Sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality

Sexual exploitation and prostitution and  its impact on gender equality

The European Parliament recently released a new study on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality.

The study, requested by the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee to support its own-initiative report on this topic, concentrates on the debate on whether prostitution could be voluntary or has rather to be regarded in any case as a violation of women’s human rights.

It presents the main arguments of this debate which divides feminists, scholars and the public opinion, and takes place between two main approaches:
a) the regulatory approach assumes that prostitution and the related activities should be legal and regulated;
b) the abolitionist approach considers that activities related to prostitution should be criminalised but do not necessarily have to be illegal.

Both approaches aim at eliminating trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation. “The question whether prostitution is delivered as a sex service or under conditions of coercion or force is qualified as the criterion to distinguish between prostitution and sexual exploitation. While some argue that the number of those entering the prostitution business deliberately is higher than assumed, it is mostly supposed that women would avoid the abuse of their bodies if they had a valid alternative. In this sense, poverty and bad economic and employment situations are seen as strong push-factors forcing women into prostitution, and which call into question whether their consent can be assumed to have been voluntarily given. Overall, it can be concluded that the question of whether sex services are consensually delivered is very difficult to prove, and therefore laws criminalising the use of services without the consent of the victim face serious difficulties in implementation and cannot be effectively implemented”.

The study also presents an overview of the policies on prostitution in the Member States as well as case studies on four Member States – Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden – with each a different legal approach to prostitution.

The literature overview and the four case studies show that sexual exploitation and prostitution are highly gender-sensitive and inter-related issues.

Read here about the own-initiative report adopted by the Women’s Rights Committee

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