The Malta Independent 26 February 2024, Monday
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Prostitution: ‘Decriminalisation is the safest way for sex workers to work’

Giulia Magri and Shona Berger Tuesday, 3 March 2020, 10:45 Last update: about 5 years ago

Decriminalisation is the safest way for sex workers to work, a sex worker and activist in the field, the The Malta Independent.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said that she has been working in the industry for well over a decade. “Decriminalisation gives full service sex workers the freedom to screen and refuse clients and the freedom to move on from sex work into other forms of work,” she added.


In September 2019, the government announced plans to decriminalise prostitution which led to heated debates on whether prostitution should be recognised as any other job, and to go as far as to criminalise those who buy sex.

The debate had since mellowed until, last Sunday, Reforms Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar said that the proposed law to decriminalise prostitution would not make buying sex a crime.

A coalition of 40 NGOs have since come together calling for sex buying to be made into a crime. The sex worker told this newsroom that the Nordic Model has its problems. She also said that sex work and sex trafficking are two completely different things, and many people refer to sex work as sex trafficking.”

With decriminalisation in place, sex workers can work alongside law enforcement officials, having the ability to screen their clients and any individuals that may raise any red flags, in relation to sex trafficking.

“Decriminalisation of sex work has been introduced in many countries, and statistics have shown that in New Zealand crime/violence has decreased.” She also pointed out that these sex workers have the support and security of the police, when in the past going to police to report rape or threat, would land these sex workers in prison.

“I support full service sex workers, not just because I myself work in the industry, but because sex work is work, and full service sex workers offer many different services,” she said.

“I know full service sex workers who also work with people with disabilities to help provide them with sexual experiences. These sex workers should not be exploited for choosing such a career and the stigma needs to be abolished.”

Zammit Lewis prostitution from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

‘I will personally seek to hear what the NGOs have to say’ – Justice Minister

Speaking to this newsroom, the Minister for Justice, Edward Zammit Lewis, said that he will personally seek to hear what the 40 women’s NGOs have to say and a consultation process will ensue.

“At the end of the day we are a democratic country, and we all have an opinion,” Edward Zammit Lewis said.

Whilst the government may not agree on all the NGOs have to say, Zammit Lewis again insisted they will definitely be heard.

 “The most important thing is that ultimately we come up with the best model for such a situation and agree on the decision that will need to be made,” he said. The decided model will then be taken forward to the cabinet, after the NGOs have been heard.

‘Women’s groups not taken seriously’

Whilst it seems that Cutajar has made a clear decision to not take on the Nordic Model, the consultation period is still ongoing, as NGOs are due to be heard on 4 March in Parliamentary Committee.

“We are told that the government wants to listen to women and push for equality but then a decision has been made without our acknowledgment,” explained lecturer and activist Anna Borg.

Borg is one of the women who form part of the 40 NGOs who have criticised the government’s decision to not make it a criminal act to buy sex.

Borg told the newsroom that she and other members of the NGOs had a meeting with the social affairs committee and there was no mention that the government had made a decision to not take on the Nordic Model.

“It is very clear that the decisions have been decided for those high-end escorts and not the majority of all prostitutes,” Borg said. “This will only aid pimps and traffickers, and will open Malta to sex tourism.”

The 40 NGOs published a statement on Monday morning saying that ditching the Nordic Model is an “insult to women and will take the country backwards.”

The Nordic Model decriminalises all those who are prostituted and provides them with support services. It also makes buying people for sex a criminal offence and pushes to reduce the demand of sex trafficking. Such a model has been adopted in places such as Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada and Israel.

“How can we believe that government has gender equality at heart if the same government wants to continue facilitating the commodification and objectification of women’s bodies?” they said in the statement.

Further consultation with NGOs and experts in the field is necessary, Commissioner for Domestic Violence, Audrey Friggieri told this newsroom.

Whilst not mentioning the Nordic Model directly, Prime Minister Robert Abela spoke in favour of decriminalising prostitution during his Sunday speech. “In one case, a woman was given two sentences in one day. She started prostitution at 12 years old, she knew no better.” He said that he could not understand why the prostitute’s client doesn’t get punished but the prostitute gets sent to jail.  “We need the courage to change these things because we can’t allow these people to keep on suffering.”

‘Can their advice carry more weight than all others?’

Lawyer and women’s rights campaigner, Lara Dimitrijevic took to social media to express that it was experts’ opinion in the field that should carry the most weight on the final decision.

“On the one hand there are over 40 NGOs, inclusive of experts on labour, human trafficking, people that work the ground with victims of trafficking and prostitution, not to mention backed up by largest Women’s rights organisations in Europe and by several EU countries with much more experience and knowledge in this field. On the other hand, we have two local men, advisers to the government. In which way can their advice carry more weight than all others mentioned above?”Dimitrijevic asked.

Dimitrijevic was referring to government advisors Robert Musumeci and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, both of who are against the Nordic Model.

Opposition will continue to work in favour to protect the vulnerable

“Just a few days away from International Women’s Day, it is clear that Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms Rosianne Cutajar and the Labour Government, not only ignored advice from experts and researchers on such a sensitive topic but went totally against them,” according to a PN statement.

The Opposition recalled that a few weeks earlier, a number of experts made a detailed presentation to the Social Affairs Committee, and that another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

“Prostitution is an activity that has a negative impact on those involved and the whole of society and secondly, prostitutes are a victim of this activity, leaving them vulnerable and in need of help for them to exist this activity.”

The Nationalist Party appealed to the government to heed the 40 NGOs and experts rather than pushing its own agenda.



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