An international group of campaigners, policymakers and survivors of prostitution came together in Brussels last week to call for an end to prostitution in Europe.
In 2014 the European Parliament formally adopted the Honeyball Resolution, which acknowledged prostitution and sexual exploitation to be ‘highly gendered issues and violations of human dignity, contrary to human rights principles’, identified ‘several links between prostitution and trafficking… of vulnerable women and underage females’, emphasised that ‘looking upon prostitution as legal “sex work”… puts [vulnerable women and girls] in danger of a higher level of violence’; and urged Member States to work to reduce prostitution, trafficking and sex tourism in Europe. Five years on from the adoption of the resolution, representatives of more than 25 campaigning groups met at the European Parliament to demand action on prostitution and violence against women and girls.
Participants in the ‘Brussels Call: Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution’ campaign, co-founded by the European Women’s Lobby, called on the European Parliament to implement legal reforms to shore up accountability for pimps, traffickers and purchasers of sex acts; while ensuring survivors of prostitution in Europe have access to healthcare, education, housing and professional support services.
Brussels Call signatory and former MEP Mary Honeyball, who produced the report which led to the adoption of the Honeyball Resolution, said: “More than five years ago, I brought this issue forward to my colleagues in the European Parliament for consideration. With a strong majority we voted to affirm our position that prostitution is a form of violence against women and called for measures to end demand for paid abuse to be brought forward. Five years on, I am proud to join the many voices that form the Brussels Call in seeking further action: it is time for transnational collaboration to end sexual violence; legislation at a European level to end sexual exploitation and improved monitoring to ensure supports are being delivered to those who need it most.”
Gwendoline Lefebvre, President of the European Women’s Lobby, said: “Prostitution is a system that enables the rape and exploitation of millions of women globally every day, and European inaction enables this to continue. As a key aspect of the continuum of violence against women, it’s crucial we come together to tackle the exploitation in the sex trade. This is why, with cross party support from Members of European Parliaments and more than 200 partners from across the Europe and the world in the Brussels Call campaign, we are raising our voices to ensure we realise a Europe where women are free from sexual exploitation, hypersexualisation and objectification. Violence against women aims to silence us. Women all over Europe are rising their voice breaking the silence! We have had enough: Women object!”