A very strong feminist argument exists for why Malta should legalise prostitution, according to the man who successfully campaigned for divorce to be legalised.
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, who chaired the Malta Science and Technology Council, squared off against leading women’s rights activist and lawyer Lara Dimitrijevic in a debate on ONE TV’s new show Stat ta’ Fatt on Tuesday.
Dimitrijevic took a strong stance against legalising prostitution, warning it has harmful psychological effects on prostitutes and is damaging to society as a whole.
However, Pullicino Orlando countered with pro-choice arguments that Dimitrijevic and the Women’s Rights Foundation she helped found have used to advocate for the legalisation of abortion.
“With all due respect, Lara, but your argument in favour of abortion is that women should have full control over their bodies and take their own decisions about their bodies,” he said. “If someone decides to become a prostitute and earn hundreds of thousands of euro in the process, who are we to tell her that she shouldn’t?”
Pullicino Orlando said that no country can ever hope to eliminate prostitution and that legalising it will prevent it from entering the black market and allow the state to safeguard the health of prostitutes and impose taxes on it.
He pointed out that several prostitutes aren’t victims of human trafficking but are seduced by the money, an argument that was later backed up by a former prostitute.
“A prostitute can earn around €200,000 a year by conservative estimates. If she works moderately, she can stand to earn more than the President of the United States. True, Donald Trump is effing quite a few more people than any given prostitute but, unlike prostitutes, he is paying tax on his income.”
Pullicino Orlando came out strongly against the proposed ‘Nordic model’, which decriminalises prostitutes themselves but criminalises their clients.
“Prostitutes will end up blackmailing their clients and earn a living from blackmail. Is that right?” he questioned.
From her part, Dimitrijevic argued that the state should embark on an education and awareness campaign to discourage people from seeking prostitutes in the first place.
She warned there is always an underlying personal or social reason behind a person’s choice to enter prostitution.
“The prostitutes being brought to Malta come from third-world countries or countries struck by war or poor economies, such as China, Thailand, Ukraine, Colombia and Venezuela,” she said. “People from these countries are literally being brought to Malta to satisfy the demand.”
She drew parallels with how doctors used to say it was fine for pregnant women to smoke until scientific research proved otherwise and governments started banning smoking in public places.
“We know [prostitution] is damaging society so the same concept that applied to passive smoking should apply here.”
While she disagreed with the imprisonment or public name-and-shaming of prostitution clients, she argued that “society should tell them that what he did is unacceptable because everyone’s equal”.
“Sex is something consensual between two adults and if you want consensus sex, you should go to a bar and meet someone without paying them. The moment you pay them, it stops being consensual because the client would have bought the prostitute.”
Stat ta’ Fatt, presented by Paula Cauchi, airs every Tuesday at 9pm on ONE.