The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

‘Recommendation to legalise prostitution will turn Malta into a hub of sex tourism’, coalition says

Monday, 31 August 2020, 12:22 Last update: about 3 months ago

A coalition of women’s organisations, NGOs and prominent people (known as the Coalition on Human Trafficking and Prostitution) has hit out against the news that The Prostitution Reform Technical Committee is in the initial stages of drafting a legal framework that aims to decriminalise sex work.

The news regarding the technical committee was broken by the Malta Independent, after contacting Parliamentary Secretary for Equality and Reforms, Rosianne Cutajar.

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According to Cutajar, the government will propose legal amendments that will decriminalise certain aspects of sex work, such as removing those provisions that treated sex workers as criminals and strengthen the law to address violence against sex workers. She said that the government has no intention to legalise brothels and pimping, stating that they will remain illegal and laws will be harshened in this regard. When asked whether the buyer would be criminalised, it was explained that sex work is a "transaction between adults (sex worker and the client)". The sex worker being either female, male, gender non-conforming, cisgender or transgender, will receive money in exchange for sexual services, either regularly or occasionally. "Criminalising one aspect of that transaction will not decriminalise sex work."

The coalition said that the recommendation to legalise prostitution will turn Malta into a hub of sex tourism.

“The so called committee which is proposing the legalisation of prostitution is devoid of experts in this specific area, the coalition said.

“It has completely disregarded a huge coalition of national and international organisations - including grassroots women’s organisations, professionals, and experts - who have worked with people in prostitution and those who have been trafficked for years.”

Data from other countries unequivocally demonstrates that the committee’s proposed approach will be a gift to pimps and traffickers, the coalition added, stating that it will have a devastating effect on vulnerable people.

“The proposal naively assumes that prostitutes have the agency to choose, yet it is well known that the vast majority of people in prostitution are either coerced or enslaved by the industry. If the industry widens through legalisation, more vulnerable people will need to be trafficked for this purpose. Sex trafficking is indivisible from prostitution, and the two can never be tackled separately.”

The coalition argued that legalising prostitution will further encourage the exploitation and abuse towards individuals caught up in prostitution whilst facilitating the control that pimps, traffickers, and johns will have on those prostituted.

The coalition raised a number of question about “this rushed proposal”.

 “Where will activities related to prostitution be permitted? Is the committee suggesting that prostitution be permitted to take place in the house/flat next door to you? Will prostitution move to the streets, in cars or in public places? How will the proliferation of prostitution be controlled? On what basis have the recommendations of the so called technical committee been made? Are they based on empirical research and the well-being of our society? Is it suggesting that the state assumes the pimp’s role of protecting and taxing prostitutes?”

The coalition argued that when the world is being faced by a global pandemic, “this recommendation will only encourage exploitation of those hit most. This approach is clearly normalising prostitution and trafficking, with the blessing of the state taking on the role of the pimp.”

“For this reason we call on government not to separate the issue of prostitution and human trafficking, and to seriously consider the implications and repercussions that the proposals as suggested by the current technical committee will have on our society.”

The following leading figures, academics and activists were involved in the submissions made by the Core Group on the issue of human trafficking and prostitution during the consultation process:

President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca; Anna Borg - Academic and Women’s Rights Activist; Helen Burrows - International Human Rights Lawyer and Justice Reform Practitioner; Angele Deguara - Academic and Social Activist; Lara Dimitrijevic - Lawyer and Women`s Rights Activist; Francesca Fenech Conti -   Women’s rights activist and founder of the Women for Women Community; Marietherese Gatt - Researcher and Women’s rights activist; Romina Gatt Lopez - Researcher -  Dar Hosea; Anna Vella - Management - Dar Hosea

The following local organisations were involved in the submissions made by the Core Group on the issue of human trafficking and prostitution during the consultation process: Association for Equality (A4E); Attard Ladies Cultural Club (ALCC); Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija (AKM); Caritas; Dar Hosea; Dar Merhba Bik; Department of Gender Studies (UOM); Department of Social Policy and Social Work (UOM); emPOWer Platform; Business and Professional Women (Valletta) Malta (BPW); Foundation for Women Entrepreneurs Malta (FWE); Malta Association of Women in Business (MAWB); Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (MFWS); National Centre for Family Research; National Observatory for Living with Dignity; National Institute for Childhood; Malta Girl Guides (MGG); Moviment Nisa’ Partit Nazzjonalista (MNPN); National Council of Women (NCW); Soroptimists International Malta (SI); Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA); Faculty of Theology (UOM); Fondazzjoni Sebh; Ghaqda Studenti tat-Teologija; Good Shepherd Sisters; Justice and Peace Commission; Life Network Malta; Local Councils’ Association; Malta Association of Public Health Medicine (MAPHM); Malta Confederation of Women's Organisations (MCWO; Malta Medical Students Association (MMSA); Malta Midwives Association (MMA); Maltese Association of Social Workers (MASW); Men Against Violence (MAV); OASI Foundation; Saint Jeanne Antide Foundation (SJAF); Solidarity Overseas Service (SOS) Malta; University Chaplaincy; Victim Support Malta (VSM); Women's Rights Foundation; Women`s Study Group (WSG).

The following international organisations were involved in the submissions made by the Core Group on the issue of human trafficking and prostitution during the consultation process: Coalition Abolition Prostitution (CAP) International; Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW); European Network of Migrant Women (ENOMW); European Women's Lobby (EWL); Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightenment (SPACE) International

Exploitation with the blessing of the Government -Opposition's reaction to human trafficking and prostitution reform 

The consultation carried out by the Labour Government was a farcical process which will serve as a screen for prostitution to become an activity which women can be officially exploited with the blessing of our government, read a Nationalist Party statement.

The Nationalist Party was reacting to comments by Parliamentary Secretary for Equality Rosianne Cutajar who informed The Malta Independent that the Prostitution Reform Technical Committee is in the initial stages of drafting a legal framework to decriminalize sex work.

The statement was signed by PN Deputy Leader for Parliamentary Affairs David Agius and Claudette Buttigieg, PN spokesperson for Equality.

The statement highlighted that at this stage Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar will “continue to ignore the largest coalition of women’s organisations in our country and move on an agenda aimed only at curbing those who want to exploit women.”

The Nationalist Party called for the common sense of Minister of Justice, Equality and Governance Edward Zammit Lewis to stop the process and listen to those who truly care about women’s dignity.

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