19/02/2014 03:42 GMT | Updated 20/04/2014 06:59 BST

Prostitution: Should Sex Buyers Be Criminalised?


Sexual exploitation might be universally opposed by all European countries, but their methods for tackling prostitution couldn't be more different. They run the gamut from completely illegality in countries such as Croatia and Romania to being legal and regulated in Germany, the Netherlands and Greece.

However, a third way is increasingly being considered across the continent, under which it is illegal to pay for sex, but not to work as a prostitute, making it easier to reduce demand while still protecting women - or so it is claimed.

When this was pioneered in Sweden critics said it would drive prostitution underground, making it more difficult to protect sex workers. The legislation has now been in place for more than 15 years and it seems to have done just what was planned. The number of prostitutes is estimated to have dropped.

Meanwhile countries that have regularised sex work have begun to question the efficiency of their laws. In Amsterdam, the local authority has started to close down the number of windows available for prostitution in its world-renowned red-light district. Across the border in Germany, many people have denounced practices such as clients being allowed to have sex with an unlimited number of sex workers for a flat fee.

Sweden's example was quickly followed by Iceland and Norway and now France also wants to follow suit. But at the European Parliament they are thinking of taking things even further.

The Parliament's women's rights committee has called for sex buyers to be criminalised across the EU. In a report adopted on 23 January, they also ask for campaigns to raise awareness and prevention strategies, especially for people who are poor, vulnerable and socially excluded. Victims of sexual exploitation should also be given help to reintegrate again in society. Member states should also work closely together with NGOs, the police and the judicial, medical and social services on this.

The report drafted by British S&D member Mary Honeyball will be presented to all MEPs during the plenary on 27 February.

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