks of the liberals of Renew Europe are divided, while the Greens group is against; His argument is that every person should have the capacity and right to choose.

Seven MEPs from the S&D, Greens and Renew Europe families presented the draft with a minority opinion against the text, considering that terms such as “prostitution2 refer to value judgments and carry connotations of criminality and immorality, “damaging a marginalized community.” against the criminalization of any aspect of what they call “sex work”, claiming it would encourage secrecy and exploitation.
The text calls for more measures, at the national and European level, to protect these people, who in more than 90% of the cases are vulnerable women, since most of the prostitution activity comes from trafficking and smuggling.

Consequently, they urged the European Commission to legislate to establish common standards across the bloc that guarantee the safety and basic rights of people who practice prostitution. “It is time for the European Union to stop this kind of trade. We are proud of the Internal Market, but we must stop the trade of women’s bodies within it,” said German MEP Maria Noichi, who criticized in a press conference the “silence of the unions” on this issue.

Similarly, it promotes the creation of prevention and information campaigns to reduce the need and promote exit and reintegration programs into society. “These people face constant threats of police and judicial persecution, and are marginalized and humiliated,” the statement highlighted.

Violence and underground economy

The debate over whether or not to ban prostitution has created many social and political divisions that have created friction within feminism itself. And it has many roots: stigma, health, violence, poverty, nationality or a state of vulnerability. The text emphasizes that women who practice prostitution face more human rights violations than the average. A 2013 study by the German Federal Ministry of Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth revealed that 41% of pregnant women surveyed had suffered physical or sexual violence in the context of prostitution.

Noichi criticized that, in his home country, Germany, 90% of people who practice prostitution are foreigners. Along these lines, the resolution calls for a global European approach so that the demand and market for prostitution does not just move from one Member State to another and women are protected against exploitation. And so that mafias do not use guarantees or legal loopholes to take advantage of the situation in poorer countries.

A recent report from the European Parliament takes an x-ray of the situation at the European level: human traffickers are mostly men, most of them part of mafias from China or Nigeria that take advantage of the free movement of Schengen to take advantage of women and girls..

We also want to talk about the profitable side and the underground economy derived from an activity that mobilizes billions of euros. In the center of Brussels, near Gare du Nord, renting a window for prostitution costs 250 euros per day. To pay the bill, between 150 and 200 clients are needed per year, while the owner pockets around 360,000 euros per year.
In the digital age, the industry is moving screens at a rapid pace. With one click it is easy and accessible to contract any service. After the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the subsequent exodus, messages proliferated online announcing the arrival of “fresh meat from Ukraine.”

An EU is divided over its regulation

Among the 27 Member States, the regulatory framework for prostitution varies greatly. In Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia and the Netherlands it is legalized and regulated. In Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain it is legal, but not regulated. In Croatia and Romania it is punishable. In France, Ireland and Sweden, paying it is considered a crime and clients are punished. The most radical case can be found in Lithuania, where it is a crime for the people who practice it and for the clients.

The model favored by the proponents of the resolution voted this week is the Swedish one. The abolitionist path, under the slogan no need no prostitution, won the country. It has been operating for 24 years and the data reveals that this demand has been reduced (from 13.6% to 7.9% between 1995 and 2008) and that there is a general consensus in society and the political parties.

This is where the PSOE is looking to promote a new law in Spain. For its part, Belgium last year became the first country in Europe and the second in the world to decriminalize prostitution, giving sex workers the same rights as self-employed workers, something New Zealand just.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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