Europe: Parliament Calls on Member States to Punish Buyers Not Sellers of Sex
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 4:30 PM

On February 26, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on European Union Member States to repeal harsh penalties for selling sex. The resolution noted the many links between prostitution and the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and girls, which often involve criminal gangs, violence, coercion and severe psychological and physical harm. Although the resolution is non-binding, it sends a strong signal to member States that prostitution should be viewed as a violation of human rights and dignity that disproportionally affects women. The resolution will encourage States to follow the model of Sweden, Iceland and Norway and reduce demand for commercial sex by increasing penalties for people who buy sex, while offering resources and support for women who want to exit the industry. The European Parliament adopted the resolution by a substantial majority, with 343 votes of support to 139 votes of disapproval, and 105 abstentions. 
In adopting this resolution, the European Parliament demonstrated the increasing awareness among European governments that prostituted women and girls are often trafficked and forced into performing sexual acts and are commonly minors and individuals from vulnerable populations. This results in situations where unwilling participants are unable to leave the industry, and are subjected to a form of slavery. By providing resources for women who are prostituted, States can ensure that economically disadvantaged women will have better chances to leave the sex industry and pursue other opportunities.            


Compiled from: Report on sexual exploitation and its impact on gender equality, Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, Rapporteur: Mary Honeyball (February 4, 2014); Punish the client, not the prostitute, European Parliament (February 26, 2014)