On 12th and 14th of July, the EU FEMM and LIBE Committees voted on amendments and the comprised draft Report on identifying gender-based violence as a new area of crime listed in Article 83(1) TFEU. La Strada International, ICRSE, PICUM and 9 other European networks developed a joint letter calling upon MEPs of both committees to reject 4 amendments that would outlaw sex workers’ ability to consent. Fortunately, MEPs rejected the amendments.
The proposed amendments to the report by the Committees on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) invalidate the key concept of consent by making consenting adult sexual intercourse a criminal act, if it is the subject to financial transaction. This exemption would create situations of legal uncertainty.
Consent is a central concept not only in defining sexual violence and rape as codified by the Istanbul Convention, but also a central concept for sex workers. For sex workers, consent means agreed upon terms and conditions, under which sexual services are provided. If these consented terms and conditions are violated, the incident should be defined as rape or sexual assault and sex workers should be able to complain and access non-judgmental support services and justice.
Conflating prostitution with sexual exploitation undermines the agency of people to make informed decisions about their private and sexual life. La Strada International believes all people should have access to this right. La Strada International further advocates against criminalisation, as many sex workers have reported increase of violation and abuse, as an impact of established legislation that criminalize sex workers or the purchase of sexual services.
In September a plenary vote on the report in the EU Parliament is foreseen for which MEPs can still bring in new amendments. La Strada International together with the co-signers of the letter, will continue to follow the developments and the voting in September and will continue to call upon MEPs to ensure sex workers’ ability to consent and to vote against proposals for criminalisation of sex workers or buyers of sexual services.