Press releases

#20yrsEndDemand: 20 years of activism for a Europe Free from Prostitution

European Women’s Lobby marks 20 years of campaigning ‘Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution’.

Brussels, October 5 2018

Failure to protect women in prostitution
Violence, sexism and racism are inherent to the system of prostitution. 60-80% of women in prostitution experience regular physical and sexual abuse, causing long-term health impacts. The mortality rate of women in prostitution is 10-40 times higher than the average. Migrant women and young girls are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation. 70% of women in prostitution have a migrant background and 75% are between 13 and 25 years old.

Attempts to legalise, regulate or decriminalise prostitution continue to fail. We know that when a country supports and enables sex trade, the trade will grow and with it, the levels of violence against women. We know that 30% of all men have paid for sex at one point in their life. Male sex buyers exploit women’s vulnerability through financial power and control, coerce sex and therefore should be made accountable for their actions.

European Women’s Lobby demands change
In the summer of 1998, the European Women’s Lobby passed a landmark motion affirming that “prostitution and trafficking in women constitute a fundamental violation of women’s human rights.”

Gwendoline Lefebvre, President of the European Women’s Lobby: “For twenty years, the European Women’s Lobby has been firmly committed to working together with its members to end the harm and abuse of prostitution. We know that 9 out of 10 women in the sex trade would leave if they could. Governments are responsible for upholding efficient exit systems and for offering support programmes for those affected by prostitution.”

Progress and hope for women and girls
There has been progress since that summer in 1998. We have a European Parliament that agrees that prostitution is harmful and supports a system that holds exploiters and abusers to account. Following in Sweden’s footsteps, now Norway, Iceland, Canada, Northern Ireland, France and the Republic of Ireland have all opted to target demand through the Nordic model which decriminalises those directly selling sexual services while criminalising buyers, pimps and traffickers, with more countries considering following suit.

Gwendoline Lefebvre: “There is so much farther to go to realise a truly equal, feminist Europe where all women and girls, no matter their background, can realise their hopes and dreams. We cannot accept that prostitution could ever be an acceptable solution to poverty, and we will continue to support actions all across Europe and with the EU Institutions to end prostitution.”

20 years of activism to End Demand
Women are rising for a world free from male violence and for a society where women and men are truly equal. It is high time to listen to the voices of victims and survivors and to end the demand for sexual exploitation.

Together, we call on our government to:

  • Push for the implementation of the Nordic model as a matter of urgency;
  • Fund support programmes for those affected by prostitution. (These should be gender-sensitive and include services in the areas of health, education, economic support, housing, language and residency permits for those who need it;)
  • Tackle organised crime that drives the system of prostitution, whether by trafficking or pimping;
  • Hold sex buyers to account for the part they play in creating a demand for the inequality and violence inherent to the sex trade;
  • Introduce comprehensive sexuality education in the national curriculum that include effective consent education programmes.

20 anos de ativismo por uma Europa livre de prostituição
Find the Press Release translated by our members in Portugal here.

20yrsEndDemand Portuguese


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