EWL News

Towards Equality: calling on the EU to legislate against all forms of violence against women and girls, including prostitution and sexual exploitation

[Brussels, 16 December 2022] At the dawn of the European Parliament’s discussions on the Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence and as an initiative report on the cross-border implications of prostitution will be introduced to MEPs at the beginning of 2023, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) and the Brussels’Call launch the ‘Towards Equality - Progress,challenges and next steps’ briefing paper. Completing the ‘Her Future is Equal’ briefing paper, this new brochure introduces an Equality Model Index aiming at monitoring progress of states towards the adoption of the Equality Model, calls for a co-ordinated European response that ends the buying of people for sex and underlines the support for the Equality Model through public attitudes research held in Hungary, Ireland, Malta and Lithuania.

Prostitution is an abusive system that mostly affects women and girls: in Europe, 90% of prostituted people are women and girls when 97% of so-called “sex-buyers” are men. While a majority of women and girls in prostitution report physical assault, rape and post-traumatic disorder, some countries still decriminalise the purchase of sex and pimping which triggers higher levels of exploitation and prevents the European Union to effectively discourage demand for sexual acts. Indeed, even if some Member States decided to adopt and implement the Equality Model, sex-buyers can still cross borders to commit acts of financial sexual coercion while protecting their anonymity and avoiding consequences of their actions.

We, at the EWL and Brussels’Call, stand for a feminist Europe where all women and girls, regardless of their background and experiences, can live lives free from violence and exploitation – free from prostitution and trafficking. This is why, we stand for the Equality Model which works to ensure no woman or girl directly affected by prostitution faces criminal sanctions but instead can receive support and justice.

The Equality model stands for:

  • supporting the individual’s power to refuse sex and recognising that consent cannot be bought;
  • respecting and decriminalising individuals in prostitution as well as supporting those who do not want to enter prostitution;
  • enabling and empowering people who choose to leave prostitution by investing in exit and support programmes;
  • ending culture of commodification and objectification of women’s bodies.

With this briefing paper, we call on the EU and its Member States to take a clear position against prostitution and sexual exploitation that must unquestionably be recognised and tackled as forms of violence against women and girls. Bold legislation and ambitious policies must be enforced now to protect women and girls from coercion, exploitation and poverty.

Over the next months, the European Parliament and the European Council will work on the draft of the Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence prepared by the European Commission. We count on MEPs and governments to make the necessary amendments for this Directive to be as effective as possible in order to make Europe free from prostitution and sexual exploitation!

The ‘Towards Equality - Progress,challenges and next steps’ can be read in full here:

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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.

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