The European Commission now must decide whether it implements legislation. Evangelical associations are positive about the move.
After months of a debate with many actors in Brussels and beyond, the European Parliament finally said ‘yes’ to a motion calling to “tackle prostitution and policies that eliminate poverty”.
The text, passed with 234 votes in favour, 175 against and 122 abstentions, denounces that the “asymmetry” between laws on prostitution in European countries hurts “victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation” and gives a “fertile operating ground for organised crime”.
New Europe-wide regulations should “punish” buyers of sex, the motion said. “Reducing demand is key to prevent and reduce human trafficking and must be done in a way that does not harm those in prostitution”.
Speaking at the European Parliament, the Rapporteur on Women’s Rights, Maria Noichl (Social Democrats, Germany) clearly stated her view that “prostitution is not a type of work or sex work. Prostitution is a type of violence against women... We have to make it clear that it is not allowed to buy the body of a woman”.
This is why online advertisement for prostitution and other channels that promote payments for sex must be controlled to put an end to sexual violence.
Prevention is at the centre of the strategy proposed by the EU Parliament. Europe should “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”, the majority says, “face the constant threat of police and judicial persecution, and are marginalised and stigmatised, the report notes, which often hinders their ability to seek justice”.
MEPs therefore call for full access to high-quality health and social services as well as to the justice system to make sure there are “pathways out of prostitution”.
But the final text fell short of asking for the implementation in the EU countries of the so-called ‘Nordic Model’, introduced in Sweden, France and Ireland. This approach criminalises the demand of sex with a strong abolitionist emphasis.
Several lobby groups in Brussels such as the European Sex Workers Alliance, as well as influential NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have opposed the resolution of the European Parliament saying these steps hurt the freedom and rights of those working in the so-called sex industry.
The European Freedom Network, a Christian movement formed by over 250 groups in 44 countries with the aim to “combat human trafficking and commercial exploitation and empower survivors” told Evangelical Focus they were satisfied with the move of the EU Parliament. “We hope the Parliament as a whole backs it and that the European Commission proposes legislation to make this law and practice actually happen across the European Union”, they said.
This resolution, passed on 14 September, has no direct legislative effect but demands the European executive power (the European Commission) to decide whether it will legislate on prostitution for the 27 countries.