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European Parliament wants to punish the clients of prostitution

EU countries should reduce the demand for prostitution by punishing the clients, not the prostitutes, says Parliament in a non-binding resolution passed on 26 February.


It stresses that prostitution violates human dignity and human rights, whether it is forced or voluntary, and calls on member states to find exit strategies and alternative sources of income for women who want to leave prostitution.

“Rather than blanket legalisation – which has been a disaster in Holland and Germany – we need a more nuanced approach to prostitution, which punishes men who treat women’s bodies as a commodity, without criminalising those who are driven into sex work,” said Mary Honeyball (S&D, U.K), who drafted the resolution. “We send a strong signal that the European Parliament is ambitious enough to tackle prostitution head on rather than accepting it as a fact of life.”

The non-binding resolution was adopted by 343 votes to 139, with 105 abstentions,

Reducing demand for prostitution

Most MEPs believe that one of the best ways to combat prostitution and trafficking of women and girls is the so-called Nordic model, followed in Sweden, Iceland and Norway. It views prostitution as a violation of human rights and as a form of violence against women and criminalises those who buy sex rather than those who sell it. They call on EU countries to take the Nordic model as an example.

Combatting violence against women

In a separate resolution, voted on 25 February, MEPs say violence against women must be tackled at EU level. They call on the Commission to table legislation before the end of the year to prevent gender-based violence in the EU, adding that gender-based violence should be considered a crime.

Read the full press release.

Updated 6 October 2020