UN Bureaucrats Pick Fight with EU Parliament on Prostitution

By | September 28, 2023

NEW YORK, September 29 (C-Fam) The UN human rights office called for the “full decriminalization of sex work” on Monday, just days after the European Parliament surprised the sexual left with a scathing resolution against prostitution.

The EU Parliament argued against using the term “sex work” and called on countries to criminalize solicitation of prostitution and pimping in a resolution adopted two weeks ago. A new UN report counters that “any forms of criminalization of sex work, including criminalization of clients and ‘third parties’ related activities” ultimately harms prostitutes.

Besides standing in opposition to the European Parliament, the UN report is out of step with the UN General Assembly’s own recommendations to fight trafficking, according to Marcel van der Watt, Director of the Research Institute at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

Van der Watt said a 2022 resolution of the global body called on governments to clamp down on sex buying. The UN General Assembly has rejected decriminalization proposals for nearly thirty years.

The UN report, based on the non-binding recommendations of the UN Secretary General, UN agencies, and UN human rights mechanisms is not written by member states of the General Assembly but by UN bureaucrats. It argues that prostitution is part of the human right to sexual and bodily autonomy. It criticizes governments that aggressively police sex trafficking because it makes it harder for prostitutes and pimps to make money. It also calls on governments to protect “sex workers” through occupational and safety standards and by helping them organize politically, form trade unions, and access legal aid.

Van der Watt says these suggestions are “bizarre” and based on faulty research. Sex trafficking and exploitation of women and children “explode” unless sex buyers are punished by law, he said, citing studies that show sex buyers don’t care whether a prostitute is voluntarily selling her body or whether she is coerced into it.

The UN human rights report omits or ignores a “vast” body of research that proves this definitively, according to the South African researcher. He also found it odd that the UN report did not mention policies to help women escape prostitution or address the links between the pornography industry, prostitution, and sex trafficking in women and children.

The UN human rights office’s report sets up a showdown with legislatures around the world that continue to criminalize prostitution and target sex buyers. It seems designed to contradict the European Parliament’s own resolution earlier this month.

The resolution from the European Parliament argues, “We do not want to idealize the reality of prostitution or mask the violence, abuse and exploitation that the large majority of people, especially women and girls, in prostitution endure.” It goes on, “We want to pay respect to the large majority of people in prostitution who do not consider it to be a normal job or a career opportunity, who would leave the sex industry if they could and who consider prostitution to be a form of violence.”

The EU Parliament draws connections between prostitution, trafficking, pornography, and violence against women. While it criticizes criminal penalties for prostitutes themselves, it casts legalized prostitution in a negative light citing Europol reports that show a tenfold increase in trafficking where prostitution is legal.