My European Parliament Speech on Prostitution and Gender Equality

Labour Party

My report on prostitution and sexual exploitation takes its starting point in the Directives on victims of violence (2012) and in trafficking (2011) which clearly couples trafficking and prostitution.

My report is trying to change the perspective on prostitution from the supply to the demand side and therefore endorses the “Nordic” model to criminalise the client rather than the prostitute, who should have all adequate help and not be condemned and stigmatised when often suffering from trauma, drug and alcohol addiction and a higher mortality rate than women in general. Programmes to help women to escape prostitution should be developed. Prostitution should more be seen as a form of violence and as such be an obstacle to equality between women and men. The economic crisis in some countries has also forced women into entering prostitution which shows that the economic inequality is important.

Laws on prostitution vary across the European Union. In the UK prostitution is not illegal but soliciting, running a brothel, pimping and associated activities are. In Holland a bill in 2000 lifted the ban on brothels with the aim of reducing prostitution and controlling and regulating it by introducing a municipal licensing system. The Dutch government carried out two evaluations on the impacts in 2002 and in2007. In the 2007 evaluation it was clear that 95% of the prostitutes worked without employment contracts, were not entitled to social service benefits, had no exit programmes, and did not pay tax.  Furthermore work permits for prostitutes were not accepted and thereby the prostitutes had to be referred to the underground market. According to a 2006 study the majority of the female prostitutes are migrants, mainly from Eastern Europe and the sex business represents 5% of the GDP namely around 600 million Euros yearly. According to the national Rapporteur on Human Trafficking there has always been a clear relationship between human trafficking in the Netherlands and 60% -70% of the women are forced by criminal groups to be prostitutes.

In Germany a similar approach to that in Holland is in place and a study carried out by the Federal Ministry found that 92% of the women working as prostitutes had suffered sexual harassment and Germany is considered one of major destination for victims of human trafficking and the Anti -Trafficking Directive 2011/36/EU has passed by Bundestag but not Bundesrat.  In Der Spiegel a debate has been conducted this last year where it has become clear how young poor women from Romania and Bulgaria are treated as sex slaves for flat rate services to German men.

On the other hand, buying sexual services is a criminal offence in Sweden – the Nordic Model. France has just passed a law in the National Assembly in line with the Nordic Model.

My report views this as a way forward for the European Union.

2 thoughts on “My European Parliament Speech on Prostitution and Gender Equality

  1. Congratulations to Mary Honeyball for her efforts to educate the public about the realities of prostitution as a primary form of violence against women and about the Nordic law as a paradigm change toward achieving women’s right to equal status with men.

  2. I am one of the “wicked” men who “exploit” women who are happy to receive money for sexual acts. For some years my wife has no longer had the ability to have sex. I made a decision four years ago that I would not be celibate for the rest of my life, and decided to seek sex with prostitutes.

    The common view of prostitution being “street corners, pimps and drugs” is a huge misconception. All the women I have met (over 20 to date) have made a positive life choice, finding the activity an easy way to make money, and apparently enjoy what they do. They are all independent, mostly having apartments dedicated to the job, or meet clients in hotels or their homes.

    As far as “exploitation” is concerned, many have other jobs, or are studying, and find the extra income useful, but not essential. The lady I see most frequently has paid off her mortgage, and has a property rental agency. Another woman is a psychotherapist. In her case, by some twisted logic, it would appear to be perfectly satisfactory for her to offer psychological counselling on a fee-earning basis, but as soon as she offers a sexual favour she is being “exploited”.

    I have no doubt that this silly law will be passed — there is too much of a prevailing attitude of moralising and man-hating for it to be stopped. However, who will be reporting these acts? Not the prostitutes, that is for sure; the women to whom I have mentioned criminalisation are horrified at the prospect. Will our over-stretched police forces really be looking to prosecute men for these consensual acts? Very doubtful, unless pressed by some extreme feminist group.

    What I do may be morally reprehensible, but as far as I am concerned, that is between me and my wife. It is certainly not a matter for the law. We have sufficient income for the amount I spend on prostitution not to be an issue financially. What will I do when the law comes in? Probably continue my activities, but only with women I trust, and not with new ones who may be engaged in some type of entrapment.

    There is already legal protection in the case of under-age, trafficked or pimped women, and rape is always rape. I suspect that the Act will be about as successful as the ban on fox-hunting, and, except in exceptional circumstances, will rarely be used. Prostitution is not called “the oldest profession” for nothing, and will continue no matter what the moralising do-gooders try to do. The much-vaunted Swedish model has done little to change matters, apart from driving up the prices which prostitutes charge.

    Mark Parsons, Southampton

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