Women’s groups call for EU-wide sex pay ban

More than 200 women’s rights groups are calling for laws to make paying for sex a crime across the European Union.

Campaigners will present key policy recommendations for legislation to MEPs in Brussels on Wednesday.

But opponents say the move is likely to drive the prostitution industry further underground.

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), which leads the campaign, wants EU member states to implement six key policies, including the criminalisation of all forms of procuring, and the creation of effective exit programmes for sex workers.

“The most important thing to understand about prostitution is that imposing sexual intercourse with money is a form of violence that shouldn’t be accepted,” said EWL spokeswoman Pierrette Pape.

“If we understand that, we can then put comprehensive policies into place that will change mentalities and respect gender equality between women and men.”

EWL cites Sweden as a successful example, saying that street prostitution had halved there since paying for sex was outlawed a decade ago.

In contrast, there has been no significant improvement of the conditions of sex workers in the Netherlands where the sector has been legalised, Ms Pape said.

She said the issue now needs regulating on an international level, beyond country-specific laws.

So far 36 European MEPs are already supporting the proposal, Ms Pape said.

Critics, however, argue that criminalising prostitution also increases the risk of rape and violence. The International Union of Sex Workers believes that the move would be dangerous because, instead of stopping the industry, it would drive it underground.

In the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, prostitutes register their services in return for the same rights and responsibilities as people running other kinds of businesses.

The EU currently does not have the power to legislate on prostitution. But new laws designed to reduce human trafficking are set to come into force next year and EU officials told the BBC both issues are closely linked.

They are currently analysing different countries’ approaches and are expected to report back on their findings in 2016.

– BBC News

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