[Brussels, 20 May 2019] In September 2017 controversial billboards appeared in Brussels. Touring the areas near the Free University campus, they encouraged female students to subscribe to the dating website RichMeetsBeautiful to “improve their lifestyle” or “have a zero euro student loan by dating a sugar daddy”, showing a picture of a young women in lingerie sliding her bra strap down.
The Dutch Council of Women of Belgium, among others, immediately protested these adverts. The storm of social outrage that followed not only ensured these advertisements were prohibited, but also got the owner of the website, Sigurd Vedal, prosecuted. The website got blocked from within the country during the investigation. On the 8th of May 2019, the Brussels criminal court charged Vedal and his company with “incitement to debauchery and prostitution” and ordered the website to remain closed. Furthermore, Vedal was sentenced with a personal fine of €24,000 and a six month suspended jail sentence, his company was fined €240,000.
This sentence is an important step forward towards a Europe free from prostitution. But even more important is that this social outrage should emerge on the entire topic of prostitution, no matter which women or girls are targeted. Belgian law does not explicitly prohibit prostitution, except for the exploitation of it, even though the uproar around this case shows there is an increasing social awareness about the problems that surround it. Prostitution is a violation of human rights, and all State Parties should take appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women. As Council we not only subscribe to the Brussels’ Call, we also demand of the Belgian government to take on the abolition of prostitution, to end the abuse once and for all.