[WATCH] Majority believe prostitution legalisation will lead to increased sexual violence

Office of the Prime Minister refuses to meet with Malta Women’s Lobby to discuss survey findings on prostitution

Government wants to decriminalise prostitution but women's rights groups are opposed to any proposal that normalises the sex trade
Government wants to decriminalise prostitution but women's rights groups are opposed to any proposal that normalises the sex trade

The majority of people in Malta believe the legalisation of prostitution will lead to increased sexual violence in society, a survey carried out by the Malta Women’s Lobby has shown.

The survey, carried out by MISCO last February, was commissioned by the NGO in collaboration with 45 other organisations.

The lobby wanted to present its findings to the Office of the Prime Minister but received no reply despite a number of attempts, spokesperson Anna Borg said when presenting the results on Tuesday.

“We would have liked for the people charged with implementing policy to take note of our findings,” she said.

Government is in the process of drafting legislation to decriminalise prostitution although no concrete proposal has been put forward yet.

The survey shows that 80% feel the full legalisation of prostitution services will contribute to increased sexual violence, which largely affects women and girls, while 72% feel prostitution is a form of sexual violence and should be stopped.

Furthermore, 81% of those surveyed said they would feel unsafe knowing a residence close to where they live was being used as a brothel.

Three-fourths said that even if some people choose to sell sex, prostitution has negative social impacts that cannot be ignored.

The majority (89%) also said government should step in and provide social welfare to people drawn towards prostitution to help them from getting into the industry.

Asked what relevance the survey holds, in light of the opinions given during the study not coming from industry professionals, Borg said that policy should also factor in the public’s sentiment on the issue.

Nordic Model

The coalition of women’s rights organisations has repeatedly called for the adoption of the Nordic Model with regards to decriminalising prostitution.

The model decriminalises the seller of prostitution services, and criminalises the pimp and individuals purchasing sex.

However, some organisations have warned that such a model risks pushing prostitution further underground, creating more risks for the individuals involved.

Asked about the risks of the Nordic Model, coalition spokesperson Romina Lopez said that such claims are “myths”.

“Research has shown in a number of countries that when prostitution is made legal, underground crime actually increases,” she said. This can be attributed to the demand of sexual services which remained illegal, such as pregnant prostitutes.

“Organised crime still looks to offer these services, and so despite prostitution being legal, women are forcefully impregnated to meet the demand,” she said. “I’m sorry but these claims only serve to scare people into thinking that full legalisation of prostitution is the only solution.”