560 civil society organisations and 94 researchers tell the European Parliament to reject a report on prostitution by Mary Honeyball, MEP for London, which promotes the criminalisation of clients of sex workers, in an upcoming plenary session on February 26th.
An incredible number of 560 NGOs and civil society organisations as well as 94 academics and researchers have signed letters to the members of the European Parliament asking them to reject a report by MEP Mary Honeyball, which asks EU Member States to consider the criminalisation of the clients of sex workers.
The letter from NGOs, initiated by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, a network representing 59 organisations in Europe and Central Asia, denounces the conflation of sex work and trafficking, the disregard for sex workers’ health and safety and the lack of evidence on which the report is based.
Luca Stevenson, Coordinator of the ICRSE commented: “The Swedish Model of criminalisation of clients is not only ineffective in reducing prostitution and trafficking, it is also dangerous for sex workers. It increases stigma which is the root cause of violence against us. It is a failed policy denounced by all sex workers’ organisations and many women’s, LGBT and migrants’ organisations, as well as many UN bodies.”
The signatories include sex workers’ rights organisations but also many women’s rights groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a network of 40 members in Europe, and the National Council of German Women's Organisations, which represents 50 women’s organisations in Germany. Latest signatories include anti-trafficking network La Strada and Transgender Europe, which represents 79 trans* organisations in the region.
Mona Küppers, vice chairwoman of the latter, commented: “We think that the systematic criminalisation of sex buyers will not bring the change supporters of this resolution are hoping for. Quite the opposite: the experience in Sweden shows that prostitution does not just simply disappear after introducing the criminalisation of buyers – activities just simply shift underground. This cannot be the solution – particularly not for the women working in the sex trade.”
La Strada International, a network of 12 anti-trafficking NGOS published a statement asking MEPs to vote against the Honeyball report: " The partners of the LSI NGO Platform have supported many women and men who were trafficked in the sex industry in the past nearly two decades. (..) Criminalisation stigmatises and marginalises both domestic and migrant sex workers and it deprives
them of the tools to protect themselves from violence and seek redress. It drives the sex industry even more underground, which results in less access to health, social and legal assistance for sex
workers, and significantly lower chances to identify individuals who have been trafficked."
Marija Tosheva, Advocacy officer of SWAN, the Sex Workers Rights Advocacy Network of Central Eastern Europe and Central Asia explains: “The report fails to represent different realities of sex workers across Europe. It reinforces the stereotypes that all women from Eastern Europe are trafficked in Western Europe, thus labelling all of them as victims, denying their agency and excluding them from the ongoing debate and decision making processes. Some sex workers do migrate searching for better job opportunities, and some get vulnerable to violence and exploitation, but labelling all sex workers as voiceless victims and criminalizing any aspect of sex work is just distracting the focus from pragmatic toward moralistic and repressive solutions.”
A large number of HIV organisations, including the European Aids Treatment Group and or Aids Action Group also endorsed the letter. Mary Honeyball barely mentions HIV in her report, apparently unaware that sex workers are a key population in the HIV response. The report quotes the World Health Organisation’s definition of sexual health but ironically ignores that the WHO has positioned itself against the "Swedish Model" as it negatively impacts the lives of sex workers and limits their access to condoms and other measures to prevent HIV.
Another document drafted and signed by 94 academics and researchers consists of of a letter to MEPs and a counter report analysing the lack and misrepresentation of evidence in Mary Honeyball’s report. The letter states, “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.” It continues, “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.”
The counter-report noticed that, amongst other astounding errors, Mary Honeyball completely misinterpreted a joint report commissioned by the City of Amsterdam and the Dutch Ministry of Justice, embarassingly “mistaking” data on coffee shops for data on brothels.
The 560 NGOs and 94 researchers signatories of these letters urge the MEPs to consider the evidence and reject Mary Honeyball's report on the 26th of February.
Contact. Luca Stevenson for ICRSE: info [at] sexworkeurope [dot] org
To download the letter signed by more than 560 NGOs, click here.
To download the letter and counter-report signed by 94 researchers and academics, click here.
For more information on this campaign and statements click here