EWL News

The demand side for sexual exploitation is on the political agenda of the EU civil society Platform on trafficking

[Brussels, 4 June 2013] More than 100 civil society organisations attended the first meeting of the EU civil society Platform on trafficking in human beings, an initiative from EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Myria Vassiliadou. Several members and partners of the European Women’s Lobby were in Brussels for this event and engaged in a constructive dialogue with the European Commission. They were particularly vocal about the gendered dimension of trafficking, highlighting that the majority of trafficking is for sexual exploitation and therefore that the demand for prostitution needs to be addressed as the root cause for trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In her welcome speech, Commissioner Malmström expressed her respect for the work of civil society organisations: “Going through the list of the participants yesterday, I was impressed by the diversity of the organisations represented: large networks and small NGOs; working at the EU, national and local levels; advocacy organisations; shelters and organisations working with victims; human rights organisations defending the rights of children and vulnerable groups; women’s rights organisations; migrants rights organisations; research institutes and think tanks, faith-based organisations and trade unions. With all this expertise, there is a lot we can achieve.”

She reminded participants that: “It is striking, but perhaps not surprising, to see that 96% of all victims of trafficking specifically for the purposes of sexual exploitation are women and girls. The EU will certainly continue to address sexual exploitation in its work on human trafficking.”

During the roundtable of decision-makers, Béatrice Ouin, from the European Economic and Social Committee, stressed on the demand side, saying that “As long as there is a demand, there will be traffickers”. While trafficking is often qualified as a complex issue, she however thinks that „victims and buyers can be identified”. MEP Livia Jaroka (Hungary) pointed out to the links between trafficking and discrimination, taking the example of the many Roma women victims.

The afternoon was dedicated to three workshops: priorities of the EU civil society platform, engagement and cooperation of civil society organisaitons with EU Member States and third-countries, exploring the links between the internet and trafficking. EWL members and partners took actively part in the three workshops, but some regret that the issue of sexual exploitation is not enough addressed, while it concerns more than 60% of victims of trafficking in the EU, 80% in the world.

The EWL is pleased to see that the issue of demand is now on the political agenda, especially for trafficking in sexual exploitation and namely prostitution. We however need to constantly keep in mind the reality that relates to the political issue being discussed: the demand is a very concrete phenomenon, and it is about some men (in the vast majority) buying sex from some women (in the vast majority). Addressing the demand is about questioning the legislative systems on prostitution and looking at their impact on demand and on persons in prostitution. This is why the EWL had issued a statement prior to the meeting, calling for concrete action on the issue of prostitution. During the meeting, some EWL members and partners also delivered a strong political message, calling on the EU to consider the recommendations of the Brussels’ Call. The EWL looks forward to participating in the second meeting of the Platform.

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