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Under S&D leadership, EP to call for EU-wide approach on prostitution to cut demand and help women to leave it


14 Sep 2023


Global Europe

Today, the European Parliament will vote on a report calling for a Europe-wide approach to prostitution, putting women’s rights, protection against violence, and gender equality at its heart.

The report drafted by S&D MEP Maria Noichl calls for the decriminalisation of people in prostitution and for more support services for those who want to leave it. It calls for the demand side to be drastically reduced by targeting sex buyers and others benefiting from the prostitution of others.

Prostitution affects the most marginalised people of our societies, with most people in prostitution being women and girls, while most buyers are men. The report acknowledges that there is a minority that say they engage in prostitution of their own free will. However, most of the women in prostitution would leave it if there were a realistic alternative.

Maria Noichl, author of the report and the S&D co-ordinator in FEMM committee, said:

“I strongly believe that the European Parliament will today send a strong signal of support to the most vulnerable among us who are being dragged into a system of violence and exploitation. It’s time to take decisions at an EU level to end the shameful systems and regulations that only benefit human traffickers, pimps and sex buyers. Prostitution is the extended arm of patriarchy, deeply sexist, racist, reflecting the social and economic inequalities within the EU and worldwide. Around 70% of the people in prostitution in the EU are of migrant origin and in particularly vulnerable situations in some of our member states, such as Germany, or even more so in Austria.

“Trafficking, organised crime and prostitution do not stop at borders. We must tackle this at an EU level.

“As long as it is socially accepted that women are for sale, we cannot achieve real gender equality. We must invest in prevention, education and exit programmes, as well as in better social and migration policies. We will not eradicate prostitution completely. However, to change society, reduce demand and protect the vulnerable, we need to change the laws. Our objective is to find a European solution to a European problem that has so far been ignored, and to end the exploitation which only means money for others.”

Heléne Fritzon, S&D MEP and vice-president responsible for gender equality, added:.

“Prostitution is not sex work, nor a form of employment, as some would like to pretend. A situation in which a woman can be a victim of violence by a stranger paying for exercising his sexual desires on her body, cannot be considered as a job. It’s a source of suffering for women and children.

“The EP report suggests a European approach based on the Equality Model which criminalises the purchase of sex, while decriminalising the person exploited for prostitution. It is crucial, because the demand constitutes the market and thus the basis for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. It also calls for more investment in exit programmes and improvement in the implementation of the model.

“The EU must act to stop the trade with women’s bodies on the single market and strengthen our work to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence.”

Note to editors:

According to Fondation Scelles, quoted by the European Parliament Research Service study, prostitution involves around 40-42 million people worldwide, of which 90% are dependent on a procurer and 75% are between 13-25 years old. The Dutch prosecution bodies estimate that around 70 % of the approximately 30,000 prostitutes in the country have been forced into prostitution by violence or lured into it by a ‘loverboy’ (a pimp pretending to be a boyfriend). According to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Europol, the liberalisation of all aspects of prostitution means human trafficking can flourish and hide behind the ‘legal business’.


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