EU countries should reduce the demand for prostitution by punishing the clients, not the prostitutes, says Parliament in a non-binding resolution passed on Wednesday. It stresses that prostitution violates human dignity and human rights, whether it is forced or voluntary, and calls on member states to find exit strategies and alternative sources of income for women who want to leave prostitution.
“Rather than blanket legalisation – which has been a disaster in Holland and Germany – we need a more nuanced approach to prostitution, which punishes men who treat women’s bodies as a commodity, without criminalising those who are driven into sex work," said Mary Honeyball (S&D, U.K), who drafted the resolution. “We send a strong signal that the European Parliament is ambitious enough to tackle prostitution head on rather than accepting it as a fact of life."
The non-binding resolution was adopted by 343 votes to 139, with 105 abstentions,
Reducing demand for prostitution by shifting the crime to the client
Most MEPsbelieve that one of the best ways to combat prostitution and trafficking of women and girls is the so-called Nordic model, followed in Sweden, Iceland and Norway. It views prostitution as a violation of human rights and as a form of violence against women and criminalises those who buy sex rather than those who sell it. They call on EU countries to take the Nordic model as an example.
Buying sexual services from prostitutes under the age of 21 should be a criminal offence in the entire EU, they add.
Fight trafficking and sexual exploitation
MEPs point to Commission data showing that 62% of the victims of trafficking are trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation and that 96% of the identified and presumed victims are women and girls. EU countries should strengthen their policies to fight trafficking and better protect victims, say MEPs.
Offering exit strategies to women
The resolution calls on national authorities to set up exit schemes to support women who want to get out of prostitution and help them find other sources of income. Better education and reducing the poverty that forces women and children into prostitution, are needed to prevent prostitution, MEPs add.
Combatting violence against women
In a separate resolution, voted on Tuesday, MEPs say violence against women must be tackled at EU level. They call on the Commission to table legislation before the end of the year to prevent gender-based violence in the EU, adding that gender-based violence should be considered a crime.
"There is a need for minimum standards, common definitions and action. We must ensure that a life free from violence becomes a reality for all women in the EU," said the rapporteur, Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, BG).
International Women’s Day, which will be celebrated in the European Parliament on 5 March, is dedicated this year to the fight against violence against women.