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Women's networks call organise to end prostitution in Europe

EU PARLIAMENT

Women's networks call organise to end prostitution in Europe

By Elisa Van Ruiten for Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (11.12.2012) - On the 4th of December the European Women's Lobby organised a conference on prostitution at the European Parliament to assess ten years of policies on prostitution in Sweden and the Netherlands. Representatives from both countries presented the results of studies made of the policies, legislation and impact of prostitution policy in their respective countries.

Under the Swedish model, a 1999 law focuses on demand and prohibits the purchase of sex services in Sweden as well as by Swedish peace keepers and military personal abroad. As a result of this legislation, prostitution has reportedly decreased by 50%. Also, researchers have noted a decrease in the purchasing of services since the law was enacted.

England, Wales, Ireland, Norway and Iceland have also implemented similar laws and have reported similarly positive results.

Research has shown that buyers are all ages, with the majority being between 30 and 50, from all income levels and ethnicities. They are usually married or co-habituating, living with children and having had numerous sexual partners, controverting the commonly held belief that buyers of sexual services are typically lonely unattractive men.

Advocacy for this model views prostitution as a form of violence against women which should be eradicated. Advocates point to statistics that show that 9 out of 10 prostitutes wish to leave the "profession" but cannot. Sixty-two per cent report they have been raped and a greater proportion report having suffered some form of sexual violence. Prostitution is also closely linked with organised crime and trafficking in human beings.

The conference also highlighted the Netherlands model, where focus is placed on the prevention of human trafficking. Here the view is that entering into prostitution is an individual's right of free choice. However, not all prostitution in the Netherlands is legal; for instance, prostitution among minors and non-licensed prostitution are forbidden. Each municipality is responsible for policies and legislation that manage prostitution locally.

The goal in the Netherlands model is to ensure government control in order to improve conditions for prostitutes and distinguish between forced and voluntary prostitution. However, some studies have shown that as many as 50 to 90% work involuntarily. Thousands of women have been forced into prostitution and 83% of prostitution in the Netherlands takes place outside of licensed brothels.

About 200 non-governmental organisations used the occasion to introduce the Brussels Call "Together for a Europe free from prostitution," including six key recommendations to EU Member States:

 *   an end to repressive measures against prostituted persons;

 *   the criminalisation of all forms of procuring;

 *   real alternatives and exit programmes for those in prostitution;

 *   the prohibition of the purchase of a sexual act;

 *   the implementation of policies of prevention and education and the promotion of equality and of positive sexuality; and

 *   the development of prevention policies in the countries of origin of prostituted persons.

"Anyone who knows anything about the reality of prostitution for the hundreds of thousands of women in Europe whom it has trapped cannot fail to endorse this call for urgent action from the EU and its member states", says Viviane Teitelbaum, President of the European Women's Lobby.

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