The UN Convention of 1949 for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others is the founding international abolitionist text which states that people affected by prostitution should not be criminalised and should be protected, and that procuring and trafficking in human beings should be criminalised.
The Convention states:
“Prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person.”
The UN Convention of 1979, Article 6 states:
“States parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.”
In 1998 Sweden introduced the first neo-abolitionist legislation, now known as the Equality model. Recognising prostitution as a form of violence against women, the law ensured criminalisation of pimping, trafficking and paying for sexual acts while decriminalising those directly affected.
In 2009 Article 83 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union recognised “trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children” as a European crime ensuring “minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the areas of particularly serious crime with a cross-border dimension resulting from the nature or impact of such offences or from a special need to combat them on a common basis”. Specific legislation covering the issue of sexual exploitation of women and children is still lacking across Europe. In 2014 the European Parliament Resolution on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality was passed by a strong majority. This resolution:
“Recognises that prostitution, forced prostitution and sexual exploitation are highly gendered issues and violations of human dignity, contrary to human rights principles, among which gender equality, and therefore contrary to the principles of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, including the goal and the principle of gender equality. [and] “Stresses that there are several links between prostitution and trafficking, and recognises that prostitution – both globally and across Europe – feeds the trafficking of vulnerable women and under-age females, a large percentage of whom are between 13-25 years old; stresses that, as shown by data from the Commission, a majority of victims (62 %) are trafficked for sexual exploitation, with women and under-age females accounting for 96 % of identified and presumed victims, with the percentage of victims from non-EU countries showing an increase in the past few years”.
Since 2014, momentum has grown towards realising a Europe free from prostitution, with Northern Ireland (2015), France (2016) and the Republic of Ireland (2017) joining Nordic countries by introducing versions of the Equality Model.
As of 2019, multiple European Member States have an active political consideration of adoption of these laws, and our partners are campaigning to ensure this becomes a reality for women and girls across Europe. As this momentum continues, we now call on European leaders to take a stand, and bring these past commitments to progress through the realisation of European legislative action on sexual exploitation.
The United Nations General Assembly approves the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights addresses prostitution in articles 3 and 5
The United Nations General Assembly adopts the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
EWL signs a written stamen to CSW61 on the human rights of women domestic workers (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).
EWL attend the annual meeting of the UN Commission of the Status of Women (CSW61) (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).
The European Network of Migrant Women initiate a joint letter to the Scottish National Party (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).
Portuguese members bring a feminist perspective into the debate on prostitution (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).
Maltese Confederation of Women’s Organisation (MCWO) propose that Malta adopts the Nordic Model (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).
EWL organises an event to end Violence against Women and Girls (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).
The EWL, CAP International and YOUTH4Abolition organise an advocacy event to mainstream the Abolitionist Movement across Lithuania (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).
The European Network of Migrant Women publish a paper on trafficking crisis Africa-Europe (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).
The EWL and National Alliance of Women’s Organisations hold ‘The Road to Abolition’ event in the European Parliament in the UK (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).
EWL launches the #HerNetHerRights project on online violence against women and girls (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017).