This article was originally published by the Times of Malta.
The Malta Women’s Lobby (MWL)on Tuesday hoped that women’s voices will not be ignored on the issue of prostitution and human trafficking.
In a statement, it said that as an organisation representing women, it seriously questions the logic behind the push for full decriminalisation of prostitution by eight international organisations, none of which, it said, were directly involved in women’s rights.
In a joint statement, the eight organisations had said the move would protect the well-being and dignity of sex workers.
But the MWL said these organisations seem to be blinded to the harsh realities of prostitution which causes physical, mental, and emotional harm and often leaves those involved self-medicating or intoxicating themselves in order to be able to cope.
The MWL said that prostitution largely affects vulnerable women and girls who are being coerced. “Given that more than 95% of sex buyers are men, we argue that this is a gender issue, and as such should be treated accordingly,” it said.
It insisted that through decriminalisation, demand will surge resulting in increased trafficking of more individuals to cater for sexual exploitation. “Such shocking realities are already occurring locally,” it pointed out.
The organisation said that if the buyers are not sanctioned, the message that would be sent out is that human beings may be reduced to products which can be bought and consumed, “a toxic misogynistic culture encouraging the buying of human beings”.
It would be paradoxical if the government listens to these organisations while also claiming to be in favour of women’s rights as it is clear that decriminalisation facilitates the life of pimps, traffickers, and makes the buying of humans, mostly women a legal transaction, the MWL said.
The lobby called on the government to listen to organisations who have women’s issues at heart and go for the Nordic model, built over years of research and based on the direct experiences of people caught in prostitution.
This model has been adopted by eight leading countries in gender equality who truly listen and are active towards women`s voices. It is also supported by the European Women`s Lobby, the largest coalition of women`s organisations across Europe, it said.
“We will never tolerate exploitation or coercion of anyone, let alone of vulnerable human beings, the majority of whom are women and girls,” the lobby said.
The MWL is an umbrella organisation and is a full member of the EWL which is joined by more than 100 civil society organisations in the campaign Brussels’ Call: Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution.
Its position is in line with that of a coalition of more than 40 national women’s rights, anti-trafficking and social work NGOs, who recently flagged their concern that the proposed law would be a “gift” to pimps and human traffickers.