The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

Legalising prostitution does not reduce stigma, coalition says

Tuesday, 8 September 2020, 08:31 Last update: about 2 months ago

Albert Galea and Giulia Magri

A coalition of women’s organisations, NGOs and prominent people (known as the Coalition on Human Trafficking and Prostitution) has criticised the Domestic Violence Commissioner over comments made on the subject of prostitution.

The coalition recently criticised the news that the Prostitution Reform Technical Committee is in the initial stages of drafting a legal framework that aims to decriminalise sex work, saying that the proposed complete legalisation of prostitution would turn Malta into a hub for sex tourism.

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Domestic Violence Commissioner Audrey Friggieri told The Malta Independent, following the news regarding the Prostitution Reform Technical Committee, that Malta has enough expertise to create its own unique model.

The coalition, however, questioned her statement and what type of expertise exists in Malta to come up with such a model.

Parliamentary Secretary for Equality and Reforms, Rosianne Cutajar, had previously informed this newsroom that the decriminalisation of sex work is being done to ensure the safety and well-being of sex workers, to safeguard their human rights and protect them from exploitation.

The coalition had last October made their own proposals on prostitution reform, to decriminalize those who are prostituted, but make buying sex a criminal offence and create exit services for those in prostitution, to offer a range of legal, health, financial, educational and social services to support them. This is known as the Nordic model.

The Commissioner had said: “I reject the notion that only two models exist. Both models (Nordic and full-decriminalisation) when applied in practice, have had their positives and negatives. I am convinced that we have the expertise to create a model which is unique to the Maltese context.”

“I agree that government should fully regulate sex work and ensure that sex workers do not face discrimination in law or practice,” said Friggieri. She explained that by regulating sex work, it maximises sex workers’ legal protection and their ability to exercise other key rights, including justice and health care. “Legal recognition of sex workers and their occupation maximizes their protection, dignity and equality. This is an important step towards de-stigmatising sex work.”

Reacting to these statements, the coalition questioned what exactly Friggieri is proposing. “Which experts does she have in mind?  Can she name them and list the experience they have in this area?”, they queried.

When it comes to Friggieri’s statement about fully regulating sex work, the coalition noted that “experience from other countries like Germany , the Netherlands and New Zealand have shown otherwise and the results have been devastating and have not improved the well- being of those trapped in prostitution.”

They questioned on what studies Friggieri is basing her conclusions, and on what data this suggested new model will be created, adding that Friggieri should be more clear and publish these studies.

They also observed that stigma did not decrease where prostitution was legalised, noting that “this is another myth she is being fed.”

The coalition said that the term “sex work” is the term used by pimps and traffickers to gloss over the horrific experience people in prostitution go through, noting that this “clearly shows her lack of sensitivity to the issue.”

The coalition added that “prostitution and sex trafficking can never be separated and must be looked into together.  There would be no trafficking for sex if there was no demand for girls, women, boys, men and trans in prostitution – largely to service men with enough money and power to use them.”

“We fully support the development of a model tailored to the local environment, however it must be founded on the unassailable principle of protecting people from harm.  The proposals of the coalition were built on this principle.”

“Why reject a model that is decreasing violence and essentially protects those in prostitution? Before she can espouse another approach, local research must be done that proves comparable data from other countries is wrong.”

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