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200 civil society organisations launch European debate on the abolition of prostitution

Posted on 4 December 2012

[Brussels, 04 December 2012] Today, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), together with Fondation Scelles and Mouvement du Nid France, held a conference in the European Parliament aiming at assessing 10 years of policies on prostitution in Sweden and the Netherlands. On this occasion, around 200 women’s rights NGOs, coming from 25 Member States and four other countries, unveiled their Brussels’ Call “Together for a Europe free from prostitution”.

Together with a dozen MEPs representing all political groups in the European Parliament and several Ministers, the NGOs explained why prostitution is a form of violence, an obstacle to equality, a violation of human dignity, and of human rights. They also presented six key recommendations to EU Member States: the suppression of repressive measures against prostituted persons; the criminalisation of all forms of procuring; the development of real alternatives and exit programmes for those in prostitution; the prohibition of the purchase of a sexual act; the implementation of policies of prevention, education, to promote equality and positive sexuality; the development of prevention policies in the countries of origin of prostituted persons.

“Anyone who knows anything about the reality of prostitution for the hundreds of thousands of women in Europe whom it has trapped cannot fail to endorse this call for urgent action from the EU and its member states”, says Viviane Teitelbaum, President of the European Women’s Lobby.

“With the Brussels’ Call, we clearly see that the abolition of prostitution is a shared value across Europe. For all signatories of the Call, the EU policies on trafficking won’t achieve results as long as the impunity of procurers and sex-buyers is not addressed”, says Grégoire Théry, Secretary General of Mouvement du Nid France.

Facts and figures on prostitution:

Prostitution is a form of violence against women:

  • Between 80 and 95% of persons in prostitution have suffered some form of violence before entering the system of prostitution (rape, incest, pedophilia).
  • 62% of women in prostitution report having been raped.
  • 9 out of 10 women in prostitution would like to exit the system of prostitution but feel unable to do so.
  • 68% of women in prostitution meet the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the same range as victims of torture undergoing treatment.
  • According to Interpol, a pimp earns 110 000 euros per year per prostituted person.
  • Nevada, where procuring is decriminalised, sees the highest rates of rape compared to all US states.
  • • For 10% of girls and 37% of boys interviewed in Denmark, it is normal to receive money or gifts in exchange of a blow job.

Prostitution and trafficking:

  • Globally, women constitute 85% of the victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation (prostitution).
  • Globally, 79% of reported trafficking in human beings is for sexual exploitation (prostitution).
  • • In Europe, 76% of trafficking in human being is for sexual exploitation (prostitution). Women constitute 70% of victims of trafficking.
  • According to the UN, trafficking in human beings is the second biggest source of illicit profits for criminals after drugs trade.

Prostitution in Sweden and the Netherlands:

  • According to the Dutch Ministry of Justice’s study ‘Daalder’, there has been no significant improvement in the situation of persons in prostitution and the use of sedatives has increased.
  • According to the same study, in the Netherlands, options for leaving the industry were in high demand, while only 6% of municipalities offer assistance.
  • The Dutch National Police Force’s study on the sector of legalised prostitution found that between 50-90% of the women in licensed prostitution “work involuntarily”.
  • In Sweden, the number of persons exploited in street prostitution has halved since 1999, while it tripled in Denmark and Norway for the same period.
  • After ten years of implementation of the Swedish legislation, 70% of the population express full support for the law.
  • In 1996, 13.6% of Swedish men said they had bought someone for prostitution purposes. In 2008, the figure had dropped to 7.8%.

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For more information, interviews, background or visual materials, please contact Leanda Barrington-Leach, EWL Communications and Media Officer, T: (+32) 2 210 04 27, M: (+32) 488 41 94 21, barrington@womenlobby.org, and see www.womenlobby.org.

Note to editors:

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU), working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. EWL membership extends to organisations in all 27 EU Member States and three of the candidate countries, as well as to 21 European-wide organisations, representing a total of more than 2000 associations.

On the spot on 4 December:

  • European Women’s Lobby: Pierrette Pape, Coordinator of EWL campaign ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’ – Mob: +32 486 39 17 17
  • Mouvement du Nid - France : Grégoire Théry, Secretary General of Mouvement du Nid France – Mob: +32 496 21 64 66
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