On the 26th February 2014, European Parliament voted 343 in favour, 139 against and 105 abstentions on a report which urges criminalising clients of sex workers in Europe. The report claims that such laws are beneficial to sex workers.
“To say that this report decriminalises sex work is untrue. In any case, the impact of criminalising one of the two parties involved is that police detection and surveillance is on both the client and the sex worker. When police are the regulators of the sex industry it is sex workers that experience the brunt of corruption,” Janelle Fawkes, CEO of Scarlet Alliance clarified today. “Sex Workers in Europe fear that this report will result in member states legislating to criminalise sex work and stigmatise sex workers as ‘victims’ – a step in the opposite direction from recognising sex work as work.”
In her address to the European Parliament, Labor MP and report sponsor Mary Honeyball states that she met not one sex worker who was there of their own free choice. “Clearly Mary Honeyball has not consulted with sex workers – as our sex worker colleagues throughout Europe have been vocal in stating their opposition to this report,” Janelle Fawkes shot back.
"The Swedish laws criminalising clients has proven to be a decade-long failure," Janelle Fawkes explains. "In Sweden, it is illegal to rent a room to a sex worker, meaning that sex workers’ autonomy is impacted and legal rights are reduced for fear of detection. Adult children living at home from their parents’ earnings have been charged with “pimping” and sex workers cannot work together, advertise or hire security. Police stake out sex workers’ workplaces and, as a result, clients will only meet in public locations to avoid detection. In Sweden, laws criminalising clients are actively and maliciously used against sex workers."
Mary Honeyballs campaign reached an unacceptable low when she claimed that the 560 organisations who opposed her report and criminalisation (including La Strada International, the European Aids Treatment Group and the German Women Group), were “… organisations comprised of pimps.” Such incoherent and deliberately false accusations effectively silenced advocacy against the report and stifled debate.
The report, its endorsement by the EU Parliament, and the swiftness with which 35 years of sex worker movement activism in Europe has been swept under the carpet is a new low for feminists, and representative democracy, and human rights in Europe.
The practical impact of the report is that it will result in political pressure being placed on member countries to criminalise sex work, as a way of being compliant with European Parliament recommendations.
Luca Stevenson, coordinator of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, said yesterday: "This is a failed policy denounced by all sex workers’ organisations and many women’s, LGBT and migrants’ organisations, as well as many UN bodies."
Ana Mohr supports sex workers in Bucharest and lobbied against the report, and stated yesterday "…in essence, criminalisation leads to stigma, and stigma leads to harassment."
Scarlet Alliance CEO Janelle Fawkes adds "Such laws reduce sex workers choice and autonomy over clients and working conditions, isolate and displace sex workers, pose barriers to accessing health services and justice, drive sex workers underground and increase stigma and discrimination."
“Anyone who believes this model of regulation is ONLY the criminalisation of clients, and not sex workers, is misled.” Janelle Fawkes said. "Mary Honeyball is proposing criminalisation. It is sex workers who will lose out from these laws."