Buying of sex should be penalised, equality commission says

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality has recommended that the purchasing of sex be penalised

Persons who purchase sex should be penalised, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) said.

In a statement, the NCPE said it has proposed a legal framework that would “penalise sex-buyers,” underlining that prostitution was not gender-neutral since “the absolute majority of prostitutes are women and the absolute majority of clients, pimps and traffickers are men.”

The commission said that a defining feature of prostitution is power and control of men over women, which reflects and reinforces a patriarchal society. 

“The proposal to penalise sex-buyers is based on the recognition that prostitution is a vicious cycle rife with physical and psychological violence, whereby increased supply creates more demand and, in turn, more need for supply, effectively encouraging pimps and traffickers to actively find and force more women into prostitution. Penalising sex-buyers would break this cycle by disrupting the sex market,” the NCPE said.

The commission noted that the experiences of countries that legalised prostitution, was largely negative. “For example, in the Netherlands and in Germany, where prostitution has been legal for a number of years, the sex industry grew exponentially and extreme exploitative conditions for prostitutes were in no way addressed.”

The NCPE argued that in countries such as Sweden were the purchasing of sex was criminalised, they received largely positive results, such as the sex industry shrinking and a reduction in human trafficking. “Other countries that criminalise the purchase of sexual services include Canada, France, Iceland, Israel, Northern Ireland, Norway and the Republic of Ireland.”

“Moreover, prostitution does not only affect prostitutes and clients, but also society in general since it promotes and normalizes the perception of women as sex objects, thus reinforcing gender inequality and gender stereotypes.”

However, the NCPE said that it welcomed the majority of measures in the proposed reform on human trafficking and prostitution, that was opened for public consultation in September. It said it particularly commended the proposals made to combat human trafficking through prevention, awareness-raising and the strengthening of law and protection mechanisms as well as the plan to decriminalise prostitution and enhance support for persons exiting it.

It said that the point of departure of any reform should be that prostitution had a very negative effect on both the individuals involved as well as society at large and that everyone should be in a position of not having to opt for prostitution.

“The NCPE is also suggesting regulation and enforcement in relation to massage parlours and temporary work agencies in order to ensure that these are used for their stated purpose and do not act as fronts for prostitution and/or human trafficking. Additionally, it is recommending that strip clubs offer alternative entertainment due to their reinforcement of gender inequality and the objectification of women."  

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