The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) has for years been committed to working towards a Europe free from prostitution, by supporting key abolitionist principles which state that the prostitution of women and girls constitutes a fundamental violation of women’s human rights, a serious form of male violence against women, and a key obstacle to equality between women and men in our societies.
For the EWL, prostitution is first and foremost a question of human rights standards: it is a question of whether we want to live in a world where the human body can be commoditised or whether we want to implement the human right to freedom from body and sex commercialisation. The EWL considers that prostitution is a violation of the fundamental human right to dignity, and perpetrates the domination of men over women through the use of money. Being in prostitution leads in itself to a situation of violence; many women face male violence in prostitution, be it sexual abuse, beating, economic violence, psychological threats, etc. The EWL denounces violence against women in prostitution, but also the system of prostitution itself as a form of violence against women, still tolerated in our societies.
The tolerance of the EU and its Member States for the system of prostitution allows for men’s use of and control over women’s bodies and sexuality, and fuels trafficking in women for sexual exploitation. Considering prostitution as a form of violence against women implies setting a standard of human dignity for all women and girls around the world, and will help to stop trafficking in women for sexual exploitation. Above all, the persistence of systems of prostitution in EU Member States is a strong indicator of the failure of Europe as a whole to engage in reaching gender equality and promoting women’s rights.
The EWL believes that, to realise a world free from prostitution, we need:
To raise awareness, open spaces for debates and questions, allow people to discuss, exchange, learn more about what prostitution really is;
To support women survivors of prostitution and make their voices heard;
To involve men who are not ‘prostitute-users’ and use peer pressure to encourage positive attitudes towards equality and respect for women’s rights.
This is why, in 2010, the EWL decided to undertake a European-wide campaign aiming at both raising awareness on prostitution as a form of male violence against women, and lobbying for an EU action to end prostitution in Europe. After a first brainstorming period which led to the establishment of a strong strategy, the EWL Campaign is now officially launched, with the support of thought-provoking campaign materials.
The campaign is designed to be a long-term campaign, as its main goals consist of:
Raising awareness on prostitution as a form of male violence against women;
Giving visibility to NGOs working on prostitution and/or with prostituted person;
Providing national NGOs with European-wide campaign material and supporting national actions and strategies;
Advocating at the EU level for the abolition of the system of prostitution;
Engaging allies and supporters, from the political world and civil society networks, but also individuals.
Through the campaign, individuals get the opportunity to take a pledge not to engage with the system of prostitution, be it by ignoring the existence of the system, using it, trivialising its existence and conveying stigmatising representations of persons in prostitution.