Full decriminalisation of prostitution ‘would set gender equality back’

The full decriminalisation of prostitution would be a step away from gender equality, Nationalist Party MP Claudette Buttigieg insisted this evening.

In an adjournment speech, the MP described the proposed reform as an unwanted Women’s Day gift, highlighting that Women’s Day was not a celebration, but a day in which one should remember women’s struggle to achieve equality.

Malta was already falling behind on this issue, she said, only for Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar to “open the doors to prostitution, and expect us to be grateful to her and the government.”

Buttigieg highlighted that 40 NGOs had come out against full decriminalisation, instead proposing the so-called Nordic model which would decriminalise prostitution but criminalise the buying of sex. She said that this was the “equality model,” as it would empower women involved in sex work, of which “more than 90%” could be considered victims.

No Pretty Woman situation

“Let us not fool ourselves, we are not talking about Pretty Woman: this is an ugly reality of exploitation, of slavery,” the MP said, before highlighting countries which, she insisted, made a mess of the issue.

In Germany, she maintained, brothels became as ubiquitous as supermarkets, with men choosing how they wished to exploit women’s bodies on a menu. In New Zealand – the only country which has opted for full decriminalisation, rather than legalisation – loitering has become widespread, including in bus stops and near schools. And in Spain, she added, the situation has spiralled out of control, leading the country to consider reform.

If Malta introduced full decriminalisation, she said, “what will happen is that prostitution will explode, and we’ll have to bring over lot of women. This can only mean a sharp increase in human trafficking.”

Buttigieg also emphasised that Cutajar’s predecessor – the EU’s Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli – did not promote the same model.

“With good reason, as an equality minister should not promote opening up the sector as Cutajar is doing,” the MP said.