EWL press coverage

Prostitution Ban In The EU Would Be Bad News For Sex Worker Safety

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Ugh. So anti- this proposal from European women’s groups calling for a prostitutionban spanning the European Union. The aim is to combat gender inequality and violence against women by making selling or paying for sex illegal, a campaign spokeswoman said. But further criminalizing female sex workers, making it impossible for them to earn a living or forcing them into deeper underground avenues seems like kind of a jackass way of helping, no?

To really help requires first acknowledging that they don’t call it ‘the oldest profession’ for nothing. Prostitution will never go away. From a government or policy standpoint, the only things you can do are either drive it further into the shadows and margins of society or develop policies that make it safer for all parties involved.

And to make it safer for all involved requires at least decriminalization, if not legalization, of prostitution.

Why? Sex workers who don’t fear their own arrest and prosecution will be more likely to report abuse and assault. The ability to advertise and publicly discuss sex for sale injects more transparency and accountability into the industry (imagine how much a Yelp for escort agencies, brothels, etc., could add to client and hooker safety!). And law enforcement could stop wasting time and money prosecuting a broadly victimless crime and concentrate on the subsets of the industry where abuse, human trafficking and other bad things are happening.

This campaign — led by by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), which will present its policy recommendations to members of the European Parliament on Wednesday — has good intentions. But its logic is so fundamentally flawed. EWL spokeswoman Pierrette Pape told the BBC:

“The most important thing to understand about prostitution is that imposing sexual intercourse with money is a form of violence that shouldn’t be accepted.”

If offering monetary compensation is a form of imposing violence, that most employers in the world would be coercive criminals! It’s silly.

Crusades like this remind me of the women’s temperance movement in the early 1900s (at least as portrayed in “Boardwalk Empire” and high school history textbooks), taking aim at something causally related to undesired or harmful behavior instead of directly at the behavior itself. You can’t stop people from drinking and you can’t stop people from f**king. Might as well make these activities safer instead of vehemently denying that.

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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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