The Malta Independent 26 September 2023, Tuesday
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Survey: Majority of Maltese believe that prostitution should not be legalised or decriminalised

Shona Berger Tuesday, 8 June 2021, 12:56 Last update: about 3 years ago

A scientific survey by the Malta Women’s Lobby (MWL), outlining different aspects in relation to prostitution, has shown that the majority of the general public believe that prostitution should not be legalised or decriminalised in Malta. 

The majority of Maltese respondents do not consider prostitution a normal job and 80% believe that prostitution will lead to an increase in sexual violence in society. 

The survey was carried out by MISCO in February 2021 and a total of 404 respondents participated. 

During a press conference on Tuesday, women’s rights activitist and gender studies expert Anna Borg, who was speaking on behalf of MWL, said that the country needs to decide which path the country will take regarding prostitution. She said that the association believes one path will cause more chaos and havoc over the other and that in this study, it emerged that the public is opposed to the legalisation of prostitution.  

The study was led by the Malta Women’s Lobby (MWL) with the support of the European Women’s Lobby in conjunction with 45 organisations who support the principle of the Equality Model in relation to prostitution. 

The Equality Model presented by MWL seeks to decrimanlise and support vulnerable women, girls, boys, trans and gay men caught in prostitution, but sanctions the buyers, pimps and traffickers so as not to allow the sex industry and trafficking to grow. 

Based on the research carried out regarding the harms of prostitution, in relation to the wishes of the Maltese regarding this issue, the association has also called on the government to offer exit services as part of the Equality Model. 

When asked by The Malta Independent as to what exit services the association is proposing, Romina Lopez explained that “one needs to start from the basics and help people who are involved in prostitution by giving back their identity. When a person is constantly treated like an object, that person needs all the support and love they can get.” 

The survey results give a clear message as to what the Maltese public want regarding prostitution in Malta, the lobby said. 

Borg highlighted that the public understands that prostitution is not a normal job, as is being argued by some government exponents. 

On the contrary, when asked about the extent to which the respondents believe there is a risk for individuals working in prostitution, 96% expressed their belief that there is a risk of physical injury, whilst 98% believe that there is a risk of sexual violence. In addition, 97% believe there is a risk of mental trauma and 99% believe there is a risk of sexual health problems. 

The survey also higlighted that the public understands the harms of prostitution, the lobby added. 

Borg said that over two thirds of women in prostitution reported PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) mental trauma on par with soldiers returning from war. 

Survey results also showed that nearly three quarters of respondents (74.3%) believe that prostitution will largely benefit organised crime through increased money-laundering, human trafficking as well as the sale of illegal drugs. 

Meanwhile, 80% of respondents believe there is a risk that if prostitution is legalised, this will increase sexual violence in society, which will largely affect women and girls. 

Another factor which emerged out of this survey was that legalising prostitution makes people feel unsafe in their homes. 81% of the respondents declared that they would feel unsafe to know that a residence near them is being used as a pop-up brothel. 

Since the government is planning to decriminalise loitering and soliciting, but does not plan to open brothels for the time being, as happened, in other countries, prostituted persons will start offering their services from pop up brothels, and homes, in cars, public gardens, among other places, the association said. 

Borg added that “we need to find solutions for this country but not open up a ‘trade’ for those who are invovled and for the Maltese citizens as well.” 

Lastly, the survey also highlighted that out of the 404 respondents, the majority do not want the industry to expand. 72% claimed that prostitution is a form of sexual violence and should be stopped, whilst 75% agreed that even if some people choose to sell sex, prostitution has negative social impacts that cannot be ignored.

89% agreed that the government should provide welfare to help people not to get drawn into prostitution, the survey showed. 

Borg explained that although the associations’ intention was to present the results to Prime Minister Robert Abela prior to making them public, he has not yet returned the repeated requests for a meeting posed by the association. 

“We consider it important not to withold these findings from the general public and have decided to go ahead and share some of the results,” Borg said. 

Road that government has embarked on goes against wishes of the public - lobby 

She added that the association sincerely hopes that the government realises that the road it has embarked on, goes against the wishes of the Maltese people and those who have gender equality at heart. 

“A government committed to gender equality does not legalise the selling of human bodies for sex, as if they were an object to be used and abused by men.” 

The association stated that we have two choices: an uncaring economy of exploitation and abuse and a caring society of equality, opportunity and choices. 

Borg highlighted that we could either encourage pimping and prostitution in Malta by attracting more sex buyers and increasing the demand for sex trafficking or we could provide protections for all people who are vulnerable to exploitation. Provide supports and choice for all people who want to leave prostitution. Borg added that the latter is what the association believes in. 

Speaking to journalists, the association remarked that there are currently no studies on how many people in Malta are actually involved in prostitution.

Photos: Giuseppe Attard

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