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A Critique of the “Report on Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation and its Impact on Gender Equality” by Mary Honeyball, MEP

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

We, the undersigned, would like to voice our serious concerns regarding the “Report on Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation and its Impact on Gender Equality”, drafted by Mary Honeyball, MEP for London, which will be voted upon during a plenary session on the 27th of February 2014 at the European Parliament. The report recommends the so-called “Swedish Model” – by which buying sexual services is criminalised but selling them remains legal.

The aim of this letter is not to reiterate our arguments against the Swedish Model. We believe sex workers’ organisations themselves will have already demonstrated the ineffectiveness and dangers of this model and we strongly recommend consulting and listening to them in regards to policies and all other matters that directly affect them.

We would like to draw your attention to the inadequacies of the Report, which is based largely on inaccurate and/or misrepresentative data. The sources cited are either studies which have been discredited, or are selected to relate to specific circumstances which do not reflect the experiences of many people working as sex workers. Nor does the Report consider the extensive evidence from peer-reviewed academic studies demonstrating the problems associated with the model proposed. We are concerned that this report is not of an acceptable standard on which to base a vote that would have such a serious, and potentially dangerous, impact on already marginalised populations, i.e. migrants and EU citizens earning or complementing their livelihoods by providing sexual services in exchange for payment.

We are aware that the matter you have been asked to vote upon is for many a complicated or uncomfortable one. However, we would like to ask you to look at the abundance of evidence that counters the claims made in Ms Honeyball’s report. We compiled a selection of research-based evidence countering the claims made by the sources mentioned by Ms Honeyball, which we include below. This evidence clearly indicates that Ms Honeyball’s report is seriously biased with regards to the selective citation of sources. Furthermore, it fails to consider the needs of male and transgender sex workers and the diversity amongst purchasers of sexual services. To base any policy on such a methodologically flawed document, particularly one which would have such a detrimental impact on the human rights and wellbeing of a large number of marginalised individuals, would be setting a dangerous precedent.

The report by Ms Honeyball fails to address the problems and harms that can surround sex work and instead produces biased, inaccurate and disproven data. We believe that policies should be based on sound evidence and thus hope that you will vote against the motion to criminalise sex workers’ clients. We would suggest instead that it is important to enter into a considered debate which takes into account the substantial amount of robust academic evidence on the subject, as well as that from sex workers themselves and civil society groups with longstanding experience of working with sex workers.



1. Dr Nicola Mai, Professor of Sociology and Migration Studies, London Metropolitan University, UK / Aix-Marseille Université, France

2. Dr Maggie O’Neill, Professor of Criminology at Durham University, UK

3. Dr Birgit Sauer, Professor of Political Science, Institute for Political Science, University of Vienna, Austria

4. Dr Christian Groes-Green, Assistant Professor, Institute for Culture and Identity, Roskilde University, Denmark

5. Dr Phil Hubbard, Professor of Urban Studies, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, and Director of Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Kent, UK

6. Dr Ine Vanwesenbeeck, Professor of Sexual Development, Diversity and Health, Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science/Child and Adolescent Studies, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

7. Christiane Howe, Sociologist / Researcher, Institute of Ethnology, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany

8. Dr Rosie Campbell OBE, Visiting Research Fellow University of Leeds & Postgraduate Research Student University of Durham, UK

9. Dr Jay Levy, Researcher & Consultant, UK

10. Dr Katie Cruz, Lecturer, School of Law, Keele University, UK

11. Dr Susann Huschke, Visiting Fellow, Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, Queen's University Belfast, UK

12. Dr Jenny Künkel, Researcher and Lecturer in Geography, University Frankfurt a.M., Germany

13. Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon, CPsychol, Reader in Psychology and Social Policy, School of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

14. Dr Giulia Garofalo, Marie-Curie Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Gender Studies, Lund University, Sweden

15. Dr Calogero Giametta, Sociologist, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Aix-Marseille Université, France

16. Dr Jane Scoular, Professor in Law at the University of Strathclyde, UK

17. Dr Mia Liinason, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Gender Studies, Lund University, Sweden

18. Dr Aneta Cekik, Assistant Professor of Political science, Institute for Sociological, Political and Juridical Research, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia

19. Dr Tomasz Sikora, Assistant Professor at the English Department of the Pedagogical University of Cracow, Poland

20. Matthias Lehmann, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Law, Queens University Belfast, UK

21. Jane Pitcher, Postgraduate Research Student, Dept of Social Sciences, Loughborough University, UK

22. Stanimir Panayotov, PhD Student in Comparative Gender Studies, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

23. Dr Agata Dziuban, Faculty Member, Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University, Poland

24. Ania Ratecka, PhD Candidate, Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University, Poland

25. Dr Daniela Danna, Researcher, Faculty of Political Science, University of Milan, Italy

26. Dr Ronald Weitzer, Professor of Sociology at George Washington University, USA

27. Dr Heidi Hoefinger, Adjunct Professor, Department of Anthropology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, USA

28. Dr Tuppy Owens, Founder and Director of the Outsiders Trust and the TLC Trust, UK

29. Anna Głogowska-Balcerzak, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Lodz, Poland

30. Dr Kaoru Aoyama, Associate Professor in Sociology, Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Kobe University, Japan

31. Dr Carole S. Vance, Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, USA

32. Dr Sealing Cheng, Associate Professor, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China

33. Dr Kerwin Kaye, Assistant Professor of Sociology, State University of New York College at Old Westbury, USA

34. Dr Gillian Abel, Associate Professor of Public Health, Department of Population Health, University of Otago, New Zealand

35. Dr Jan Jordan, Associate Professor, Institute of Criminology / Te Pou Haratutanga, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand / Aotearoa

36. Dr Melissa Ditmore, Research consultant, Editor, Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work, USA

37. Dr Pardis Mahdavi, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, Pomona College, USA

38. Dr Svati P. Shah, Assistant Professor, Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

39. Dr Elizabeth Pisani, Epidemiologist, Director, Ternyata Ltd. Public Health Consultancy, UK

40. Dr Smarajit Jana, Public Health Specialist, Former Technical Advisor at UNAIDS, Principal at the Sonagachi Research and Training Institute, Kolkata, India

41. Maria Tonini, PhD Candidate, Department of Gender Studies, Lund University, Sweden

42. Slavcho Dimitrov, PhD Candidate in Gender Studies and Philosophy, Euro-Balkan University, Skopje, Macedonia / MPhil Candidate in Multi-Disciplinary Gender Studies, University of Cambridge

43. Rafał Majka, PhD Candidate in Cultural Studies, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw, Poland

44. Dr Anne Mulhall, Director, Centre for Gender, Culture and Identities, University College Dublin, Republic of Ireland

45. Dr Ole Martin Moen, Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethics, University of Oslo, Norway

46. Dr Hendrik Wagenaar, Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield, UK

47. Dr Frances M. Shaver, Professor of Sociology, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

48. Dr May-Len Skilbrei, Professor, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo, Norway

49. Dr Calum Bennachie, Gender Studies Expert, New Zealand Prostitutes Collective

50. Dr Yuko Higashi, Professor, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan

51. Dr Graham Ellison, Reader in Criminology, School of Law, Queen's University Belfast, UK

52. Dr Cecilia Benoit, Professor of Sociology, University of Victoria, Canada

53. Dr Rebecca Pates, Professor of Political Science, University of Leipzig, Germany

54. Dr Alexandra Oliveira, Professor at the Centre of Psychology, University of Porto, Portugal
55. Dr Rachel Phillips, Sociologist, Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, University of Victoria, Canada
56. Chris Atchison, Research Associate, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria, Canada
57. Dr Mikael Jansson, Sociologist, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria, Canada
58. Lauren Casey, PhD Candidate, Social Dimensions of Health, University of Victoria, Canada
59. Dr Bill McCarthy, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, University of California Davis, USA
60. Dr Marie Bruvik Heinskou, Assistant Professor and Research Coordinator, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
61. Dr Isabel Crowhurst, Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology, Kingston University, UK
62. Dr Rutvica Andrijasevic, School of Management, University of Leicester , UK
63. Ewa Krzaklewska, Researcher, Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland
64. Justyna Struzik, Researcher, Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland
65. Izabela Ślęzak, PhD Candidate, Institute of Sociology, University of Lodz, Poland

66. Sine Plambech, Anthropologist, Researcher, Specialist in sex work related migration and human trafficking in Nigeria, Thailand and Europe, Danish Institute for International Studies, Denmark

67. Baerbel Heide Uhl, Political Scientist, International Consultant on Anti-Trafficking Politics, Berlin, Germany

68. Alexandre Teixeira, PhD Candidate, Centre of Psychology, University of Porto, Portugal

69. Filipa Alvim, Researcher, CRIA Portuguese Network Centre for Anthropological Research, Portugal

70. Nélson Ramalho, PhD Candidate in Social Work, Center for Research and Studies in Sociology, University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal

71. Niina Vuolajärvi, PhD Candidate in Sociology, Specialist in sex work and migration, Rutgers University, USA / University of Eastern Finland

72. Dr Lorraine Nencel , Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands

73. Dr Paul J. Maginn, Associate Professor, University of Western Australia, Co-Editor/Author of (Sub)Urban Sexscapes: Geographies and Regulation of the Sex Industry (Routledge, forthcoming), Australia

74. Anastacia Elle Ryan, PhD Candidate in Social Policy, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, Scotland / Visiting Doctoral Researcher, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

75. Dr Bob Jeffery, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Department of Psychology, Sociology and Politics, Faculty of Development and Society, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

76. Dr Manuel Damas, Health Expert in Medicine and Sexology, President of Advanced Center of Sexualities and Affections, Porto, Portugal
77. Marjan Wijers, Jurist and Social Scientist, Independent researcher and consultant on human rights and human trafficking, Utrecht, Netherlands
78. Dr Jill McCracken, Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, USA
79. Dr Laura Agustin, Author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (Zed Books, 2007)
80. Pippa Grenfell, MSc, Research Fellow, Department of Social and Environmental Health Research, Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
81. Dr Pietro Saitta, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Messina, Italy
82. Dr Cigdem Esin, SeniorLlecturer in Psychosocial Studies, School of Law and Social Sciences, University of East London, UK
83. Dr Giulia Rodeschini, Sociologist, Italy
84. Wibke Straube, Researcher, Gender Studies, Linköping University, Sweden
85. Dr Gail Pheterson, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Picardie Jules Verne / Researcher, Director of doctoral theses at the Paris Centre for Sociological and Political Studies, Université Paris-VIII, France

86. Dr Kate Hardy, Lecturer in Work and Employment Relations, University of Leeds, UK

87. Dr Antke Engel, Director, Institute for Queer Theory, Berlin, Germany

88. Dr Jean-Michel Chaumont, Professer of Sociology, Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium

89. Synnøve Jahnsen, Researcher, Centre for Womens and Gender Research, University of Bergen, Norway

90. Dr Alexandre Jaunait, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Poitiers, Lecturer at Sciences-Po (Institut d'études politiques de Paris), Member of the High Council on Equality between Women and Men (Haut Conseil à l'Egalité entre les Femmes et les hommes), France

91. Dr Elizabeth Bernstein, Associate Professor of Women's Studies and Sociology, Columbia University

92. Dr Natalie Hammond, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Manchester, UK

93. Rebecca M. Jordan-Young, Tow Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University, USA


94. Dr Stephanie Wahab, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, Portland State University, Advisor at Best Practices Policy Project, USA

February 18th, 2014

Resource section: 
Sex Work Advocacy Resources

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