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‘Don’t Make Malta The European Thailand’: Activists Warn Prostitution Reforms Exclude Sex Work Experts

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Malta’s Prostitution Reform Technical Committee excludes experts who work directly with sex workers, activists warned.

Reforms to prostitution laws kicked off last year, but the question of sex clients has split opinion.

A multi-disciplinary coalition including several women NGOs called for the “Nordic model” in which sex buyers are criminalised, while the state looks at complete decriminalisation and harsher penalties for traffickers. 

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Secretary for Equality Rosianne Cutajar confirmed to Malta Independent that a draft for a legal framework is in the works, but activists flagged the exclusion of any sex work experts, warning that the proposed reforms will spell more harm than good.

“The so-called committee which is proposing the legalisation of prostitution is devoid of experts in this specific area,” the group explained.

“It has completely disregarded a huge coalition of national and international organisations – including grassroots women’s organisations, professionals, and experts – who have worked with people in prostitution and those who have been trafficked for years.”

Appointed by Cutajar, the Committee is chaired by LGBTIQ & Intersex Activist Ruth Baldacchino and also includes Sexologist Matthew Bartolo, Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) Oliver Scicluna, Director of Foundation for Social Welfare Services (FSWS) Remenda Grech, International Relations Director of FSWS Claudette Abela Baldacchino as well as lawyers Cheryl Azzopardi and Andrew Saliba.

The coalition stressed that proposals to decriminalise sex buyers will not only make Malta a glorified sex hub tourism and “European Thailand” but also give the “blessing” for trafficking of women for sexual exploitation.

In the public consultation, the 40-group-coalition also called for stringent regulations for strip clubs,  a specialised trained police unit, exit services that encompass legal, financial, health, education and social services for those who want to build lives out of the industry. 

“We have for years been working with victims of trafficking, including those exploited for sexual purposes. We are well aware of how traffickers operate locally and the proposal will only ensure that traffickers and pimps will get away with justice, at the expense of the most vulnerable and marginalized women,” Women’s Rights Foundation director Lara Dimitrijevic explained.

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