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Ireland and the UK: towards the abolition of prostitution?

[Brussels, 31 October 2014] In the last three weeks, diverse developments seem to support the idea that Ireland and the UK are moving towards progressive policies to tackle the sex industry, end exploitation and violence, and realise gender equality. Minister’s statement, Assembly vote, launch of NGO campaign, voice of survivors...: at different levels, there is a strong demand for the implementation of the Nordic model on prostitution in the two countries.

Mid-October, after meeting NGOs, including EWL members, and the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, the Irish Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that she is ready to address the demand for prostitution and trafficking. "It’s an extraordinary reflection on our society that buying drugs is illegal but buying women and girls is not", she said at the event organized by the Immigrant Council of Ireland for the EU Anti-Trafficking Day.

On Monday 20 October, Northern Ireland parliamentarians voted on a law criminalising the purchase of sex, with a strong cross-party support, making Northern Ireland the first region of the UK to make the buying of sex illegal, following in the footsteps of Sweden and other Nordic countries such as Norway and Iceland. If the provision on criminalising the purchase of sex is the most debated, let’s not forget that the law includes other provisions aiming at supporting women in prostitution, and tackling trafficking and exploitation.

On Wednesday 22 October, a coalition of UK organisations launched the campaign called End Demand, which aims at raising awareness on the phenomenon of prostitution and calling for the adoption of the Nordic model in the UK. In its press release, End Demand mentions the recent developments at European level (both European Union and Council fo Europe), calling for consideration of the Nordic model. The campaign got the support of Seema Malhotra MP, Shadow Minister for Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls. You can read here the statement of survivor Rebecca Mott at the launch of the campaign.

The European Women’s Lobby is delighted to see such mobilisation in Ireland and Northern Ireland, with the recognition of the system of prostitution as an obstacle to gender equality. These developments show that concrete ways to change mentalities, bring more equality and respect for all, is possible.

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EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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