The decriminalisation of prostitutes and the criminalisation of those who buy sex must be top of government’s agenda, a coalition argued in its response to a public consultation about proposed changes to Malta’s prostitution laws.
Strip clubs, which the coalition described as establishments that sell women, should close down, or face heavy regulation, which in effect would severely limit their ability to operate.
Exit services, which refer to a comprehensive range of legal, health, financial, educational and social services, for those in prostitution must also be set up, with the hopes of allowing sex workers to build a life outside it.
“All three policies MUST be included in the legislation and implemented as a ‘package’. Decriminalising those who are prostituted for example, without making the buying sex a criminal offence, would open up the sex industry and increase trafficking,” the group said.
The public consultation document clearly states that prostitutes themselves should be decriminalised and their criminal records wiped clean. However, it leaves open what should happen to their clients.
The document (HTP-Reform-Joint-Submission-27.10.2019-FINAL-FINAL-1) was drafted by a multi-disciplinary coalition of academics, lawyers, and people who work directly with prostituted and trafficked persons (full list below). Endorsed by five international and thirty-five local organisations, President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca is one notable signatory.
The issue has split opinion with some arguing that prostitutes should be free to choose their own line of work without interference.
However, the coalition said that the reality of prostitution is far different from proponents arguing that its free choice for people looking to earn good money.
“It is millions of psychologically unwell, physically trapped and injured women – nearly all of whom want to leave, but cannot find a way out,” the document reads.
To add weight to its argument, the coalition said that countries where prostitution has been decriminalised, like Germany and New Zealand, have only seen an increase in human trafficking; whereas others who have followed the Nordic Model and criminalised buyers, like Sweden, have yielded significant results.
Strip Clubs Should Be Closed, Massage Parlours Regulated
Clear and concise distinctions for massage parlours must also be established, with professional setups following under its own regulatory authority.
Meanwhile, the coalition has proposed more radical measures for strip clubs. While personally recommending their permanent closure to “prevent these establishments in continuing to sell sex and trafficking women”, the coalition put forward some stringent regulations should they continue to operate.
Among banning employees for soliciting entry, the coalition also calls for entry age to increase to 21, private rooms to be prohibited, advertising limits, and a tax on all drinks consumed in such clubs.
Strip clubs, the coalition argue, have no place in Paceville, a place where youth frequent.
A specially trained unit of police and other professionals must also be given private access to the employees to check that they are safe and that no abuses are occurring.
Other avenues for trafficking and forced labour should also be examined.
People and organisations who endorsed the document:
President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Dr Anna Borg, Ms Helen Burrows, Dr Angele Deguara, Dr Lara Dimitrijevic, Ms Francesca Fenech Conti, Ms Marietherese Gatt, Ms Romina Gatt Lopez, Dr Anna Vella.
Association for Equality (A4E), Attard Ladies Cultural Club (ALCC), Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija (AKM), Caritas, Dar Hosea, Dar Merhba Bik, Department of Gender Studies (UOM). Department of Social Policy and Social Work (UOM), emPOWer Platform, Faculty of Theology (UOM), Ghaqda Studenti tat-Teologija, Good Shepherd Sisters, Justice and Peace Commission, Local Councils’ Association, Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations (MCWO), Malta Medical Students Association (MMSA), Malta Midwives Association (MMA), Men Against Violence (MAV), Girl Guides (MGG), Saint Jeanne Antide Foundation (SJAF), Solidarity Overseas Service (SOS) Malta, University Chaplaincy, Victim Support Malta (VSM), Women’s Rights Foundation.
Coalition Abolition Prostitution (CAP) International, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), European Network of Migrant Women (ENOMW), European Women’s Lobby (EWL), Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightenment (SPACE) International