At the EU level

MEPs call for a Europe free from prostitution and support the Brussels’ Call signed by 200 NGOs

[Brussels, 1 October 2013] Today, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) gathered for a joint press event in the European Parliament, to express their view that prostitution is an obstacle to equality between women and men and a violation of human rights. Coming from different countries and all major political groups in the European Parliament, 53 MEPs all have signed the Brussels’ Call ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’.

Initiated by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) and its partners, the Brussels’ Call had been launched in December 2012 in the European Parliament, and endorsed by around 200 women’s rights NGOs, coming from 27 Member States and five other countries (Norway, Iceland, Macedonia, Québec, Argentina).

“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.

By supporting the Brussels’ Call, MEPs make it clear that prostitution is a form of violence against women and a violation of human dignity. They address 6 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.

  • “If we want to live in a Europe where women have equal rights and can feel safe and respected, we must work to eliminate prostitution and to create a culture in which it is not permitted or acceptable to purchase the body of another”, says Mary Honeyball MEP (S&D, UK), rapporteur of the forthcoming FEMM report on “Sexual exploitation, prostitution and their impact on gender equality”.
  • “With the Brussels’ Call, we clearly see that the abolition of prostitution is a value shared by many 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 Mikael Gustafsson MEP (GUE/NGL, Sweden).
  • “Prostitution is a form of violence, and doesn’t belong to a society which aspires to equality between women and men”, says Nicole Kiil-Nielsen MEP (Greens, France).
  • “I am convinced that the harmonisation at EU level of policies dealing with prostitution is crucial. It has to go through a reflection on methods for reintegration and support to women willing to exit the system of prostitution”, says Sophie Auconie MEP (EPP, France).
  • “The existence of unequal gender power relations is incompatible with the principles and values of equality and respect to the personal dignity enshrined in the EU’s founding treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This is not the Europe of equality, progress and respect we aspire to live in”, says Antonyia Parvanova MEP (ALDE, Bulgaria).

This event is part of the Brussels’ Day of Action ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’, organized by the European Women’s Lobby, which is leading a European campaign aiming at raising awareness on the reality of prostitution and contributing to social change towards abolitionist policies on prostitution.

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%.

MEPs supporting the EWL campaign and the Brussels’ Call:

  • • Véronique de Keyser, Belgium, S&D
  • • Mariya Nedelcheva, Bulgaria, EPP
  • • Antonyia Parvanova, Bulgaria, ALDE
  • • Ivailo Kalfin, Bulgaria, S&D
  • • Christel Schaldemose, Denmark, S&D
  • • Britta Thomsen, Denmark, S&D
  • • Emilie Turunen, Denmark, S&D
  • • Siiri Oviir, Estonia, ALDE
  • • Sophie Auconie, France, PPE
  • • Marielle de Sarnez, France, ALDE
  • • Nathalie Griesbeck, France, ALDE
  • • Sylvie Guillaume, France, S&D
  • • Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, France, Greens
  • • Constance Le Grip, France, EPP
  • • Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, France, EPP
  • • Michèle Striffler, France, EPP
  • • Catherine Trautmann, France, S&D
  • • Franziska Brantner, Germany, Greens
  • • Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Germany, ALDE
  • • Kinga Göncz, Hungary, S&D
  • • Zita Gurmai, Hungary, S&D
  • • Nessa Childers, Ireland, S&D
  • • Emer Costello, Ireland, S&D
  • • Mairead McGuinness, Ireland, EPP
  • • Gay Mitchell, Ireland, EPP
  • • Phil Prendergast, Ireland, S&D
  • • Silvia Costa, Italy, S&D
  • • Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg, Poland, S&D
  • • Joanna Senyszyn, Poland, S&D
  • • Ana Gomes, Portugal, S&D
  • • Inês Zuber, Portugal, GUE/NGL
  • • Iratxe García Pérez, Spain, S&D
  • • Mojka Kleva, Slovenia, S&D
  • • Göran Färm, Sweden S&D
  • • Mikael Gustafsson, Sweden, GUE/NGL
  • • Anna Hedh, Sweden, S&D
  • • Kent Johansson, Sweden, ALDE
  • • Olle Ludvigsson, Sweden, S&D
  • • Jens Nilsson, Sweden, S&D
  • • Carl Schlyter, Sweden, Greens
  • • Eva-Britt Svensson (former MEP), Sweden, GUE/NGL
  • • Alf Svensson, Sweden, EPP
  • • Marita Ulvskog, Sweden, S&D
  • • Asa Westlund, Sweden, S&D
  • • Cecilia Wikström, Sweden, ALDE
  • • Catherine Bearder, UK, ALDE
  • • Fiona Hall, UK, ALDE
  • • Mary Honeyball, UK, S&D
  • • Claude Moraes, UK, S&D
  • • Marc Tarabella, Belgium, S&D
  • • Krisztina Morvai, Hungary, NI
  • • Isabella Lövin, Sweden, Greens
  • • Marian Harkin, Ireland, ALDE

For more information, interviews, background or visual materials, please contact Anna Bates, Communications and Media Officer, European Women’s Lobby; Tel: +32 2210 04 40; Mob: +32 4 85 03 76 71;, and see

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 28 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 1st October: Pierrette Pape, Coordinator of EWL campaign ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’; Mob: +32 486 39 17 17,

Latest video

EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

Facebook Feed

Get Involved