EP committee divided over prostitution regulations


European Union


Prostitution windows in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Photo ANP, Remko de Waal

A report calling for regulations for prostitution causes divisions in the European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.

The members of the Committee, which appointed the rapporteur, are especially divided on the proposed regulatory model, the wording of the report and the overall legitimacy of sex work, Euractiv writes.

The report is to be finalised in May to be brought to the plenary vote in June. It asks member states to decriminalise people in prostitution but criminalise buyers of sex and those who organise sex services, in line with the so-called Nordic prostitution model. The goal of these measures is to reduce the demand for commercial sex.

The presumption underneath the report is that prostitution is a type of gender-based violence. Social-democratic MEP Maria Noichl, who submitted the draft report, pleads for a "coherent policy". She believes sex work cannot be considered a regular job, as "it is not a free choice." Noichl sees legal prostitution as the infrastructure that hides human trafficking.

Therefore, she focuses her policy recommendations on prevention, exit strategies and reintegration into society.


However, several members of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality reject the report's outcome. MEP Karen Melchior from the progressive Renew party calls the report "fundamentally flawed." She criticises the lack of distinction between "sex workers and people forced into prostitution." According to Melchior, the latter is gender-based violence, but the first is not.

Sabrina Sanchez, director of the European Sex Workers Alliance, also opposes the Nordic Model, which the report suggests. She is convinced that the model "takes away the agency of sex workers".

Another critique of the Nordic model is that it pushes prostitution underground as clients fear getting criminally charged for buying sex.

At the same time, the members of the Committee do agree with the statement that sex workers should be decriminalised so they can gain access to health care and social benefits.



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