The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Prostitution not a normal, legitimate job – Women’s Lobby

Saturday, 13 February 2021, 10:26 Last update: about 7 months ago

The Malta Women's Lobby (MWL) said that prostitution can never be considered as a normal and legitimate job.

The lobby was replying to comments made by Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar, who said that: “We must be realistic and admit that…thousands of people become prostitutes against their own will, either because they have drug problems or a pimp…”

The Malta Women’s Lobby is glad to note that the Parliamentary Secretary has affirmed in parliament that for thousands of people, prostitution is not a choice, but a trap. The overwhelming majority of prostitutes prefer to find an alternative means of survival and they would exit this trade if they could.

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Since for the overwhelming majority prostitution is a trap, we can never agree with those who are trying to sell the idea that prostitution should be considered as ‘normal’ and ‘legitimate job’. Once this becomes so, it is only a matter of time before prostitution is promoted in schools as a legitimate career choice, and advertised in broad daylight as an acceptable avenue for young women and girls, as happens in other countries where it has been legalised.

The vast majority of people who are sold for sex are women and girls (including trans women), whilst the buyers are almost exclusively males.  It is important to note that currently in Malta prostitution is not a criminal offence. Loitering and soliciting for the purpose of prostitution and living off the earnings of prostitution are. A legal sex trade without any sanctions on the buyer as is being proposed, sends out the message that it is ok to buy women’s bodies, and will reflect how women are valued in our society, the lobby said.

The MWL urges the government to understand that prostitution is a form of sexual exploitation and abuse for most of the persons involved. Rather than creating an open season for buyers, pimps and traffickers, a new law needs to protect the vulnerable that fall through the safety net. Our position on this issue has the best interest, safety, and wellbeing of these persons at heart with whom we consult directly and regularly. These are vulnerable members of our society and we have a duty to protect them by sanctioning the buyer, pimps and traffickers who always have more power and control over them.

In countries where prostitution is legalised, such as the Netherlands, Germany, and New Zealand, prostitution has not only massively increased on a commercial level, but has also flourished underground. For example, adjusted for population the Netherlands has 9 times the amount of people in prostitution than in Sweden (where the Equality/Nordic Model is in place), while Germany has 30-40 times the amount of people in prostitution [1]. In these countries prostitution is carried out on an industrial scale, attracting millions of sex tourists and becoming highly visible in public spaces, apartments, hotels, and around school areas.  Is this what we are aspiring to as a country? Is this the sustainable and quality tourism we are planning to attract?

The sex market is also strongly connected to criminal activity such as organised crime, drug trade, assault, sexual violence and money laundering. If we do not understand how engrained this criminality is in this business, we will not seek to eradicate it, but instead accept a defeatist attitude that allows it to grow. The sex trade is not merely a business; it is a vicious parasite that embeds itself into the fabric of our society, our cultural identity and it will affect the relations between genders.

A legal sex trade does not simply enable those who freely and willingly choose to engage in prostitution, but creates a business incentive for the sex trade and trafficking to grow. It teaches young boys and men that it is acceptable and normal to buy sex, and grooms many young girls and women (especially those going through difficulties) into believing that selling sex is the best career prospect they can aspire to. It also opens the doors to pimps and traffickers and sends the message that Malta is open for the business of exploitation.

In Malta, the focus should be to prioritise equality of opportunity for all. This is not about ‘judging’ or shaming individuals working in the sex trade, as the Parliamentary Secretary wrongly implied. Instead, we want to provide opportunities and prioritise equality for all.

Legalisation of the sex trade will not simply affect the few who are currently in prostitution - it will lead to a greater demand for women, girls, boys, gays, trans and men to service the growing abusive and exploitative buyers.

We must not allow this to happen by legalising the sexual exploitation of human beings and trying to pass it off as a ‘legitimate job’.  The country deserves better than this, the statement said.

The increased recognition of much-needed reforms to address the sex trade is significant, but the policy responses must be thoughtful, and grounded in the voices and experiences of the most marginalized women and young girls.

 

 

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