The Malta Independent 29 July 2021, Thursday

Leading criminal lawyers feel it is ‘high time’ prostitution and brothels are regularised

Duncan Barry Sunday, 5 October 2014, 08:14 Last update: about 8 years ago

A number of leading criminal lawyers have one thing in common: they all agree that it is high time that brothels and prostitution are regularised.

The debate on the issue was started by lawyer Toni Abela, who is also the Labour Party's deputy leader for party affairs, who said this week that the time has come for Malta to consider regularising brothels.

Contacted by this newsroom, lawyer Joe Giglio said that prostitution has been around for 5,000 years, that it will be here for the next 5,000 years and that he doubts whether it can ever be eradicated.

"Therefore," he said, "it won't be a bad idea if brothels are in fact regularised".

In a case that had nothing to do with brothels but concerned gentlemen's clubs, Dr Giglio represented the proprietors of one of these clubs in a case where an appeal made by the Attorney General was thrown out by a court, which ruled that entertainment, dancing and animation do not constitute immoral acts.

This decision came after Dr Abela's comments. Duncan Fenech and Daniel Schembri stood accused of promoting immoral acts at their Paceville club, AO Platinum, by employing women to perform at the club but they were acquitted. They were also acquitted of another charge, that of breaching the Employment Training Corporation's rules. One of their employees, Sabrina Bonett of Sliema, was also acquitted of performing immoral acts. She had been found in a room in her underwear but she was on her own.

Another appeal that was thrown out involved the manager of Secrets club, also situated in St Julian's, after it had been raided by the police and four girls wearing only underwear were found dancing in front of and talking to patrons. The club's manager, Donald Camilleri, had told the police that he was responsible for the club's operations.

On the issue of immorality, Dr Giglio noted that in the "1960s, homosexuality, engaging in anal sex and committing adultery was considered immoral but times are changing," he said, meaning that the issue of what is viewed as immoral has evolved over time.

Also contacted, lawyer Giannella de Marco said that "hiding behind the argument that it is immoral to regularise brothels is dangerous both for the women involved and the clients. Once we cannot seem to get rid of prostitution, let's regularise it for the safety of both parties involved".

She said that women are ending up in the hands of pimps, who can be dangerous individuals.

Lawyer Roberto Montalto said that he also agreed with the regulation of brothels. "Regularising sexual activity and having registered brothels for commercial purposes means you would curb, or reduce, criminal activity surrounding prostitution, mainly human trafficking."

Lawyer Franco Debono referred this newsroom to a 2 December 2011 parliamentary sitting which had discussed the issue that had been brought up by him.

Former MP Dr Debono is appearing on behalf of number of women who stand charged with loitering for purposes of prostitution in Gzira and Marsa.

In his speech, he said that in his career as a lawyer he defended a number of women charged with prostitution and he can easily come to the conclusion that most of these individuals have been exploited in life and as such should be pitied.

"Tougher penalties can be considered a good thing, but what will they actually achieve? To impose tougher sentences on individuals engaging in such acts is the easiest thing to do and therefore I feel that we should focus more on the issue of exploitation and the spread of diseases as a result of prostitution.

"Prostitution has been with us for a very long time and I doubt whether one can ever eradicate it," he said.

Dr Philip Carabott is director of the Genito-Urinary (GU) Clinic, one of the functions of which is to test for sexually-transmitted diseases and to also provide counselling. He said that he is in favour of regularising brothels and prostitution but that, first, it has to be established "Where we are going with this and what good will it actually do? At face value, it is easy to say regularisation is a good thing, however one has to ask why we are doing this: to reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, to stop the exploitation of women?

"We need to be clear what exactly we are going to achieve, since the regularisation of brothels can also drive the whole thing underground as there may exist the question of whether those running registered brothels will try to avoid paying tax to the state."

Dr Carabott said there is also the issue of "part timers", meaning those who engage in prostitution to make ends meet.

However, the most salient point raised by Dr Carabott is the fact that most sexually-transmitted infections have an incubation period and if a person is tested for infections such as HIV, Syphilis or Hepatitis during the incubation period, the test will not guarantee that everything is well.

He explained that if someone is tested when the infection is in the incubation stage, the results may be negative and if that person then engages in sex soon after the tests were carried out, while the infection is still in its incubation, there is still a strong possibility that the person engaging in sex with the person who has been tested will be infected, nevertheless.

Dr Carabott also pointed out that condoms do not afford 100 per cent protection against the spread of infections.



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