[WATCH] Government should not give impression prostitution is a normal career path, activist warns

Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi | Anna Borg from the University of Malta’s Centre for Labour Studies disusses the prostitution reform and Jeanette Borg from the Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation speaks on the future of the sector

A broad coalition of academics and NGOs is against the normalisation of prostitution
A broad coalition of academics and NGOs is against the normalisation of prostitution

Prostitution should be viewed as oppression rather than a profession, Anna Borg, director of the University of Malta’s Centre for Labour Studies, said.

Borg was interviewed on Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi, broadcast on MaltaToday’s Facebook page.

Borg said that while prostitution has always been around, it is still stigmatised and carries a lot of baggage.

“I think we need to ask ourselves, should prostitution we treated as any other career? Is that the impression we want to impart on our youth? Are we going to tell the public that now that we're going to legalise prostitution, a woman’s body is an object?” Borg asked.  

Borg said these questions needed to be asked and answered before a conclusion is reached.

When asked about persons who go into prostitution voluntarily, Borg said from what she has seen, that was not the case most of the time.

“I think you will find, if you ask the general public whether they would be willing to try out being a prostitute for a day, the majority would say no. Information gathered by front liners working with people in the field tells us that the majority of those who go into prostitution do so because they have no choice,” she said.

Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi is broadcast every Friday on MaltaToday's Facebook
Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi is broadcast every Friday on MaltaToday's Facebook

Borg said that many were as young as 13 when they entered prostitution, with the majority being under-18.

“We need to ask ourselves, is that true? If someone is homeless, or has an addiction, or sexually abused, are they going into it by choice or because they have no other option? Because this is the typical profile of people who end up prostitutes,” she added.

Borg said the majority of prostitutes want out; however, they find it difficult to leave.

Borg, along with the majority of the NGOs in Malta, favour the Nordic Model, which decriminalises those who sell sex while criminalising buyers and pimps.

“From what we’ve seen in countries which have attempted to regularise prostitution such as Germany, Holland and New Zealand, a positive impact was not witnessed. While the industry was formalised, a larger one grew underground. Because once you open that door, you're giving out a message that prostitution is now accessible. In those countries, the industry flourished, but the rights of those within the industry did not improve much for the better,” Borg said.

Borg agreed with the decriminalising of prostitution, such as loitering and soliciting, to avoid people in that line of work being arrested.  

“We see prostitutes end up in court, however, it is rare to see pimps or traffickers, so there we are in total agreement,” Borg said. She added that the government should not be giving out the impression that this sort of work is normal.

Borg said NGOs are calling for the government to do a widespread study before releasing its proposals – she said the government should release the data, which led them to reach their decision.

In a brief mention, Borg said pornography was just prostitution filmed. “It is part of a large industry that is flourishing, which has a lot of tentacles and is influencing a lot of things,” she said.

Youth and agriculture

Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi also interviewed Jeanette Borg from the Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation (MaYA).

Borg said MaYA was created to study the situation and gauge the youth's opinions, as they are the future of each sector. Borg noted that while MaYA started at MCAST, she felt she had a good scope of how youth think after speaking to so many of them. “In fact, it led me to realise there was a lot more interest than I first realised,” Borg said.      

Borg pointed out that many of the problems the agriculture sector faces in Malta are a reflection of what is happening globally and that it was a mistake to assume that the island was suffering alone.

Land was another issue that had to be tackled as soon as possible. "Countries that joined the European Union along with us also had problems... some had more problems then we had when you look at the economic state they were in. But they put in the work and invested in the agricultural sector," she said.

Borg said the way forward for Malta was to diversify products and consolidate the sector.