[12 July 2023, Strasbourg] Some MEPs supporting the Equality Model joined the European Women’s Lobby for a photocall to celebrate the adoption of the Initiative report on prostitution that took place in the FEMM Committee on 27 June. We count on the rest of MEPs to confirm this position and to deliver a similarly powerful message for women and girls during the September plenary session vote. In Europe, women account for 90% of persons in prostitution and 87% of victims of trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation purposes.
On 27 June 2023, the FEMM committee gathered to vote on the Initiative Report on the Regulation of prostitution in the EU: its cross-border implications and impact on gender equality and women’s rights drafted by S&D MEP Maria Noichl. Following the legacy of the Honeyball resolution adopted in 2014, this initiative report encourages Member States to adopt an abolitionist perspective based on implementing the Equality/Nordic model decriminalising persons in prostitution while criminalising the so-called “sex-buyers” and exploitative third parties. This model, already adopted in France, Sweden and Ireland, proved to be efficient in reducing demand and cases of human trafficking as traffickers can more easily hide their criminal activities in countries where prostitution is fully legalised.
“This vote is of paramount importance for women and girls in Europe: by encouraging Member States to adopt the Equality Model approach, MEPs recognise that prostitution is a form of violence that we need to combat and not to banalise.” highlights Mary Collins, Acting Secretary General at the European Women’s Lobby.
Tackling the root causes of prostitution, the report particularly insists on the importance of guaranteeing health, social, educational and economic support to persons in prostitution as poverty and social exclusion are the foundation of this form of sexual exploitation. Therefore, not only does the Equality Model aim at guaranteeing survivors of prostitution tools to take their power, agency and autonomy back but it does put the burden of stigmatisation and shame on so-called “sex-buyers” who believe that freely given consent can be bought when the definition adopted in the report is crystal clear: “consent can only be given freely when there is no power imbalance between the people involved, and when there is no use of threat, violence, deception and coercion and that consent obtained through the giving or receiving of payments or benefits is irrelevant”.
Protecting youth is also among MEPs priorities as the report underlines the negative impact of the normalisation of prostitution on the perceptions and expectations young people have in terms of sexuality and relationships between women and men while on the contrary, studies undertaken in Sweden demonstrated a positive and significant shift in attitudes among boys and men after Sweden adopted the Equality Model. In the same vein, harmful stereotypes to be found in pornographic content and their impact on young people’s sexuality were also denounced in the report.
“With this vote, MEPs showed that they are on the side of survivors of prostitution. They see them, believe them and support them. We call on the rest of MEPs to follow this path and to deliver a united message during the plenary vote in September. Let’s make a Europe free from violence against women and girls a reality.” adds Iliana Balabanova, President of the European Women’s Lobby.