Updated | Exit programme for sex workers will help victims of prostitution rebuild their life

First in raft of proposals dealing with sex trade to be issued by government

Sex workers will be provided with an Exit Programme which the government has approved in a first raft of measures designed to assist victims of prostitution. 

The programme is designed to offer professional help to sex workers exit from the prostitution trade and trafficking gangs. 

The parliamentary secretary for reforms and citizenship Julia Farrugia Portelli said the government had approved the first-ever programme for professional help to be given to inmates inside the Corradino Correctional Facility who have a history of prostitution. 

“The help is aimed at helping these people live an independent life away from prostitution. The mechanism will be giving them the necessary tools to prepare them for basic challenges in life after leaving prison. The government will see that this specialised programme inside CCF will include opportunities for education and training, both formal and informal,” Farrugia Portelli said. 

The programme was devised with the Dar Hosea shelter, a voluntary organisation that deals specifically with cases of prostitution. 

“This is just the start of a comprehensive programme for vulnerable people who want to exit prostitution,” Farrugia Portelli said. “We are committed to strengthen the fight against those who exploit these vulnerable people. It is a first step that goes hand in hand with changes so that victims are no longer penalised but given the necessary help.” 

Although not mentioned, the government is also mulling rules for Malta’s strip-club industry which could ban the use of private rooms and set different rules for employees to allow pole dancers only to be naked on stage. 

Women’s organisations have railed against the plans to give these clubs a regulated framework, although business representatives say the rules will give security to employees of an industry that critics say borders on prostitution. 

Under the proposed rules, private dancing rooms will no longer be allowed, which previously meant that customers could get private dancers but also negotiate prices for sexual favours – if tolerated on site. However, clubs will now get the green light to have naked dancers on stage, provided that hostesses and lap dancers are all clothed when entertaining clients. 

There will also be restrictions on advertising outdoors, new zoning guidelines that could prevent such clubs from appearing within a certain distance of schools or places of worship, and also restrictions on club employees reeling in punters on the outside. 

Exit programme welcomed by PN

Reacting to the announcement the Nationalist Party said it was satisfied with the government’s plans to create a mechanism for vulnerable people, especially vulnerable women, to be helped out of prostitution circles.

Despite this, the PN said it was disappointed that on such an important subject, the government had again failed to consult with the Opposition.

“An Exit Programme for prostitution should be a realistic and sustainable one. The dangers faced by vulnerable people in prostitution who don’t have another option in life should be prioritised by this essential programme.

It said the Opposition was willing to give its contribution in the reform, while stressing the need for a long-term plan that includes a broader and more holistic framework that protects vulnerable people and brings to justice those who exploit them.