Call for EU ban on prostitution

// 11 December 2012

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The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) last Tuesday launched a call to end prostitution in the EU.

According to information on the EWL website, the call, entitled ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’ was already supported by 200 women’s organizations across 25 member states, and a dozen MEPs, covering all the political groups in the European Parliament at launch.

Arguing that prostitution is a form of violence against women, the call makes six recommendations to EU policy makers to achieve its aims (lifted verbatim from the EWL site):

  1. the suppression of repressive measures against prostituted persons
  2. the criminalisation of all forms of procuring
  3. the development of real alternatives and exit programmes for those in prostitution
  4. the prohibition of the purchase of a sexual act
  5. the implementation of policies of prevention, education, to promote equality and positive sexuality
  6. the development of prevention policies in the countries of origin of prostituted persons

The official pdf version of the call also includes a quote from Victor Hugo comparing prostitution, not trafficking, to slavery, and the transatlantic slave trade in particular judging from the phrasing.

Not surprisingly, the call is being criticized by some women’s rights activists on various listserves. I have not yet been able to locate a list of the 200 groups that are supportive. The MEPs that spoke in favour of the call at its launch included:

  • Sophie Auconie (France, EPP)
  • Emer Costello (Ireland, S&D)
  • Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria, EPP)
  • Mikael Gustafsson (Sweden, GUE)
  • Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (France, Greens)
  • Antonyia Parvanova (Bulgaria, ALDE)
  • InĂªs Zuber (Portugal, GUE)

The Red Umbrella Fund, a global grantmaking project by and for sex workers run by Mama Cash, is collecting responses to the call on its facebook page. These so far include: Transgender Europe (TGEU), the English Collective of Prostitutes, and Libby Brooks in The Guardian’s Comment is Free.

Image of a black and white photo of a trumpet taken from the bell end in, by magnuscanis, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Sal_PA // Posted 12 December 2012 at 10:05 am

I cannot be certain that I have read the tone of your blog correctly, but your choice of language seems to me to be questioning that the support of the 200 women’s groups stated by the EWL exists? You judge the phrasing of the proposal and yet begin the very next sentence “Not surprisingly, the call is being criticized…” I can’t help but read into this that you have your own bias – which I have noticed over the last few years is shared by a few f-word contributors who I can only describe as very aggressively pro-prostitution and have witnessed off-handed dismissal as well as silencing of opposing arguments by suggestion of feeble-mindedness, repression or middle class white privilege paternalism; when in reality a large proportion of feminists feel (as I do) that the above 6 aims are in fact a massive positive for the lives of ALL women (not just the prostituted women who are victims of the sex trade) for a variety of reasons that are very much from a ‘pro-female’ stance.

zohra moosa // Posted 12 December 2012 at 10:29 am

Hi Sal_PA

I wrote that it was not surprising because this is a controversial area that feminists have been arguing about for some time. So while there are some women’s rights activists that will be supportive of the call, there will inevitably be some that are not.

I don’t at all doubt that the 200 supportive organizations exist. That is why I put that sentence after the one about ‘not surprisingly’ – to illustrate that women’s rights activists are divided on this. I do think the organizations should be clearly listed on the EWL site however, and have emailed them asking for the list.

I do have bias, of course, but it is not a ‘very aggressively pro-prostitution’ position. One of my ‘biases’ includes anti-racist critiques – e.g. prostitution is not the same as transatlantic slavery and it is inaccurate and inappropriate to suggest so.

Others on The F-Word may feel differently, but as a site we do not have an agreed position on prostitution or sex work.

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