[Brussels, 9 October 2019] We have witnessed much progress on many aspects of equality between women and men, something that is inspired by women’s resilience and their fight to push for more equality all over the world. However, we are also witnessing a very general backlash in many parts of the world, including Europe, on various issues such as women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, and violence against women. There is still not a single country in the world where women are completely free from male violence.
Prostitution remains a central form of institutionalised violence against women, an issue the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) has recognised for more than 20 years. This is why we advocate through the campaign Brussels’ Call: Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution for a legislative model which decriminalises all of those directly affected by prostitution while holding the pimps, traffickers and punters (‘buyers’) to account. We believe in creating a Europe where women have real freedom to achieve their dreams, where the State provides those opportunities, and where violence against women in all forms is deemed absolutely unacceptable.
We acknowledge that prostitution is a sexist, racist and classist system, which is a driver of, rather than solution to, cycles of poverty and violence. In addition, we also recognise that pornography, trafficking for sexual exploitation and prostitution are all part of the same system of oppression, violence, and objectification, which are ongoing blocks to true equality. We call for the Equality Model, which is also known as the Nordic, Swedish, or abolitionist model. This model ensures that those affected by prostitution are decriminalised, and that the government provides exit support, including financial assistance as well as education, career and legal support.
This is why the EWL with its Brussels’ Call partners are coming together in the heart of Europe, to host a conference called WomenObject! – Week of Action, which has been a top priority for us in our fight against prostitution and sexual exploitation. In addition to meetings of our Observatory to End Violence Against Women and our Taskforce on Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights, we will hold a series of public and internal actions with partners of the campaign Brussels’ Call Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution, which was started in 2012, is a commitment to a Europe free from prostitution; a Europe that stands up for equality, human rights and prevention of violence. In addition, a Europe that denounces the sexism, classism and racism intrinsic to the system of prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation of women and girls. Dozens of MEPs, over 200 human rights advocates and organisations, have signed the Brussels’ Call in support of ending this system, which disproportionately affect women and girls.
As this has been a top priority for the EWL and our partners, from 14-18 October, we are bringing voices of more than 150 women survivors, feminist advocates, allied movements and women leaders from all walks of life to the heart of Europe to engage, strategise and call for change.
- This is an opportunity to mark the progress made towards an abolitionist Europe in the years since the European Union took a stance on the issue. We will highlight the strength of support for this movement to continue, the ongoing role Europe plays in the system of prostitution worldwide, as well as setting out our goals for the term of the next European Parliament (2019-2024).
- We will collaborate and plan with partners, stakeholders and colleagues from across grassroots, activists, civil society and politics.
- We will enable spaces for dialogue, share learning and best practices, as well as to ensure the participation of marginalised women and inspire engagements from the ground to tackle the root causes, which allow sexual exploitation and violence against women and girls to continue.
- We will continue to advocate for better alternatives, holistic exit support and create policies that prevent the financial vulnerability that can leave women at risk and without choice.
For this to be realised and accessible across Europe, coordinated action must be taken at the European level. Therefore, we call on political leaders to engage, be drivers of change and work together to end this system and ensure that all women are free from prostitution. We are Together for a Europe free from prostitution!
Article written by Majenneh Dukuly
Please find the post event press release for the Brussels Call day conference.