From Words to Action: Timeline of progress towards the Equality Model in Europe
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”.
The 2014 the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly resolution of 8 April 2014 on Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe calls on Council of Europe member and observer States, Parliamentary Assembly observer States and partners for democracy, to: As regards policies on prostitution: As regards awareness raising, information and training:
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.
At the EU/International/National Level 2 December 1949
The United Nations General Assembly approves the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others
10 December 1948 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights addresses prostitution in articles 3 and 5 18 December 1979 The United Nations General Assembly adopts the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 17 June 2011 The EWL launches campaign ‘ Together from Europe free from Prostitution’. 17 June 2011 Hungary successfully organises a press conference to launch the campaign to end prostitution. 20 October 2011 Portugal launches petition and actions ‘ Together for a Europe free from Prostitution’. 29 February 2012 The EWL has a visible role in TV shows that raises the issues of the system of prostitution and helps to create debate in Belgium. 30 May 2012 17 MEPs give prostitution at sporting events the red card in support of the EWL campaign. 19 July 2012 The EWL and the Bulgarian Women’s Lobby put prostitution and trafficking on the agenda in Bulgaria. 22 August 2012 Turn Off the Red Light: Irish billboards raise awareness about the young age of entry into prostitution. 26 September 2012 Women’s organisations’ conference brings back prostitution on the Swedish agenda 17 October 2012 The EWL calls on MEPs to ensure tackling demand for prostitution is at heart of EU strategy to combat organised crime. 22 October 2012 Turn Off the Red Light: Ireland joins growing list of countries adopting the Nordic Model. 28 November 2012 Cyprus Women’s Lobby launches first public debate on prostitution. 4 December 2012 EWL co-hosts conference to put abolition of prostitution on European agenda. 6 December 2012 MEP Emer Costello issues statement of support for Brussels’ Call to end prostitution. 10 December 2012 The Sveriges Kvinnolobby calls on companies to take on purchase of sex on business trips. 20 December 2012 Spain organises a conference to put prostitution on the political agenda. 15 February 2013 UK put the abolition of prostitution on the agenda. 1 October 2013 MEPs call for a Europe free from prostitution and support the Brussels’ Call signed by 200 NGOs. 26 February 2014 The European Parliament vote on the Honeyball resolution. 12 November 2014 Successful first international abolitionist congress sees launch of international mobilisation of parliamentarians. 20 November 2014 The European Parliament promotes the Nordic model as an inspiration for gender equality. 8 December 2014 More than 120 people welcome the Mission of Norway to the EU to discuss the Nordic Model. 26 February 2015 Women’s organisations celebrate the first anniversary of the Honeyball resolution. October 2016 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). March 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). March 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). 28 April 2017 Portuguese members bring a feminist perspective into the debate on prostitution (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017). 7 May 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). 8 June 2017 EWL organises an event to end Violence against Women and Girls (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017). October 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). 18 October 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). 30 November 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). November 2017 EWL launches the #HerNetHerRights project on online violence against women and girls (Report to the Novo Foundation – European Women’s Lobby 2017). 4 March 2019 CEDAW Committee considers new General Recommendation on Trafficking made with Lay Theme