One cannot simply remove human trafficking from the discussion of prostitution, as it will only exploit the vulnerable, Lara Dimitrijevic, from the Coalition on Human Trafficking and Prostitution, told The Malta Independent.
“Prostitution and human trafficking are two elements which go hand in hand. The moment you legalise sex work, the demand will increase and will generate more need for women, and therefore traffickers will take full advantage.”
Dimitrijevic and Anna Borg spoke to this newsroom following the news that the Prostitution Reform Technical Committee is in the initial stages of drafting a legal framework that aims to decriminalise sex work. Both Borg and Dimitrijevic form part of the Coalition on Human Trafficking and Prostitution, a coalition of 40 NGOs which have come together calling for the Nordic Model to be adopted, where sex buyers are criminalised and sex work is decriminalised. On Monday the coalition released a statement, highlighting that legalising prostitution will turn Malta into a hub of sex tourism.
Back in October 2019, the multi-disciplinary coalition came together to submit their proposals for the reform to then Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms Julia Farrugia Portelli. Since then, the coalition never received feedback from the reform.
“We were excluded completely from the discussion,” explained Borg. “Not one women’s organisation or expert was invited to sit on the board, and it was only through the news article that we were informed that the Technical Committee is in the initial stages.” Dimitrijevic said that after the coalition submitted their proposals, they were never contacted or given any feedback. “The technical committee should at least consult with experts or individuals who have been working in the field of prostitution and human trafficking for years, or at least map out the current situation in the country. Where are their studies?”
After the coalition published a statement on Monday, Minister of Justice, Equality and Governance Edward Zammit Lewis contacted the coalition to meet.
Both Borg and Dimitrijevic highlighted that the proposal for legalising sex work leaves more questions than answers. “We are aware that prostitution in Malta is not illegal, so what will they decriminalise? Will soliciting be decriminalised? It seems like there is no form of structure, and this is a farce,” said Dimitrijevic. She said that there need to be proper studies for this change in law, especially since it involves the most vulnerable.
“How many happy hookers are there, and how many are victims? We need to ensure that the vulnerable are protected,” said Borg. She said that legalising sex work with no form of regulations will be a “green light to pimps and traffickers” to come to Malta with no form of restrictions.
Dimitrijevic said that the reform cannot remove human trafficking from the prostitution discussion. “We have seen this before, when we had trafficking for labour exploitation. When we had a construction boom, we began importing people to work too and it was extremely clear that there was exploitation; so once the demand for sex work increases, we will see an increase in trafficking and we will end up in the same situation.”
Both highlighted that the Government should not rush into changing any policies or legislation, instead to go back to the drawing board and discuss. Borg said that Government must remember who this reform is affecting the most. “We need to remember that this is about those who are most vulnerable, and that the Government should think twice about this reform.”
Original article found on The Malta Independent