Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
The government was giving its stamp of approval to transforming Malta into a sex tourism hub through a “flawed” technical committee which is proposing the decriminalisation of sex work, according to the Coalition on Human Trafficking and Prostitution.
The coalition, which groups together numerous organisations and experts, favours the so-called Nordic model, which decriminalises sex workers but criminalises buyers, whilst providing support to those wishing to leave the sex industry.
But the technical committee favours full decriminalisation, and as Parliamentary Secretary for Equality Rosianne Cutajar revealed in an interview on The Malta Independent on Sunday, it is set to hand its report to Cabinet shortly.
The coalition was scathing in its assessment of the committee, which, it said, was devoid of experts in this specific area and which had completely disregarded national and international organisations who have worked with people in prostitution and victims of human trafficking.
It insisted that data from other countries unequivocally demonstrated that the proposed approach would be a gift to pimps and traffickers, accusing the committee of proposing a “pimping state.”
The committee “naively assumes that prostitutes have the agency to choose,” the coalition argued, “yet it is well known that the vast majority of people in prostitution are either coerced or enslaved by the industry. If the industry widens through legalisation, more vulnerable people will need to be trafficked for this purpose.”
“Sex trafficking is indivisible from prostitution, and the two can never be tackled separately,” it added.
It said that the proposed approach normalised prostitution and trafficking with the blessing of the state, and appealed to the government to seriously consider the implications and repercussions of what the technical committee has suggested.
Exploitation with the government’s blessing – PN
The coalition’s arguments were echoed by the Nationalist Party, whose women’s movement is one of its members, in a statement issued by MPs Claudette Buttigieg and David Agius.
The MPs said that Cutajar’s revelation that the committee’s work was nearing completion proved that the consultation process was a farce, through which a Labour government sought to pave the way for the official exploitation of women with its blessing.
“At this stage, where it is ever more clear that Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar will continue ignoring the largest coalition of women’s organisations in our country and follow an agenda meant only to appease those who wish to exploit women, the Nationalist oppositions appeals to the good sense of Minister Edward Zammit Lewis to put an end to this process and listen to those who truly have women’s dignity to heart,” they said.
Proposal ‘goes against gender equality’ – Malta Women’s Lobby
In its own reaction, the Malta Women’s Lobby urged the government to seriously reconsider the technical committee’s proposal, which, it said, went strongly against gender equality principles.
“With the decriminalisation of prostitution, the government will be sending out a clear message to society, that human bodies (mostly those of women and girls) are viewed as commodities. Such laws push the idea that human bodies may be sold and exchanged for an invisible price tag and can be treated as sex objects,” the group said.
It insisted, as the coalition did, that the notion of consensual prostitution was largely fiction, as many were forced or trapped, and that prostitution and human trafficking operated in tandem.
The lobby group also questioned the apparent efforts to sanitise and legitimise prostitution, stating that this also served to promote the industry and render invisible its inherent exploitation.
“As a result, such a culture will also respond to violence against women by condoning it and embedding it further. Is this the culture and society in which we wish to envision our future,” it asked.