Prostitution in the EU: cross-border implications and impact on gender equality 

Press Releases 
  • Differences in the way member states regulate prostitution create fertile ground for organised crime  
  • People in prostitution are disproportionately criminalised and marginalised 
  • Member states should take effective measures to reduce demand for prostitution 
  • Commission should develop common EU guidelines guaranteeing fundamental rights for people in prostitution 

Common EU measures are need to effectively tackle prostitution, MEPs say, calling for guidelines to guarantee the fundamental rights of those in prostitution.

The draft report on prostitution in the EU, its cross-border implications and impact on gender equality and women’s rights, was adopted by the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee by 16 votes in favour, 10 against and 3 abstentions. It underlines that the asymmetry between national rules on prostitution within the EU, given that prostitution operates across borders, leads to more victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and is fertile operating ground for organised crime. They therefore call on member states to better protect women in prostitution by introducing the Nordic/Equality model to deal with trafficking, sexual exploitation and prostitution in a way that proactively incorporates the positive aspects of regulated prostitution. The police and other law enforcement agencies, social and medical services and non-governmental organisations should be supported, involved in decision-making and work in close cooperation, they say.

The worsening social and economic situation due to COVID-19 and the current energy and cost-of-living crisis have increased all forms of abuse and violence against women, MEPs say, including sexual exploitation, with many women in vulnerable situations being driven into poverty and social exclusion. MEPs demand efficient policies that eliminate poverty and improve social protection, tackle school failure, promote education, and the establishment of inclusive policies that support women’s empowerment and economic independence, along with measures that condemn those who exploit.

People in prostitution face the constant threat of police and judicial persecution, and are marginalised and stigmatised, the draft report notes, which often hinders them from seeking justice. MEPs call for full access to high-quality health and social services as well as to the justice system for people in prostitution.

MEPs note that prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation exist because there is a demand for it. Reducing demand is a key instrument for preventing and reducing human trafficking and must be done in a way that does not harm those in prostitution, they say. They call on the member states to take urgent measures to tackle online advertisement that directly or indirectly encourages prostitution or seeks to attract buyers.

Member states should ensure that existing legislation is properly assessed to avoid any loopholes that allow criminals to act with impunity. The draft report calls for measures at EU and national level to effectively tackle the cross-border implications of prostitution and urges the Commission to develop common EU guidelines guaranteeing fundamental rights for people in prostitution.


Maria Noichl, (S&D, Germany) rapporteur, said: “Today’s vote was an important one for the committee, on an important subject, dividing feminists for far too long. I am happy that we did not shy away from the topic, giving a voice to people and especially women who have traditionally been overlooked, marginalised and stigmatised in our societies. The report sheds light on the reasons why people enter prostitution and what we as a society need to do to prevent this.”

Next steps

The full House is expected to vote on the draft report in September.