The report on prostitution in the EU, its cross-border implications and impact on gender equality and women’s rights was adopted by MEPs with 234 votes in favour, 175 against and 122 abstentions. It underlines that the asymmetry between national rules on prostitution within the EU, given its cross-border nature, leads to more victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and makes for fertile operating ground for organised crime. Member states should assess existing legislation to avoid any loopholes that allow criminals to act with impunity, while the Commission should develop common EU guidelines guaranteeing the fundamental rights of people in prostitution.
Measures to cut demand and online advertisement
Prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation exist because there is a demand for them, MEPs note. Reducing demand is therefore key to prevent and reduce human trafficking and must be done in a way that does not harm those in prostitution, they say. They call on the member states to take urgent measures to tackle online advertisement that directly or indirectly encourages prostitution or seeks to attract buyers.
MEPs also demand support for and cooperation with the police and other law enforcement agencies, social and medical services and NGOs to address trafficking and sexual exploitation and protect women in prostitution.
Give people in prostitution access to essential services and protect their rights
The worsening social and economic situation due to COVID-19, and the current energy and cost-of-living crisis have increased all forms of abuse and violence against women, MEPs say, including sexual exploitation, with many women in vulnerable situations being driven into poverty and social exclusion. MEPs demand efficient policies against poverty. They want to 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 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 call for full access to high-quality health and social services as well as to the justice system and pathways out of prostitution.
Maria Noichl (S&D Germany) rapporteur, said: “Today Parliament is giving a voice to people, and especially women, who have traditionally been overlooked, marginalised and stigmatised in our societies. We are standing by those who have warned for a long time about the reality of prostitution. This report outlines the reasons why the big majority of people end up in prostitution, and it highlights the way forward: create exit programmes and alternatives, eradicate poverty and social exclusion, dismantle stereotypes and inequalities, and reduce demand by tackling the buyers.”