Don’t legalise prostitution; decriminalise it and punish Johns

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Legalisation of prostitution will not result in regularisation; it will only lead to uncontrollable growth in the industry, while most women in the sex industry are not in it out of free choice. These were the main points that emerged from “Combating Human Trafficking Today”, a conference held on Friday September 28th, aimed at answering some of the toughest pending questions about the links between trafficking and prostitution in Malta. Those in attendance discussed the troubles of legalising prostitution and what system should be implemented in Malta.

“No one should be criminalised for having no choice”

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Currently prostitution is a criminal act in Malta, meaning that prostitutes are considered criminals. Ms Julie Bindel, author of the book “The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth”, aptly said “no one who is selling sex should be criminalised. It is abhorrent that we criminalise someone who is not doing it out of their own free will.”

One of the points highlighted throughout the conference was that there is no choice in the world of prostitution. The women within this industry may have volunteered themselves but as Dr Anna Vella, a Medical Doctor and member of the Management Committee of Dar Hosea, said, “prostitution is not a free choice but rather a consequence of life circumstances.”

In support of the aforementioned statement, Dr Vella cited a study, aimed at discovering whether drug addiction is a precursor to prostitution or vice versa — neither is. Rather most women said abuse came first. It is because of this abuse and vulnerability that prostitution if resorted to. She emphasized that poverty alone does not pave the way to such “choice”. As Dr Lara Dimitrievich, a Lawyer and director of the Women’s rights foundation, put it, consent is irrelevant when it comes to human trafficking.

“For 60 euro, as I read from the menu, a man could get a beer, a burger, and have sex with as many women as he likes. Gang bangs are perfectly ok.” - Julie

Legalisation is not the solution

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The thought to be solution of legalising prostitution has unfortunately only made the situation worse. In the Netherlands and New Zealand, Ms Bindel pointed out that brothels have mushroomed and the girls are being treated worse than ever before.

Ms Bindel recounted a conversation she had with a police officer who would patrol one of the streets designated to prostitution in Amsterdam. “We’re going to paint the performance boxes in different colors, so that if a woman is raped she can say “Oh I was raped in the red one” and DNA evidence can be collected.” According to the police working there, there was no abuse, however, this story only came to prove that legalisation did not eliminate abuse.

Decriminalise prostitution but punish the Johns

A working solution for Malta’s problem could be closer than we think. Sweden compiled a system that has not only made it safer for the prostitutes but has drastically decreased the demand from the Johns and thus the sex industry has shrunk.

“Our job is to do everything possible to create a bad market for traffickers and procurers”, said Ms Kajsa Wahlberg, the Detective Inspector and Head of the Swedish Police Authority Human Trafficking Unit and Sweden’s national rapporteur on human trafficking opposition activities. The Swedish method prosecutes all the traffickers, and those paying for the prostitutes. The prostitutes themselves are safe.

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