EWL News

Czech Republic: women’s organisations re-launch discussion on prostitution and trafficking in women

[Prague, 21 November 2013] On 21 November 2013, several representatives of Czech women’s organisations met in Prague to discuss the issue of prostitution and trafficking in women. Co-organised by the European Women’s Lobby and the Czech Women’s Lobby, this training session aimed at bringing in-depth information to participants in order to support their analysis of the phenomenon of prostitution, in particular in relation with the shared objectives of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The issue of prostitution, and its links with trafficking in women and girls, are rarely addressed in the public debate and the media in Czech Republic. However, prostitution is still a widespread phenomenon: according to the Czech Ministry of Interior, there are at least 200 illegal brothels in the Czech capital alone, and over 860 throughout the country. While “organized prostitution” is supposed to be prohibited, many strip clubs or cabarets are very visible in Prague, with explicit advertising (see the photo below).

Moreover, brothels that cater to day tourists from Austria and Germany can still be found in border towns and along motorways, such as the infamous E-55. The heavy marketing materials developed by the owners of the prostitution clubs are almost entirely in German and use “classic” market arguments to all the wares. On the Czech-Austrian border, for example, immense billboards inform visitors that they can get “sex today for 39” (Sex heute für 39), while at the club entrances there are posters announcing “fresh girls today” or a supply “100% Czech”.

The prevalence of prostituted women coming from Eastern Europe or from the Roma community leads a majority of the population to ignore the phenomenon, or justify it for discriminatory or racist reasons. As a sex buyer said to French researchers: “Women from Eastern Europe are interested in money; this is why we can find them in brothels all over the world”. A recent BBC documentary gave visibility to the attitude of sex buyers, especially they increasing demands to buy sex without condoms. Looking at the reality of prostitution in Czech Republic, the links between prostitution and trafficking are easy to acknowledge: the example of Bulgarian women exploited in Prague is very relevant in this perspective (read the article describing the reality of Bulgarian prostituted persons in Prague).

According to the organization Bliss without Risk (Rozkoš bez rizika), there is a new phenomenon in Prague: in place of erotic clubs, there has been a rise in the number of large priváty, apartments with many rooms, which have their own managers. Moreover, over 200 websites for prostitution services in the Czech Republic are available online, up from 45 in 1997, which enable sex tourists to book their travel and appointments to buy sex acts before they leave home.

Czech authorities seem to want to ignore the issue, or regulate it to make it less visible and impose taxes on brothels owners. A report published by the German NGO KARO just before the Czech Republic officially joined the European Union and indicating the presence of a fully developed child prostitution market aimed at German customers in the city of Cheb (Schauer, 2003), on the border with Germany, did trigger sharp debate around the issue of sex tourism in Czech border areas. In response to heavy media coverage of the phenomenon, Czech and German authorities issued statements relativizing the extent of sexual exploitation of children in the Czech Republic and presenting police cooperation between the two countries as the main response to the “problem”.

Since then, despite some debate about prostitution in 2011, there has been no concrete action taken, and no public discussion has been initiated to break stereotypes on prostitution and bring a social perspective to the debate. Several Czech women’s organisations have joined the EWL campaign “Together for a Europe free from prostitution”, with the aim to raise awareness on the reality of prostitution, its links with trafficking and its negative impact on gender equality. The EWL and the Czech Women’s Lobby hopes that the training offered on 21 November will be the starting point of a braoder discussion on the issue of prostitution, gathering NGOs but also public authorities, political parties and police/justice/health professionals. While the debate on prostitution is back on the German agenda, it’s time for Czech Republic to address the issue and develop courageous policies protecting women’s rights and aiming at the realization of gender equality.

Sources and news articles :

Pictures: taken in Prague on 22 November 2013

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