MEPS: Prostitution should not be legal


European Union


Three members of the feminist activist group Femen protest outside the European Parliament in Brussels against what they say is the inaction of the European Union in the face of the alledge sexual exploitation of Ukrainian refugees. Photo AFP, Aris Oikonomou

A clear majority of the Members of the European Parliament call for cross-border measures to combat the dark world of prostitution. However, introducing the full Nordic model seems to be a bridge too far.

On Thursday, the EU lawmakers adopted a report that urges member states to reduce the demand for prostitution but decriminalise prostitutes themselves. In total, 234 MPs voted in favour, 175 against and 122 abstained.

The report is not binding as legislation, Euractiv reports. At the same time, the fierce debate that surrounded the voting shows that the topic is a controversial one.

MEPs clashed with people working in the sex industry over the critical report that called for the so-called Nordic model to be introduced in EU member states. The model criminalises the sex buyer while letting prostitutes go free. However, the model is disputed sometimes because people fear that it will push prostitution underground and leave prostitutes in a vulnerable situation.


The MEPs, therefore, adopted a less forceful text, which calls for initiatives to reduce demand and 'punish' clients. It does not specify what this punishment should look like. In addition, the report encourages member states to decriminalise sex workers and offer exit programmes for prostitutes who want to quit their work. Also, online advertising sexual offers should be limited, the report reads. That is stated by the European Parliament in a press release. Furthermore, member states should introduce measures to combat poverty among sex workers.

Rapporteur Maria Noichl is happy that the report is approved. "EU states should launch initiatives to drastically reduce demand by targeting sex buyers and others who profit from the prostitution of others", she said after the vote.

Earlier, she had called the vote "a strong signal of support to the most vulnerable among us who are being dragged into a system of violence and exploitation, the website of the Socialists and Democrats reads. "It is time to take decisions at an EU level to end the shameful systems and regulations that only benefit human traffickers, pimps and sex buyers", Noichl believed.


Also, Reformed MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen is delighted with the outcome of the vote. "Prostitution leads to human trafficking and abuse of women. A call to the Dutch government. Reconsider the prostitution policies", he wrote on X.

Women's organisations, such as the European Women's Lobby (EWL), also welcomed the outcome of the vote. "MEPs sent a strong signal for women, for Europe, for justice and equality by voting in favour of this report: it is a clear way of reaffirming that exploiting a woman's body is not acceptable", said spokesperson Mary Collins.


However, there were also critical voices. Two days before the vote, some sex workers called upon the European Parliament to reject the report, Euractiv writes. They worry that criminalising clients leads to prostitution moving underground and less safety for prostitutes.

Politician Karen Melchior from the liberal Renew Europe fraction worries that the report curbs the right to free choice of adults. "It is a gross violation of the right to make independent decisions", she said.



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