The European Parliament passed a resolution against the decriminalization of prostitution on Sunday. The resolution titled the Resolution of 14 September 2023 on the regulation of prostitution in the EU: its cross-border implications and impact on gender equality and women’s rights, stated that EU member states have an obligation “to promote an inclusive society and protect people and especially women in vulnerable situations.”
The resolution was passed in part to highlight uneven laws of EU member states governing prostitution. Drafters stated that “the difference[s] between Member States’ regulations on prostitution create a fertile operating ground for organised crime groups and individuals.”
Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands allow legal prostitution. The resolution stated that the legalization of “a system organised for profit which is intrinsically violent, discriminatory and deeply inhuman” runs counter to stated EU human rights goals. On the other hand, Sweden, France, Spain and Ireland employ the Nordic/Equality Model. This model criminalizes the purchase of sex but does not punish individuals who are prostituted or trafficked. Parliament rejected an EU-wide implementation of the model despite statistics in the resolution that showed it decreased demand for sex work and decreased overall rates of violence against sex workers.
However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) praised the rejection of the Nordic/Equality Model. In a statement, it claimed evidence from France and Ireland showed the model increased murders, police violence, exclusion from social services and other negative consequences directed at sex workers. HRW is against any criminalization of prostitution and states that “[c]riminalizing adult, voluntary, and consensual sex – including the commercial exchange of sexual services – is incompatible with the human right to personal autonomy and privacy.”
The resolution is non-binding on member states and seeks only to set a general goal of protecting individuals from prostitution and sex trafficking.