Majority of MEPs reject or abstain on dangerous and flawed proposal to criminalise clients of sex workers

Majority of MEPs reject or abstain on dangerous and flawed proposal to criminalise clients of sex workers

Today, September 14, is Sex Worker Pride Day!

On this day Members of the European Parliament voted on resolution Regulation of prostitution in the EU: its cross-border implications and impact on gender equality and women’s rights, 2022/2139(INI).

The European Sex Workers’ Rights Alliance, together with the European Coalition on Sex Workers’ Rights and Inclusion representing another 12 human rights organisations, strongly called on all Members of the European Parliament to reject and to vote against the report through this Open Letter.

The report was voted on and passed as a full-fledged resolution. However, the result definitively represented only the minority opinion of the European Parliament, with significantly more MEPs voting against or abstaining than voting in favour of the report.

It is definitely a partial victory,” says Sabrina Sanchez, ESWA Director. “We believe MEPs’ decision to vote against or abstain on this resolution is in recognition that the evidence overwhelmingly does not support the report. It is ideologically driven, which is simply a terrible way to make policy.

A group of MEPs have gained support for the removal of the parts that were most harmful to the rights of sex workers so that they were voted separately and/or were split. Most signficantly, MEPs voted against the part calling for the introduction of the EU-wide Nordic model, seeing it removed from the resolution entirely.

The so-called Nordic model is based on a belief, that all sex work is violence against women. It aims to criminalise our clients and anyone who benefits from prostitution - so, for instance, landlords who rent us premises or sex workers working together for safety,” Sanchez clarifies. "This model is consistently correlated with increases in violence against sex workers."

The Nordic model has been widely criticised by major human rights civil society organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, UN agencies such UNAIDS, UNFPA and UNDP and the World Health Organisation. The European Court of Human Rights is currently assessing the parameters of the Nordic model, which was introduced in France in 2016. In 2021, the ECtHR found a case in which 261 sex workers brought a lawsuit against France admissible. Two weeks ago, it rejected France's admissibility objection, in which the Court acknowledged that the mere existence of the law has a negative impact on sex workers.

It is this deeply flawed and thoroughly debunked policy advocated by the Noichl report, and that 297 MEPs voted today to either reject or abstain on - vs just 234 who voted for.

"Today's vote is evidence that the tide is turning," says Sanchez. "The evidence has been mounting up against the Nordic Model for years, and it will continue to do so. We are content that we are on the right side of history."


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