AS (2014) CR 12
2014 ORDINARY SESSION
Tuesday 8 April 2014 at 10.00 a.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.
4. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.
(Mr Walter, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10.05 a.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe
The PRESIDENT – This morning’s business is the debate on the report entitled “Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe”, Document 13446, presented by Mr José Mendes Bota on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.
Owing to the number of people who have signed up to speak in the debate, I have decided to revert to a speaking limit of four minutes.
In order to finish by 1 p.m., we must interrupt the list of speakers at around 12.45 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote. Are these arrangements agreed to?
They are agreed to.
I call Mr Mendes Bota, the rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between your presentation of the report and your reply to the debate.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – Portugal was the first State in the world to abolish slavery, in 1761. France took the same step in 1848. However, only 14 years later, in 1862, the great writer Victor Hugo wrote the following words in his masterful romance “Les Misérables”: “Some say that slavery has disappeared from European civilization. That is incorrect. It still exists, but now it weighs only on women, and it is called prostitution!” Prostitution, he said, is about society buying a slave. From whom? From misery. Hugo wrote: “A soul for a piece of bread. Misery makes the offer; society accepts!” Those words, written a long time ago, are still true. They apply to the vast majority of the people in prostitution today.
We often say that trafficking is a modern form of slavery. On one side of the problem there is demand, which must be discouraged, and on the other side there is extreme poverty and what I call the devil’s troika, which joins migration, trafficking and sexual exploitation. All available statistics indicate that two thirds of the victims of trafficking are bound for sexual exploitation and forced prostitution, and two thirds of those victims are women and girls. Although they are distinct phenomena, there is a clear and strong link between prostitution and trafficking.
Legalising prostitution was not a successful solution, as criminal organisations were never so prosperous and the protection and status of prostitutes did not improve, as had been expected when the laws were introduced. However, it must also be said that criminalising the sale of sexual services was a regrettable exercise in mystification and hypocrisy. Many eastern countries, including Romania and Bulgaria, great suppliers in the trafficking industry – and we must not forget the Russian Federation – prohibited all forms of prostitution, yet prostitution flourishes in every corner, in the hotels, brothels, massage saloons and spas, and with escort services and so on.
That is why I propose a series of measures, including the prohibition of explicit or disguised advertising of sexual services and a total ban on pimping, irrespective of whether prostitution is legal, as the risk that that might encourage exploitation is simply too high. Counselling services should be made available to people in prostitution in relation to health matters and legal issues. Importantly, exit programmes should be set up for those who wish to give up sex work. It is not easy for people in prostitution to start a new life. Even from this angle, what might have been a voluntary choice at the beginning often becomes a dead end.
After looking at all the findings, I became convinced that policies on prostitution are the most effective tools for combating trafficking of human beings. All my sources indicated the same trend: the overwhelming majority of sex workers are in prostitution not out of free will, but because they were forced into it. The answer to the main question is that we can have a positive impact on trafficking by regulating prostitution. We need to curb the demand for prostitution in order to reduce the demand for victims who are trafficked for sexual exploitation, who represent a substantial proportion of those who are the victims of trafficking.
Several European countries have already chosen to go this way; Sweden did so almost 15 years ago. Swedish law imposes sanctions on those who purchase sexual services. Sex workers are not criminalised, but their clients are. After a decade and a half, it is possible to see the results of Sweden’s legislation and policies, and they are encouraging. Street prostitution has almost disappeared and prostitution has been cut by half. It is also interesting that Swedish people, especially Swedish youth, do not find prostitution acceptable. They are aware that in most cases it is a form of exploitation and an assault on human dignity, especially that of women and girls. Criminal organisations no longer find Sweden an attractive destination for their activities. Conversations between traffickers wire-tapped by Interpol show this very clearly.
A moment ago I mentioned free will. We could discuss what that means and when we could say that someone chooses freely to be in prostitution, but this would be more of a philosophical debate, and there is no philosophy in this report. There is also no moral judgment. The mission of our Assembly – a true parliament of human rights – is to promote human rights and to intervene in areas where they are put at stake.
Every country and every society has the autonomy and sovereignty to choose its options, but I strongly advise legislators all over Europe to consider, debate, research and follow the example of Sweden and other Nordic countries and criminalise the purchase of sexual services. I believe that it is the most effective measure to combat the trafficking of human beings. This is not a matter of ideology: rather, it is based on a human rights perspective and on the best practices that I could find in the countries that I visited and elsewhere.
Therefore, the draft resolution makes proposals based on a harm-reduction approach. It would be a positive step, for instance, to raise the minimum legal age for being in prostitution. In many countries it is 18; I suggest that it should be 21. This would help reduce the risk of damaging a young person’s life for good, and would reduce the overall number of people in prostitution.
It would be useful to raise awareness of the current situation of people in prostitution. There are probably many people in Europe who are not aware that sex workers are for the most part victims of trafficking, or are in other ways forced into this activity.
We need more data. We need accurate, reliable and comparable figures both on prostitution and on trafficking. Research is crucial. No effective policy can be designed or enforced unless there is better knowledge about trafficking and prostitution in Europe.
More resources should be allocated to the fight against trafficking. It is a tough fight. In my opinion, voluntary prostitution is a myth. It might apply to a tiny minority of prostitutes, but for the large majority prostitution is the consequence either of a state of extreme need or of violence – especially in cases of trafficking, which are estimated at between 70 000 and 140 000 every year in Europe.
I remember what we heard from young women in room 5 of this building. Iva and Mary were trafficked and exploited. They said that they put the “wrong trust in bad people”. When I think of them, I realise that I am not interested at all in contributing – as a man or a politician, and by my actions or inaction – to making pimps, traffickers and the sex industry richer, and to expanding their activities instead of reducing them.
I remember how disgusting it was to hear about flat rates, gang bangs and women abused until they are totally exhausted. I realise how numb society became, with adverts in newspapers and on the Internet announcing “new flesh in town” – meaning a new group of victims turning around and around and around. So I say: it is time to stop slavery and break the chains. Let us do it.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much indeed, Mr Mendes Bota. You have four and a half minutes remaining of your time. I call Ms Gafarova, who will speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – Thank you very much, Mr President.
I congratulate and thank Mr Mendes Bota for the instructive report, which is full of information. The issue presented for discussion is very important in Europe.
Differing opinions were expressed about some points in the report – for example, the impossibility of imposing morality on someone. Mr Mendes Bota rightly chose not to deal with the moral aspect of this phenomenon. On the contrary, his approach is based on human rights, and in particular the rights of victims of trafficking.
The report states that trafficking in human beings is a hideous human rights violation and one of the most lucrative activities for criminal organisations worldwide. The rapporteur underlined the fact that trafficking in human beings is a modern form of slavery, centuries after slavery was abolished in the western world. It occurs for various purposes, including forced labour, criminality and organ removal. In Europe, trafficking for sexual exploitation is by far the most widespread form: an estimated 84% of victims are trafficked for this purpose. Victims of trafficking can be women and men, adults and children – but women are particularly affected by the phenomenon.
The European Council and other organisations that declare the protection of human rights and encouragement of democratic values as their priorities are concerned with the violation of women’s rights in various countries. Under international law, women are considered separately and are provided with broad guarantees to enjoy and implement their rights. However, it must be taken into account that realisation of their declared equal rights fails in many cases because of the absence of real equal chances. To ensure realisation of these high theoretical values we must link our efforts and concur.
In different countries there are different situations. In my country, the national action plan on the struggle against human trafficking in the Azerbaijan Republic was affirmed in 2004 by a decree of the President. In accordance with the action plan, a national co-ordinator was appointed, along with the Department on the Struggle Against the Trafficking in Human Beings. The department is a specialised structural body tasked with preventing human trafficking and fighting against it, and protecting human and civil rights and freedoms against criminals, in accordance with the constitution and laws of the Azerbaijan Republic.
The Council of Europe and its member States possess sufficient experience to eliminate all these problems; we simply need the persistence and will to give them adequate attention. Trafficking in human beings is unacceptable. We must find new, effective ways to counter it. This report and the draft resolution are precious and timely, and they show the way to that end.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much indeed, Ms Gafarova. May I repeat for those colleagues who were not here at the beginning of the debate that the time limit on speeches is four minutes? I call Ms Fiala, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms FIALA (Switzerland)* – I thank José Mendes Bota for preparing an important and well researched report on what is unfortunately a very topical issue. Human trafficking is one of the global risks that our countries must combat together. The suffering and dangers caused by human trafficking are numerous and unacceptable. Forced labour, organ trafficking and sexual exploitation are all unacceptable violations of human rights and are rightly termed “modern slavery”.
The report considers the different developments in several Council of Europe member States and advocates neither the criminalisation of prostitution nor blanket liberalisation. Regrettably, several member States are not yet party to the Council of Europe convention on human trafficking. The fact that, according to studies, legalisation of prostitution can have two contradictory effects on human trafficking is documented convincingly by the report, but data from 150 countries point to the conclusion that the legalisation of prostitution would probably lead to an increase in human trafficking.
Those who are of a liberal persuasion may have qualms about banning prostitution not only because of our liberal opinions but because a ban and illegality might cause prostitutes even greater suffering. The federalism practised in my home country can make things all the more complex, because the law varies from one canton to another.
Mr Mendes Bota’s report contains three practicable proposals, the first of which is the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. I encourage those countries that have yet to ratify the convention to do so. Secondly, whatever our political group, we can all encourage a Europe-wide data system on prostitution and human trafficking. It is obvious that relevant information about problem areas is a precondition for devising political measures and for evaluating their effectiveness.
Thirdly, we need to consider the promising approach of the so-called Sex Purchase Act, which bans not the offering of sexual services but their use. This approach should, at the very least, be looked at in greater depth because it better protects women and better combats the demand for prostitution in Sweden. When demand is reduced, the exploitation of women and girls is reduced. That is the conclusion. As a liberal, however, I have problems with criminalising the use of sexual services. I am very grateful for the report, and I recommend it most warmly to the Assembly.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much indeed. I call Ms Werner, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Ms WERNER (Germany)* – I thank Mr Mendes Bota very much for the analysis contained in the report, much of which we agree with. Paragraph 8 of the report rightly states that “different legal approaches and cultural sensitivities make it difficult to propose a single model of prostitution regulations that would fit all member States.” There is no one single position on the issue in my group and possibly others, too. The report begins by saying that we must fight against all forms of human trafficking. We agree with that, but it says that trafficking and prostitution are different things; yet there is a constant overlap and a blurring of the borders between trafficking and prostitution. Those borders are very clear in my mind.
The report places emphasis on the Swedish model – in other words, the decriminalisation of prostitution – and suggests that that is the precondition for dealing with it successfully, but I think that you have jumped to the wrong conclusion. We must make a distinction between prostitution and trafficking. We are talking about different phenomena, with different causes, and they therefore need different approaches based on different analyses. I do not share Mr Mendes Bota’s view that criminalising the purchase of sexual services is an effective instrument to stop or fight against the phenomenon.
Forced prostitution – I stress the word “forced” – and trafficking can be effectively combated only if we know the causes and tackle them. The report touches on them, but not in sufficient detail. We should be talking about racism, people having to flee their own countries and poverty. The organisation that represents sex workers in Germany says that we should talk not about people who freely enter into prostitution, but about criminalising the exchange of money. Prostitution cannot be equated with trafficking.
The report has thrown up a number of interesting facts and analyses, but it raises far more questions than answers, as Mr Mendes Bota says in the report. In the committee, he expressed his personal view that the Swedish model is a good one and that it has led to a rethink of the situation in Swedish society. Was that rethinking the result of the legislation that was enacted? Is prostitution – sex work and forced prostitution – debated in Sweden? Are there open discussions? Has this led to any enlightenment in Swedish society? Or are such things discussed privately? What impact does the Swedish model have on sex tourism? What about the Netherlands? Some 50% to 90% of prostitutes have not entered freely into their profession? What are the figures? In Germany, the report refers to facts and figures that come from press reports in Germany – indeed, my home town is considered the El Dorado of prostitution.
The report has indeed thrown up a number of questions and talks about Switzerland and Germany advocating a federalist approach, but I do not share all the analyses, which is why I shall vote against.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I ask colleagues to stick to the time limit, please. I call Ms Maury Pasquier, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – Honourable colleagues, trafficking involves treating human beings as if they were a commodity and it is a heinous violation of human rights. Members of the Socialist Group are united and say unanimously that we must, at any cost, strengthen protection for the victims of trafficking and respect their rights, and we must fight the phenomenon in accordance with the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
I commend Mr Mendes Bota for the sensitive way in which he broached this delicate issue. As he stressed in his report, trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is very widespread, and there is a close link between trafficking and prostitution. Bearing in mind that our laws and practices in Europe are so very different, the rapporteur rightly states on page 15 of his report that “it would hardly be possible to propose a single policy on prostitution that fits all Council of Europe member States”. Indeed, even within the Socialist Group our opinions are not all the same when it comes to how we better regulate prostitution and protect victims of trafficking. Some – the Swedes, for instance – would prefer to incriminate the clients, the punters. Others, myself included, would opt for a more pragmatic and liberal regulation of prostitution. Those are different paths although they lead to the same objective, and be that as it may, the entire Socialist Group absolutely agrees that we must collect more data and have more research on prostitution, trafficking, and the impact of our various regulations.
Similarly, information centres, advisory centres for sex workers, awareness raising and information campaigns, and training for the general public and professionals – all done, of course, in close co-operation with civil society – are things we can subscribe to. We also need legal measures that allow foreign victims in particular to launch their complaints without fearing that they will be returned to their countries of origin, and without taking into account the economic dimension of the problem.
As the report rightly states – it is based on the case of Germany – legislating for prostitution does not necessarily and automatically lead to a reduction in trafficking in human beings, and neither does it necessarily improve the working conditions of sex workers. In fact, no legislation is such a magic wand, but the way in which it is implemented is very important. In my country, Switzerland, current legislation tolerates prostitution and allows the cantons to regulate it, and that is broadly supported by the population. If the law functions well, I think that is because we have done all that work with the stakeholders – in other words, with organisations that protect potential victims, law enforcement officers, and the judiciary. In fact, anything that has to do with trafficking is part and parcel of a national action plan against trafficking in human beings, and if we want to be efficient in fighting that scourge we must change the general vision of the population and of society. We must also change the gender relationship, and ensure that children are not sexualised. In the best case scenario, all that will perhaps lead to a ban on prostitution, although unfortunately that just sweeps the problem underground. There is also the problem of sexual tourism, and all that would be swept under the carpet and out of sight.
I mention my country not because I want to preach that it is the best example, but because there are a number of nuances between a moralising attitude and a laissez-faire attitude. The way in which legislation is implemented is crucial; we must involve stakeholders, and Mr Mendes Bota has rightly demonstrated that point. I thank him for his work, and I hope that it will make a contribution to our objectives, which are to improve the working conditions of sex workers, to fight trafficking and to protect victims.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Maury Pasquier. I call Ms Kyriakides to speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – Dear colleagues, I congratulate Mr Mendes Bota on this excellent report. I note especially that he said he started his report with an open mind, which makes me feel that its conclusions and recommendations are even more pertinent as we often have pre-formed conceptions and perceptions about such difficult issues. I wish to commend the work already undertaken by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Commissioner for Human Rights and in particular the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, as well as the European Commission and the European Parliament. That work has been ground breaking and far reaching.
Trafficking in human beings is a horrific human rights violation that is also a multimillion-euro industry for criminal gangs, forced labour, criminality and organ removal, which all form part of the issue. In Europe, trafficking for sexual exploitation is by far the most widespread form of trafficking: an estimated 84% of victims are trafficked for that purpose. Despite concerted efforts to battle this crime, and despite best intentions, sometimes there is no unanimity about the legal approach to be adopted towards prostitution and the elimination of trafficking in human beings.
Prostitution and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation are closely intertwined, and I agree with the rapporteur that voluntary prostitution is a myth and we need to support that position. We should also support the voices that consider prostitution a form of violence against women. I am not denying that some countries may be, in a sense, more sexually liberated than others, and that prostitution may not carry such a heavy social stigma, thus allowing women to engage in such activities supposedly of their own free choice, but that clearly does not represent the majority of cases in which prostitution and trafficking are the result of poverty, exploitation, abuse, gender inequality and deficient or even non-existent public policies. For that reason I prefer to consider the issue from a human rights and victim-centred angle.
It seems, and this is also apparent in the report, there is a growing consensus that the criminalisation of the demand for sexual services – the purchase of sex – seems to be a plausible way to curb prostitution and eliminate trafficking. Although that seems to have worked in some countries such as Sweden, where numbers of cases have dropped spectacularly, one must not forget that in countries where the legal framework remains attractive to traffickers, the crime is definitely not on the decrease. Exporting the problem is not a solution.
In my capacity as General Rapporteur on Children of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I state that there must be zero tolerance for prostitution and trafficking involving children and adolescents. It is a crime happening in front of our eyes; a crime where for many reasons a younger age means higher risk and demand, and where there is no choice, just fear, degradation, and the loss of self-respect and freedom. The traumas for child victims are permanent and life destroying. For children, the adults who force them to become sex slaves hold, in their eyes, positions of power and influence, and we need to help and protect those children. We must urge all our countries to live up fully to their commitments on the protection of the rights of the child, and we must step up our efforts to recognise that children merit special legal protection. Let us make the issues raised in the report part of our national political agenda. Only then can we actually make a difference.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. Mr Mendes Bota, you will reply at the end of the debate but do you also wish to respond at this stage? That is not the case. I therefore call Ms Bourzai. You have four minutes.
Ms BOURZAI (France)* – I congratulate Mr Mendes Bota on the excellent report that he has prepared.
It is a fact and a matter of great regret that prostitution is thriving. A 2005 International Labour Organisation report showed that the annual profits generated by trafficking of human beings amounted globally to $32 billion. A 2010 study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has estimated the potential market for sexual exploitation in Europe at $3 billion. But, as has been said at length, those figures do not convey or reflect the violence involved or the enslavement of men, women and children who are prostituted.
Trafficking of human beings has long been strongly condemned by international law. Since 1921 the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children has tried to combat trafficking and sexual exploitation. That was followed in 1949 by the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Trafficking in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, in 1979 by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, in 2000 by the Palermo Protocol and finally by the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which came into force on 1 February 2008.
What results can we see today from the implementation of those conventions and the national laws that have evolved from them? Only one solution has genuinely managed to reduce sexual exploitation. We could call it the abolition approach. The report by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, GRETA, shows clearly that putting an end to all forms of regulation of prostitution, so as not to encourage it by any legal recognition, does work. Recognition of exploited individuals as victims and the systematic suppression of any sexual exploitation are the only mechanisms that have made it possible both to reduce prostitution and to change public perceptions.
That was the case in Sweden, which in 1998 adopted very restrictive legislation, with a fine and six-month prison sentence for anyone who tried to gain occasional sexual rapport in exchange for payment. In 2008, 71% of the population there were in favour of criminalising the purchase of sexual services, whereas in 1996, 67% had been against.
France has long been committed to the path of abolition and incorporated the European convention in 2013. Whereas in 1990 only 20% of those being prostituted were of foreign origin, in 2013 they amounted to 90% – most come from Nigeria, China and Romania. That shows the mounting grip that trafficking networks have on prostitution. France has decided to go further. A Bill introducing the imposition of a fine for the purchase of sexual services was adopted last December by the National Assembly and is currently before the Senate. It includes related social and employment measures for individuals who wish to leave prostitution and protective measures and extended residence for those who agree to testify.
Only that kind of approach will be effective. By voting in favour of the resolution today, our Assembly would encourage other countries along the same path. That is why I support the report.
Ms MITCHELL (Ireland) – I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on and support the proposals and recommendations in the report. I congratulate Mr Mendes Bota on his open-minded, thoughtful, sensitive and even-handed approach to establishing a causal relationship between prostitution and trafficking, and to analysing the impact of different prostitution-related policies.
Given the complex variety of policies and legislative measures across Europe, the varying cultures, the difference in attitudes and social support and the lack of consistency in the vigour with which laws are applied – as well as the absence of comparable or even reliable data, given that prostitution is such a hidden activity – arriving at definitive conclusions is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, in some areas, firm conclusions are possible and in others the balance of evidence makes it possible to reach informed opinions. Those conclusive facts and informed opinions underpin the recommendations of the report.
For instance, it is clear that stopping prostitution will not end trafficking, nor indeed will stopping trafficking end prostitution. But since the vast majority of victims of trafficking are females who end up in prostitution, any reduction in demand for prostitution brings a commensurate drop in demand for trafficking victims.
Although some countries view prostitution as just another legitimate form of employment, others view it as a highly exploitative gender issue. Some countries seek merely to regulate the activity, while others either criminalise it completely or criminalise the purchase of sex. For both groups of countries, however, the aim is the same, and is to reduce trafficking, because there is unanimity in the view that trafficking is a gross abuse of human rights and, indeed, is a modern form of slavery.
Although one cannot be absolute about the full impact of either approach, we can say that, on balance, in countries with a liberal regime both prostitution and trafficking have increased. On the other hand, in countries following the so-called Swedish model both prostitution and trafficking have decreased. However, it has to be said that in both cases there is almost certainly a displacement effect, so it is difficult to predict what the overall impact on trafficking might be if, for instance, all European countries adopted either the Swedish model or the alternative.
For me, the single starkest fact to emerge from the report is that, despite national and international measures against trafficking, including the Council’s own Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, trafficking is still increasing and conviction rates are going down. Policies on prostitution should be regarded as only one tool in the fight against trafficking – the report is quite clear on that. Trafficking is now a huge and lucrative business, netting an estimated $2.3 billion annually in Europe alone, and so must be counteracted by more determined and better resourced policing. It is scarcely credible that a mere six people comprise the Europol anti-trafficking team. If we are serious about ending this human rights abuse we must devote serious resources both nationally and internationally to that fight.
I am very pleased to support all the recommendations in this report and am happy to commend it to the Assembly.
Ms CROZON (France)* – Your analyses and conclusions, rapporteur, coincide to a large extent with the positions that have been expressed by the French parliament on a number of occasions since 2011. Irrespective of the government of the day, those positions represent a consensus within France. First and foremost, there is a consensus on the changing nature of prostitution. The scale of that is difficult to gauge, but I think we would all agree that we are seeing the emergence of trafficking networks that come principally from western Africa, eastern Europe and increasingly now from Asia. The percentage of foreign women among prostitutes in France well exceeds 85%. Although not all of those arrive in France as a result of trafficking networks, independent sex workers driven by financial need, and who think of prostitution as a means of temporary financial assistance, often cross paths with pimps, and then constraints of varying kinds mean that in the longer term they cannot emerge from prostitution.
There is also a consensus about fear of policies that criminalise prostitutes. The pursuit only of public order policies that stigmatise prostitutes and criminalise soliciting fails to tackle procuring. It increases the isolation and marginalisation of prostitutes at the expense of their inclusion, their health and their safety. Further, there is a consensus in France about the need to change the way society looks at prostitution. Currently, the prevailing notion is the right to sex and sexuality and freedom of access to prostitution. I want to state here that the right to control one’s own body does not extend to the right to control the body of another – and certainly not when any kind of profit is involved.
As you know, rapporteur, France has taken a first step in the direction of the Swedish model with draft legislation that would criminalise soliciting, shifting the responsibility on to clients, with fines and the requirement to attend courses. That is a first step in the direction of putting an end to the market, but we know that it is not enough in itself.
When monitoring and evaluating these measures, we have to draw on the expertise of organisations working in this field, so that we ensure that the measures do not render sex workers even more vulnerable. We need to develop real alternatives that guarantee a right of residence and allow for social integration, so that women can emerge from prostitution.
We should not overlook the European dimension. These networks know no borders, so our resolve to combat sex trafficking has to disregard borders, too; otherwise, we are just shifting the flows, and national policies will compete with each other. We need a common philosophy in which we look at prostitutes as victims, and aim at their emancipation. That should be central to our public policies, regardless of our different approaches to the issue. That is the philosophy underlying the rapporteur’s report, and I thank him for it.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – Let me start by expressing to the rapporteur, Mr José Mendes Bota, my great appreciation for this timely and relevant report. To be honest, I am profoundly disappointed that we have to debate this topic in this day and age, when economic progress is at its most advanced stage in its entire history and offers more opportunities than ever before. Coming from a country dealing with a relatively high rate of human trafficking, I hear so many humiliating and heart-breaking stories of young women being promised good jobs abroad, but ending up in sex slavery, with no way of returning home, and no hope of a better future.
As the rapporteur mentions in the explanatory memorandum, Sweden adopted a fairly interesting Act in 1999 that shifted the focus from criminalising and punishing the providers of sexual services –helpless trafficked women – to punishing the buyers of sex. A recent study by experts from the German Institute for Economic Research, one of the leading academic institutions in Germany, concluded that “On average, legalized prostitution increases human trafficking inflows.” We can therefore conclude that Sweden’s example of prohibiting the purchase of sexual services and imposing sanctions on the purchasers is worth following, not only because that would be the proper, moral thing to do, but because it would limit traffickers’ opportunities to exploit women from poor countries. As we see from the study, inflow is higher in countries with legalised prostitution, so legalising prostitution in developed countries will most likely affect countries with emerging economies. That is not only morally wrong, but utterly unfair towards developing nations that are already struggling with many social challenges, including high rates of brain drain and labour emigration.
As the report shows, the countries most exposed to sex trafficking are the poor nations, so to achieve tangible results in the fight against this severe problem, a co-ordinated effort between countries is imperative. The developed nations that are the destination for many trafficked women have to do their part by implementing efficient legislation, and providing information to the authorities in developing States to help to fight traffickers’ chains. Developing nations have to display a willingness to destroy the organised crime that allegedly stands behind many trafficking networks. Harmonising the efforts of all stakeholders is the only way to ensure that the fight against human trafficking is successful and so give hope to the hundreds of thousands of people trafficked every year.
In conclusion, I call on Assembly members to support the resolution without diluting it. Amendments 3 and 4 would weaken the resolution; let us adopt it as it was proposed by the rapporteur. Thank you.
Mr S. KALASHNIKOV (Russian Federation)* – Distinguished President and colleagues, to say that there are two models that can be followed is not strictly true. There are two experiences of life: that of the rich countries of Europe, and that of the poor countries of Europe. The rapporteur has raised a pressing topical problem; everybody agrees that slavery is unacceptable and the most extreme form of degradation in society. It is an absolute evil. However, when it comes to the reasons for prostitution and human trafficking, we cannot limit ourselves to what the report says. The rapporteur has pointed to a number of issues, but there are other covert forms of human trafficking. It goes well beyond prostitution; for example, there is an increase in providing labour resources through coercion and slavery.
It has been said that we all agree that prostitution is not a voluntary enterprise. For citizens in rich countries, it is not voluntary, but for most poor countries it is a means of survival; it is economic coercion that prompts people to go into it, and they may go a long way. That is described clearly in the classical literature of European countries.
There are a number of sources of prostitution, and we can combat it only if we tackle poverty in the countries that the prostitutes come from. We should ask: what gives rise to crime? No one doubts that we need to fight criminality and protect innocent people, but the more we fight these phenomena, the more prostitution will be criminalised. We will only drive it underground and make it even more criminal. The question is whether we should make measures even more stringent. This is not a question of morality; everyone agrees that prostitution is an evil. The question is what methods we use to fight it. I am not convinced that we can achieve our aims purely through policing. Practice from across the world has shown that that is not sufficient.
There are a number of points in the draft resolution about which I have my doubts. First, do we need a special police unit that is trained to deal with the issue, or should we just make more efficient the parts of the police that already deal with it? What about funding? Paragraphs 12.2.3 and 12.2.4 refer to increasing resources for national law enforcement bodies, prevention services and Europol; we may need to make those bodies more efficient, but does that mean that we have to give them more money? I do not see that there is necessarily a connection. I am very sceptical about paragraph 12.2.6, which mentions giving people the means to reintegrate in society. People involved in prostitution come from the poorest countries, which do not have the means to pay for that reintegration. Who will pay for that?
The first paragraph of the draft resolution refers to Bulgarian and Romanian women only, but more than 60% of the prostitutes in Russia are from Ukraine and Moldova, and traffickers are sending these women on across the rest of Europe quite effectively. Thank you.
Mr HEER (Switzerland) – I thank Mr Mendes Bota for his report on prostitution in Europe. As my colleague from Switzerland, Ms Fiala, said, Switzerland has a liberal law that regulates prostitution, which is not forbidden as it is in Sweden. We are a little surprised by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination’s recommendation to criminalise the purchase of sexual services based on the Swedish model. Paragraph 188.8.131.52 of the report suggests that member States should “ensure that all the relevant laws and regulations – including those concerning health and safety, social security and tax – are reviewed and effectively implemented, at all levels of administration”. How would that be implemented if prostitution is criminalised? It is impossible. If prostitution were illegal, you cannot collect security or any other taxes, and non-governmental organisations would not have access to the women or men who are prostituting themselves. That then opens the door, as my Russian colleague, Mr Kalashnikov, said, to organised crime. If prostitution is criminalised, the only ones laughing would be the criminals of Europe who make a living from human trafficking.
Prostitution is legal in Switzerland. We have regulations. We have a special police force, as mentioned in the report. We have NGOs and social workers that prostitutes can visit. We know who is working as a prostitute in Switzerland. We have the names and we know whether they are doing it of their own free will. Human trafficking is a serious crime that can be punished in Switzerland with up to 15 years in prison, which has happened in several cases. For example, there were two cases in the canton of Bern where Swiss-Thai people who brought in transsexuals from Thailand, and pimps who brought people in from Bulgaria and Romania were punished with 14 years in prison. If prostitution were illegal in Switzerland, those people would still come, but the police would find investigations more difficult, social workers would find it more difficult to speak to them and it would be harder to protect women who are ready to go to court to testify against their abusers.
I therefore want paragraph 12.1.1, which recommends following the Swedish model, to be removed. We should not have one model for all of Europe. Countries should be able to decide whether to legalise prostitution. I agree with the other points, however. We should fight human trafficking and should ensure that people have access to social services.
Ms SPADONI (Italy)* – Prostitution is a complex issue that normally invites two approaches. It can be seen as a violation of women’s rights and abolitionism and criminalisation follow as a result, but others view it as an ordinary working activity that should be regulated. We should not fall into the trap of not differentiating sex workers from victims of trafficking, because they are certainly not the same thing. The distinction between an adult who chooses to sell their body for money and someone whose body is being exploited against their will is fundamental when discussing prostitution, slavery and freedom. The reality is wide-ranging. There are poor non-Europeans who are forced to prostitute themselves and women who can find no other form of employment, and then there are those who voluntarily enter the profession.
According to official figures on prostitution in Italy from 2010, there are 60 000 prostitutes, 9 million clients and a turnover of €5 billion. Most prostitutes in Italy are foreign and most are governed by criminal networks. Italy should perhaps move to regulate prostitution while trying to limit the damage in terms of health effects on sex workers, but the situation is complex and so many people are involved. We cannot say that we are choosing a lesser evil when it comes to the damage caused by prostitution; we should be talking about sex workers’ rights. They should have the right to self-determination and to organise themselves. Services4SexWorkers is a European project that seeks to protect the rights of sex workers.
Trafficking is slavery. The victims are recruited by traffickers through violence, deceit and threats. When victims are taken from their countries of origin, they are brought by land, sea and air into the destination countries. The turnover is thought to be some $10 billion. The United Nations says that thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of children are trafficked for sex purposes. According to the 2013 “Trafficking in human beings” report, which looks at trafficking statistics for 2008, 2009 and 2010, Italy had the highest number of presumed victims. Italy’s anti-trafficking programme comes unstuck on the absence of statistics. We need better statistics if we want to do anything about trafficking. All 47 member States of the Council of Europe need to update their statistics. We need to better understand the characteristics of trafficking. We need a comparative approach, so it is important to investigate the phenomenon further.
Ms BLANCO (Spain)* – I congratulate the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination and Mr Mendes Bota on a particularly meticulous report that gets to the heart of the matter. The number of women and minors trafficked in the European Union is growing, and the economic crisis has exacerbated the problem. Spain is a country of both transit and destination for the mafia, which is as devoted to the trafficking of women as it is to other “business”, such as the trafficking of drugs and of weapons. The same traffickers are usually involved in all three crimes, but the first is particularly cruel because it is a form of slavery that we did not think we would witness in the 21st century, the first decade of which actually saw an increase in the problem. It is related to the crisis that has affected not only all of Europe, but also the emerging, less-developed countries from where most of these women and minors come from.
If legislation was harmonised across all members of the Council of Europe, things would be much better. Europol has just six people to fight trafficking, which makes it difficult to stamp the problem out. In addition, witnesses are not protected in their home countries or their countries of transit and destination. If they are able to change their identity, the criminals can be brought to court and trafficking can be stamped out.
Trafficking is intrinsically linked to violence against women. We have heard terrifying figures. Some 60 million women in Europe have at some time in their lives been threatened, humiliated or beaten. On our continent, about 700 000 people, women and girls, have been trafficked. In spite of all the accumulated legislation aimed at combating violence and forced prostitution, the mafias involved in sexual exploitation continue to work in Council of Europe countries with impunity. In Spain, which has good legislation for combating trafficking and criminal networks, it is difficult to bring criminals to court because, although there is protection for witnesses, the women cannot bear the burden of the trial. They need resources such as social and other services to support them if they are to report criminals to the courts.
Public opinion is important. We are politicians, and people expect answers from us, but it is rare to see a Head of State talking about the mafias that traffick women. If we talked about this issue more openly and expressed our opinions, the people would be with us. We are not doing what we ought to be doing.
Ms SEARA (Spain)* – First, I congratulate the Equality and Non-Discrimination Committee on the report. Member States introduce different measures and carry out different actions. I, too, want to give some information about what is happening in Spain and what happened under the previous government. The previous government, for the first time, introduced a mainstream plan against trafficking. That important plan was premised on three pillars: research and awareness raising, the protection of victims, and the prevention and prosecution of crimes. In addition to those tools, the plan included a number of ministries, such as the equality ministry and others, which are working hand in hand on this issue.
Human rights are universal. When we talk about them, we cannot forget half of humanity. If we did so, human rights would not be emancipatory. That would not be right from a political point of view. We want to ensure that human rights are protected across the board. We are talking about the discourse of human rights, and we must ensure that human rights are universal. We are talking about women and young girls throughout the whole world. That is why we need to talk clearly about torture, violence, attacks and so on. Women and young girls are being taken out of their environment and forced into prostitution and other difficult situations.
People often say that prostitution is the oldest job in the world. It is not; it is the oldest violation of human rights in the world, and it has been going on for centuries. It is an attack on human rights. Human rights do not have a nationality. The report states that 84% of the victims of trafficking are forced into prostitution. The exploitation of women and girls is used as a kind of virtual currency for purchasing goods and services. That is not acceptable. Many of those women cannot go abroad or claim their rights because of their predicament. Thousands of women and girls are assassinated around the world. There are so-called honour crimes, and many women and girls cannot live a dignified life. Women and girls also suffer from problems such as female genital mutilation and forced marriages. That is happening in Europe as well.
We have a plan before us, but we need to look at all the ways in which we can tackle the crime. It is of the utmost importance that we work within our own countries. We have talked about good experiences, good examples and different types of legislation. That is all well and good, but we cannot leave it at that. We must deal with this issue urgently; it cannot be postponed. We had a global economic crisis and a world food crisis because the system is so unfair. The most blatant example of its unfairness is that it led to the exploitation of those people. We need to analyse the system. We are talking about the victims of trafficking, in particular women and girls. The report and the means it advocates will help us in our work on this issue.
Ms JOHNSEN (Norway) – First, I thank Mr Mendes Bota for the important report, which gives a good picture of the situation in Europe. This is a complex field, and a lot has to be done to deal with the situation.
Trafficking is a violation of human rights and a new form of slavery. As the report states, human trafficking and prostitution are closely linked. Sadly, trafficking is increasing. The report estimates that 84% of the victims of trafficking are forced into prostitution. Most victims are women and some are children. That is of particular concern. That vulnerable group is exploited and used as a commodity.
Criminal organisations controlling trafficking in human beings are often involved in drug trafficking. Trafficking arises when there is an opportunity for exploiting people through forced labour. Criminal networks do not only deal in prostitution. They also recruit and exploit people to work illegally for minimum pay and under dire conditions in businesses such as restaurants, building and construction, agriculture and street sales. It is important that we put in place effective control mechanisms to combat illegal work.
Poverty, prostitution and trafficking are closely connected. To deal with trafficking, legal standards and international co-operation are necessary. Paragraph 12.2.1 of the proposed draft resolution recommends that the countries sign, ratify and implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings – ETS No. 197 – which Norway ratified in 2008. Trafficking has been high on the agenda for both the present and the previous Norwegian Governments, and action plans on trafficking have been launched. Norway has criminalised the purchase of sexual services. It is difficult to know the impact that regulations on prostitution have on trafficking; more research and data are needed. The discussion about whether legislation and criminal sanctions on prostitution have an effect on trafficking is ongoing.
The new government in Norway will evaluate the results of the criminalisation of buying sexual services and will present a White Paper to parliament. It will also strengthen social policy instruments. I fully support having different measures to deal with trafficking. We need more knowledge and research in this area. It is important that we protect victims, run awareness campaigns and ensure government co-operation with NGOs. Legislation is not the only answer to the problem.
Ms NIKOLAEVA (Russian Federation)* – I thank the rapporteur for his interesting and important report on this delicate issue. I congratulate him on his professionalism in examining the complex issue of trafficking, slavery and prostitution, which are inter-related but not the same thing. We need to distinguish between women who are forced into prostitution and those who are deceived into it, particularly, as a colleague said, in countries that are economically weak.
To feed their families, some families have to send their women to provide sex services in other countries. Our first task is to understand the economic basis of prostitution and identify when it is forced and involves slavery, and when it is related to deceiving women. Sometimes, their passports are taken away and they are illegally moved across borders. I have worked closely with girls from countries in eastern Europe such as Ukraine. They have fallen into misfortune and it is difficult to get them out of the situation, particularly when they have been forced into prostitution. Some girls have died. This is a fundamentally important issue. We must prevent a further increase in the exploitation of women who do not want to become prostitutes.
The measures proposed in the report are important, but it is difficult to deal with the issue through punitive measures alone. We need to examine how involvement in prostitution is viewed as a major international crime. These are international syndicates; they are not just working in their own countries. They are making a lot of money from the business. It is essentially the same problem in most countries. Therefore, we need databases. We need to strengthen criminal sanctions and to put appropriate hurdles in the way of the syndicates. That is one of our main tasks. We need to focus on assisting the victims in these situations.
The measures proposed in the report are important and they could probably be bolstered. Even tougher mechanisms could be proposed. It is important, in preventing this phenomenon, to deal with demand, first and foremost in Council of Europe countries. The higher the demand, the more serious the problem is going to be. Therefore, we need to reduce demand.
It has been said that the only means of dealing with the issue is by promoting family values; it is the family that provides the impetus and incentive to stop people getting involved in this phenomenon. Everyone says that we need to fight the problem, but it is not just a case of dealing with demand; we also need to ensure that the phenomenon is deemed to be unacceptable. The more we stigmatise the phenomenon, the more successful we will be in dealing with problems of sexual exploitation and prostitution.
Ms GORGHIU (Romania) – Prostitution has always been a controversial, delicate issue on the public agenda. In Romania, the practice is illegal, being in contravention of the new criminal code that came into force on 1 February 2014. Romanian society is not ready to legalise prostitution, which makes it difficult to quantify the number of practitioners of commercial sex. However, a valid indicator is the number of criminal offences identified by authorities. In 2013, 896 victims of trafficking in human beings were identified, 14% less than in 2012. Studies of the gender of victims of trafficking in 2013 showed that 77% of them are women and that only 52% of all victims who entered the human traffic chain are non-minors. Basically, victims of human trafficking in Romania are predominantly female minors, a category already traditionally exposed to socio-economic inequities.
I bring this data to your attention because of the Romanian agencies’ efforts to fight and prevent these crimes, which have a negative impact on individuals and the community, national and international economies and the entire health system. In addition to imposing fines, public institutions in Romania have started the difficult process of eradicating prostitution and human trafficking through training specialised personnel to counsel victims. I strongly believe that the Romanian authorities and the authorities of all member States of the Council of Europe will be embark on projects to retrain people in the prostitution networks as a viable alternative.
I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the rapporteur, Mr Mendes Bota, for the increased attention paid to women from Romania who are victims of human trafficking in other European countries. I assure the rapporteur, and you all, that we Romanians will continue to respect the law and bring to justice the people who perpetuate human trafficking and modern slavery. In my opinion, the Swedish legislation cannot be seen as absolute best practice. More elements need to be considered in that regard. Furthermore, in light of the above-mentioned developments, I believe that Romanian public institutions are able to share positive experiences and the lessons learned. I encourage the rapporteur to bear that in mind when considering a possible follow-up to the report.
Ms ANTIČEVIĆ MARINOVIĆ (Croatia) – I thank Mr Mendes Bota for his impressive work, which I strongly support. Why is it that, throughout Europe, industry is recovering very slowly but the sex industry is flourishing rapidly? It is a form of modern slavery. Studies show that many women engage in such activities because they are forced to do so. Poverty is the main reason women get involved in prostitution. It might not be easy for women to use their bodies as sex objects but it could be the only answer to their problems.
Prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes are serious obstacles to the enjoyment of human rights by vulnerable groups, to social equality and to gender equality. By legalising prostitution you are agreeing to the use of women and girls as merchandise. When someone is trafficked at a young age, beaten, deprived of food and the necessities of life to a point where they no longer believe they are worth anything, it is like the Stockholm syndrome. That is why they do not leave. Sometimes the people who traffick them threaten to kill their families, so they feel they have no choice.
Women in prostitution have a mortality rate 40 times higher than other women. Are they providing sex from their own free will? I strongly doubt it. You will not find little girls saying, “When I’m older, I want to serve men as a career.” Women deserve better than this. The majority of prostitutes, if not all, endure violence from their pimps and Johns.
The worst thing we could do in the fight against prostitution is to make it legal. Most arguments in favour of legalisation are based on trying to distinguish between free and forced prostitution and many research studies reveal that men who buy women for sex do not differentiate. Legalisation would only allow criminals and members of organised crime rings to become legitimate business men and work hand in hand with the State in marketing women’s bodies. In countries that have legalised prostitution, two thirds of the women in prostitution are immigrants and half are illegally trafficked immigrants. Legalisation has in fact increased prostitution and trafficking. It does not end abuse; it makes it legal. Legal reforms should therefore create remedies that assist victims and prosecute the perpetrators. All legal reforms should be based on this understanding. What is needed is a commitment to seriously investigate and prosecute traffickers and to impose harsh punishments on those who rape and assault sex workers.
But law enforcement is only one part of the solution. Shelters, jobs and opportunities are vital to those who want to leave prostitution. Dear colleagues, let us stop arguing that women have the right to do what they want with their bodies and start teaching them to love and respect their bodies and themselves.
The PRESIDENT – I do not see Mr Belyakov, so we will move on to Mr Tilson, Observer from Canada.
Mr TILSON (Observer from Canada) – I thank the rapporteur for his examination of the role that prostitution laws can play in addressing human trafficking. This debate proves timely, as my country, Canada, is in the process of re-examining its prostitution laws. Human trafficking is a terrible crime and one that represents a fundamental violation of the human rights of its victims.
Under Canada’s criminal code, human trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements” of an individual for the purposes of exploiting that person. In February 2013, there were 77 ongoing prosecutions in Canada related to these provisions, over 90% of which were related to domestic trafficking in the sex trade. However, there is also increasing evidence of human trafficking related to forced labour, often involving foreign nationals. The majority of the victims of human trafficking in Canada continue to be women and children. Often, they are also members of our society’s most vulnerable groups: aboriginal peoples, migrants and new immigrants, and those who face socio-economic disadvantages. To address this scourge, the Government of Canada has introduced a national action plan to combat human trafficking, which focuses on raising awareness, assistance for victims and enhancing the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.
Given the possible linkages between human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and prostitution, I agree with the draft resolution that we should also examine how prostitution laws could be used to combat human trafficking. Traditionally, Canada has adopted a hybrid approach to adult prostitution, where prostitution itself is legal but many of the activities associated with it are criminalised. In December 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada found that certain provisions of the criminal code relating to prostitution were in violation of prostitutes’ rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As such, the Supreme Court struck down a number of prostitution-related provisions and gave the Canadian Parliament one year to bring forward new legislation. At this time, government consultations are under way.
As we move forward in re-evaluating our prostitution laws, I believe that Canada should consider examining the Nordic model, which criminalises the purchasing of sexual services by clients and individuals who exploit sex workers, while decriminalising prostitutes themselves. As the rapporteur points out, studies have shown that countries that have adopted this model have fewer victims of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Not only does the Nordic model effectively reduce the demand for sexual services; it also recognises prostitution as a form of violence against women. As our Supreme Court has noted, for many, prostitution is not a meaningful choice made by individuals, but one that is often forced by circumstance. We must therefore support measures whose goal is the elimination of prostitution along with all other forms of sexual exploitation.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – In today’s Europe, I think most Europeans would think that slavery was a horror of the past. It is not. Mr Mendes Bota’s report clearly argues the case that human trafficking is modern-day slavery. There are victims of trafficking forced into prostitution or labour who are controlled by their traffickers and employers. They are not free to leave or make decisions for themselves; they are, in fact, modern-day slaves. Their human rights are grossly violated.
Trafficking in human beings is a cross-border crime. Individual States cannot combat it only by taking measures within their own borders. Cross-border crime must be fought through international co-operation. Discussing human trafficking in our Assembly is therefore of the utmost importance. The Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings is an important instrument in the fight against trafficking. I am glad that Mr Mendes Bota is encouraging all Council of Europe member States to sign and ratify the convention. I fully support him in this.
National action plans are important in combating human trafficking, as is co-operation between States. Countries of origin and transit, as well as destination countries, must work together. Norway has ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and contributed to the functioning of its monitoring body, GRETA, which is an important organ for international co-operation in the fight against human trafficking. Strengthening investigations to stop international flows of capital originating from human trafficking is also necessary and is an important measure included in the Norwegian action plan.
Victims of human trafficking are vulnerable. They are not free and their situation makes it extremely difficult for them to seek help. Victims of trafficking rarely seek help from official authorities, especially the police. This makes them challenging to find and help. The Norwegian action plan has a strong focus on measures to help victims. Measures to make them easier to find, help them to put a roof over their heads and provide medical assistance, as well as to support the safe return to their countries of origin, are of central importance in the action plan. As parliamentarians, we all have a responsibility to draw attention to this modern-day slavery and do our utmost to combat the trafficking in human beings.
Ms MATTILA (Finland) – I, too, thank the rapporteur for his excellent work on this report. As part of the international community, it is our duty to reject this repulsive phenomenon.
Let me first say some words about trafficking. Human trafficking is degrading to human dignity and incompatible with the values of a State based on the rule of law. The victims are vulnerable individuals – woman and children – who are in a weak position as victims. In addition, prostitution is a strong part of this phenomenon, which includes criminal activity. That is unacceptable. I warmly welcome the fact that Mr Mendes Bota also considers the abuse of workers and organ trafficking in his excellent report, for which I thank him again.
Finland has previously suggested that all governments should appoint an official authority to address trafficking. In Finland, this is done by the Ombudsman for Minorities.
There are also good practices in other Nordic countries, as has been mentioned many times today. We have to make the problem more visible, because otherwise we cannot help the victims or hinder the criminal activity. I believe that following Finland’s example of increased co-operation between Government authorities and the police will make us better equipped to deal with the problem.
Victims of human trafficking often need health care services to help them recover from their experiences – that is how much those experiences threaten human dignity. Rehabilitation is needed to restore dignity and reinstate a sense of belonging to the community, as the report mentions. We must also raise awareness among social and health care workers and the police, and among those who work in the places where human trafficking can be visible, such as customs and border officials. Raising awareness must also be the aim of the authorities, yet we do not have enough legal measures to tackle criminal activity, so we should update international law.
I do not support legalising prostitution. I do not believe in voluntary prostitution, even though some countries have legalised it.
The Internet is becoming more problematic, and it poses a threat to our children especially. We must provide them with special protection. I once again call on all countries to deal with cyber-security by preparing national cyber-strategies.
Ms MULIĆ (Croatia) – Our discussions this morning have shown clearly that trying to regulate prostitution through policy is a highly sensitive and controversial matter. When I first heard that Mr Mendes Bota was proposing that the Swedish model should be applied in all Council of Europe member States, I thought that it was very courageous, but when I read the report, from the beginning to the end, it became clear that that was the only logical conclusion, because any other kind of regulation would not lead to the protection of human rights.
Some colleagues have claimed that we should draw a clear distinction between human trafficking and prostitution. Mr Mendes Bota’s survey shows clearly that they are closely connected and interlinked. If we bear in mind that 84% of people who are trafficked are trafficked for sexual exploitation, it becomes clear what we are trying to say. If we take into account the fact that between 50% and 90% of licensed prostitution is involuntary, it becomes clear that prostitution is neither free nor voluntary. Even if it were voluntary, not to do something about it would be to ignore the whole concept of gender equality. If we ignore that, we ignore the concept of human rights.
The protection of human rights should be our main yardstick in drawing up our resolutions. I call on all members to support the resolution without the proposed amendments.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – I thank the rapporteur for the report, but I am afraid that I do not agree with everything he said. I do not want to contradict the previous speaker, but I think that we need to distinguish between prostitution and trafficking in human beings. Having been a social worker for many years, including in this field, and having listened carefully to discussions on this topic, I would not say that women who work as prostitutes have been stripped of their dignity, as has been claimed today. I have met many brave and courageous women who have got organised and formed trade unions and communities to defend their interests. They consider prostitution to be a profession, and they practise it freely.
Having said that, Mr Mendes Bota is right that there is another growing phenomenon – it is frightening to watch. It is almost 100 years since the agreement of 1926. Slavery was formally abolished at the end of the 18th century, yet a growing number of people are being forced not only into prostitution, but into domestic slavery, or slavery in agriculture. It is forced labour, here in Europe. We must look at the facts, which of course are varied. For instance, we must address the social issues and examine the impact of poverty. There is also the question of what we should do. We should examine why there is a link. Refugees seeking protection in these States are not granted access to the labour market, so some take up other occupations, such as prostitution. I think that States, by forcing people into that predicament, are unilaterally channelling them into prostitution, because for them it is the only solution.
The Swedish model is not a magic wand for Europe. Having worked as a social worker and with the judiciary, I know that we need the co-operation of the clients. We need information about how women are forced into this activity. We need to identify that and then bring in the police. However, there is another trap in our laws. The women’s passports are often taken away by the mafia – it is the first thing they do – and if those women are caught they are expelled from the country.
We are talking about slavery and prostitution, but what about the perpetrators? They get away free because women are afraid to come forward and testify. Under the UK’s system, a woman who has been trafficked and forced into prostitution now gets protection automatically and is given a new identity. That is one example of what can be done, but there are all sorts of approaches. It is so important – we have seen this in other fields – to look at the women and ensure that we have a system in place to provide health care and social security. Once again, we do not want people to end up in a grey area legally. We need proper research. We need to ensure that we have insurance, social security and better organisation.
Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – As the rapporteur correctly stated, trafficking in human beings is one of the most hideous forms of human rights violation. It should be fought by all means. Unfortunately, that is not the case even in Council of Europe member States. The report describes two main approaches in prostitution policies across Europe: on the one hand, legalising all kinds of prostitution-related activities; and on the other hand, criminalising the purchase of sexual services. As the report mentions, Norway is one of the countries that have chosen to criminalise the purchasers. In Norway, this was the result of a long debate between and within different political parties. The final decision to criminalise purchasers was taken by a majority at the Labour Party congress in 2007. The law was passed in 2008, but the arguments for and against it have continued.
Our two Conservative governing parties, as well as the Liberal Party, have all promised to repeal the law. Together, they constitute a majority in Parliament, but there are different opinions within the governing parties, and some Conservative mayors in our largest cities have issued a clear warning against repealing the law.
Mr Mendes Bota’s report is immediately relevant to the recent political debate in Norway. It states clearly that there can be positive results from criminalisation, unlike the negative experiences of legalisation. I hope that the Assembly will today support the case for criminalising the purchase of sexual services, which will oblige us all to raise this question in our parliamentary work back home. However, the criminalisation of purchasers is not sufficient. Last year, GRETA, our group of experts in the field, visited Norway as a country of destination of victims of trafficking. The main countries of origin are Nigeria, Romania and Lithuania. There are approximately 200 victims a year; they are mostly women, but they include between 70 and 80 boys and girls.
GRETA welcomes some important steps taken by our Government to fight human trafficking, and also some anti-trafficking measures in other countries. However, it has also listed a number of challenges that remain to be tackled in order to meet the requirements of the human rights-based approach outlined in the Convention. A formalised national referral mechanism to identify and assist victims is one of the most important recommendations, together with improvements in the provision of safe accommodation for trafficked women and children in Norway.
GRETA performs a thematic kind of monitoring that involves all member countries, which was recently requested during discussions on our future system of monitoring. We should all therefore take seriously our obligations to follow up in our parliamentary work back home on both the country-by-country monitoring of GRETA and on Mr Mendes Bota’s report.
Ms HETTO-GAASCH (Luxembourg)* – Mr President, I begin by congratulating Mr Mendes Bota on his detailed report on prostitution and the trafficking of human beings in Europe. I think that we all agree that there is a close link between prostitution and trafficking. Given the differing legal approaches and cultural sensitivities, it is very difficult to propose a single method of dealing with prostitution that would be suitable for all member States in the Council of Europe, yet it would send a very powerful signal if we were to establish the Swedish model in all member States and thus prevent the phenomenon moving from one country to another. Above all, it would demonstrate clearly that Europe is not prepared to be a hub for sexual services.
I hail the proposals in Mr Mendes Bota’s text, including prohibiting the advertising of sexual services, establishing shelters for prostitutes and having exit programmes, which is very important, as well as targeted work with civil society and international co-operation, not to mention increasing the resources given to specialised police forces and increasing awareness among young people.
At the end of January in Strasbourg, we had an opportunity to meet people who are working closely with prostitutes. I will dwell on some of the points raised by some of these very committed women. Many girls are minors, often from very poor families. They suffer violence, great distress and misery, and often have serious emotional problems and little self-respect. These girls very easily become the victims of predators who promise love and prosperity. I stress that it is important to work closely with schools and to raise awareness among teachers of this problem, and to pinpoint potential victims, alert them and bring them closer to trustworthy people in their communities who can give them proper assistance and support within their families.
In conclusion, we should pool our endeavours and be more systematic and coherent in harmonising our legislation in order to eradicate this modern form of slavery.
(Mr Flego, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Walter.)
Ms COSTANTINO (Italy)* – As Mr Mendes Bota said in his report, no policy can leave out this aspect: how to tackle the use of the profits from this crime. Too much attention has been paid in our approach to exploitation and too little to the complex nature of the problem. In Europe, two major models have emerged. The one adopted by Sweden is challenged by the sex workers, who say that they want to protect those who prostitute themselves, and that it does not protect the industry but leads to the greater vulnerability of prostitutes. The effect is simply to criminalise them, so there is an increase in the incidence of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and a worsening of their working conditions.
The other model is that of the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, which sets out rules and guarantees the rights of those who work in the sex area. It is also limited, primarily by the fact that in many cases the sex workers, who do not have European citizenship, have to work in the underground economy because they do not have a work or residence permit. We fail to take into account these things.
New Zealand is the only country to follow the simple principle that it is not possible to defend those who prostitute themselves without ensuring that they are involved in taking decisions. So they are involved in mediation systems to tackle those who live off the proceeds of prostitution.
Trafficking is a very different thing. Legislation in Italy is regarded as good practice throughout the world. It takes into account migratory flows and the victims of trafficking who wish to stay in their new country. It is original because the victims, even if they do not denounce those who have exploited them, can be given a residence permit and help from social services. They are supported as they look for a job and helped to gain legal documents. This legislation should be adopted throughout Europe, because it is an effective model to defend victims and leads to a genuine attempt to fight the Mafia, which is responsible for the exploitation of women throughout the world.
The European Parliament has recently set up an anti-Mafia committee and the Council of Europe, too, should begin to focus on this, because the fight currently looks at the last link in the chain and not at the root cause. I am surprised by the report because, while acknowledging the effort being made by the rapporteur to consider exploitation, it would be wrong simply to look at the Swedish model and criminalise prostitution.
Mr FISCHER (Germany)* – First and foremost, I congratulate my friend Mr Mendes Bota on his report. It is a very good thing that we are talking about trafficking and about forced prostitution – that we talk about it here in the Council of Europe and that we take a clear stance. That said, it seems to me that there is sometimes a tendency to throw out the baby with the bath water.
Therefore, let me be clear about something that emerged in this discussion. People talk about prostitution, forced prostitution and trafficking human beings, and everything is mixed up. Some speakers have already said that we need to make a distinction between these different concepts. It is not useful to ban prostitution per se. I think that we all know that we are talking about one of the oldest professions in the world. Have things really turned out better in countries where prostitution has been banned? We do not really know. We need to know the results of the research in Sweden, for example. We might have those results in 2015, but we do not have them now. Yet Mr Mendes Bota suggests that the Swedish model is the blueprint to follow.
When I was young, I went to Amsterdam on a school trip – we were all young adults at the time – where we met another class of young adults from Sweden, and they got seriously drunk. They drank an awful lot. I had a chat with them and they said, “We can’t do this back home,” because alcohol was prohibitively expensive, “so when we go abroad, we get drunk.” Airports are often hubs for brothels, and people can easily travel from one airport to another for perhaps €20 or €30. Someone can take a cheap flight, spend a day somewhere for €50 or €60 and cause the problems that we are talking about, and that is what we should be tackling. So how can you say which model is best?
My colleague Ms Costantino made a valid point. We are talking about trafficking human beings; we are talking about forced prostitution. That is what we need to look at, and we need to consider why it is happening. The root causes might be poverty, or people might feel that they have no choice but to sell their bodies. The fact that they are forced into prostitution must be acknowledged. I am not sure that it is helpful to say that all member States of the Council of Europe should adopt the Swedish model, because we are not clear about the ramifications of doing so.
I support some amendments – unfortunately, they did not get the necessary majority in the committee – because they say that the Swedish model is an interesting one that is worth thinking about, but we must remember that alternatives exist. It is impossible to dismiss the problem with a single example.
Mr CHITI (Italy)* – I have followed the discussion and have enjoyed it greatly. I appreciate the text proposed by Mr Mendes Bota. Of course, the trafficking of human beings tramples underfoot the notion of human rights. We talk about thousands of people being involved, but we underestimate the problem, which involves migrants who have gone in search of a better life but who are forced to sell their bodies. Many European Union citizens – Bulgarians and Romanians, for example – are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
This phenomenon is on the increase in Europe, yet the number of successful convictions is down, and young girls are among the victims. The report underscores the fact that prostitution and trafficking are linked. It says that 85% of the victims of trafficking end up in prostitution. When considering legislation in our own countries, we need to take into account a cardinal point: this is a human rights violation, and there is no getting around that fact.
I have certain misgivings about the report and the draft resolution. Ms Costantino talked about the different approaches to tackling prostitution in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands, and Italy, for example, has its own trafficking situation, but I wonder at a more practical level whether it is realistic to advocate one model given the wide variety of legislation that exists in our member States. Would it not be more practical to compare differing legislative proposals and approaches to the issue and objectively consider what systems are achieving the best results, with a view to overcoming what remains an attack on human dignity and a violation of human rights?
Against such a backdrop, it is important to have a shared data bank on prostitution and trafficking, so that we have comparable, reliable data covering member States of the Council of Europe. I have listened to interesting contributions on the experience in different countries and how we can assist people who want to leave prostitution, give them some kind of social cushioning and integrate them into the world of work. Those concerns should be at the heart of our efforts. We should therefore warmly encourage those countries that have not yet done so to ratify and implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. We are here because we want to take a united stand on these issues. In countries where that is not currently the case, we need to step up our efforts to get that Council of Europe convention ratified.
Mr YATIM (Morocco, Partner for Democracy)* – I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Mendes Bota, on the outstanding job he has done on the report, the title of which develops the noteworthy idea that modernisation has a number of aspects – human rights and so on, but also human trafficking and modern slavery. Notwithstanding the many mechanisms and legal instruments, national and international alike, that have been established to combat the phenomenon, modern slavery is spreading unceasingly. People are, however, very alert to the phenomenon, as we have heard in the speeches this morning and as we can see in the draft resolution.
I should like to dwell on some of the draft recommendations: adopting the criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services based on the Swedish model as the most effective tool to combat the traffic in human beings; banning the advertising of sexual services, including forms of disguised advertising; criminalising pimping, if not already done; establishing counselling centres; providing prostitutes with health services irrespective of their legal or migrant status; promoting international co-operation; involving civil society; providing information, training and support; and raising awareness.
As you know, Mr President, Morocco is one of the countries with a boom in human trafficking. The fact that it has become a country of destination and transit has exacerbated the phenomenon, which is why, in the context of the new migration policy, we are developing a Bill on human trafficking. The Party of Progress and Socialism has submitted that to our Chamber, and we hope that it will come into force soon. Morocco has ratified several conventions that attack human trafficking, especially the Palermo Convention and its protocols on trafficking in human beings, exploitation and prostitution and on the rights of migrant workers and their families, and we hope that all Council of Europe countries will do so, too.
I can confirm on behalf of our delegation that we will take into account the report’s conclusions and the draft recommendations in our legislative work, which will be concluded soon. We count on co-operating with the Council of Europe and the Assembly in our common battle against this form of modern slavery.
Ms RAWERT (Germany)* – The report on prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe shows clearly that human trafficking is a serious human rights violation, particularly against women and children, and that it must be combated in an effective way. Human trafficking and forced prostitution must be made a criminal offence, and we must prosecute the perpetrators. The victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution should be protected everywhere, and we need to expand their rights. I therefore do not share the view in the report that the Swedish model is the most effective in combating the problem, because I do not think the necessary proof has been provided and the issue needs to be substantiated. We need to think about these matters; only at the end of 2015 will these issues be substantiated and only then will be able to consider them. As has been said in the Assembly, we need more research and more reliable data.
Together with other colleagues we have submitted amendments to the report, and we have heard various positions about the merits of those amendments. We must ensure that we continue to work on this issue, and we must show how difficult it is to come to an agreement. Sex work does not necessarily involve human trafficking. If we think about the case law of the federal constitution in Germany, we know that sex workers enjoy the right to pursue their occupation. Since the law on prostitution in 2002, we have not been aware of any increase in human trafficking; rather, when it comes to combating the issue, the problem is the unwillingness of victims to testify. We need to think about how we can improve the situation for those victims and more effectively prosecute the perpetrators.
The 2002 law on prostitution in Germany was a significant step towards improving the situation for prostitutes and helping them overcome the situation, and above all to improving their working conditions. The law was not perfect, which is why we are now considering a review of it. We have achieved only some of our goals, and we need more options to monitor the relative success of the measure. Nevertheless, the amount of illegal prostitution has not necessarily risen, and I think we need to consider the matter, expand counselling centres, and do more work with sex workers to improve their legal status so that we can more effectively punish the perpetrators of human trafficking. We must also improve the situation of illegal minors who are involved in this issue.
In conclusion, what are we going to do with those women who have found the courage to testify against the perpetrators? Will we just send them back to the poverty of their countries of origin, or will we create rules for them so that they can successfully find a new home where we do not just talk about sex work? I think we need more discussion on the issue, and particularly human trafficking, and we must think about the right of residence and related issues.
Ms KYRIAKIDOU (Cyprus) – Dear colleagues, human trafficking is indeed a modern form of slavery. It occurs when, among other things, control and exploitation, often accompanied by violence, are exerted over an individual. That individual might be a woman, a man, a child or, as the rapporteur stated, a transgender person. That tragic phenomenon in the lives of thousands of people is unfortunately a sad reality, not only in Europe but around the globe. Although concerted actions to combat that shameful reality on a national, European, and international level have made some improvements, they have not managed to set the world free from such forms of human exploitation, which strip human beings of their dignity, their right to life, and their right to own their body. The statistics are extremely alarming. Despite progress made in many Council of Europe member States, the truth is that human trafficking, with all its parameters and consequences, is still a thriving phenomenon in most countries of this continent. It is absolutely interconnected with sexual exploitation, as around 84% of victims are trafficked for such purposes.
The reasons behind human trafficking are quite simple, and the main reason, especially as far as sexual exploitation is concerned, is money. As the United Nations announced some time ago, human trafficking is one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world, after weapons and narcotics. Another reason for human trafficking, which is rightly revealed is this report, is that relevant laws are not properly enforced or – even worse – are not there in the first place. I fully agree with the rapporteur that it is therefore imperative that concerted action is undertaken by all member States of this Organisation without further delay. By starting with legal instruments and other measures that should be in place to prevent and also to punish, and by proceeding with sound statistics that reveal the true extent of the problem, we will be able to act more efficiently when combating this unacceptable phenomenon.
My country, Cyprus, which is also faced with this phenomenon, has signed, ratified and enforces the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and it continues its efforts to combat such illegal activities to the maximum extent possible. More recently a new Bill, which aims to replace two preceding ones, will include – inter alia – the transposition of the new European Union directive 2011/36/EU. It is currently before the competent House Committee and I am confident that it will soon be enacted into law. The law also aims to criminalise the purchase of sexual services, as in the successful Swedish example.
Finally, I wish to raise my voice strong and loud with you all and say that human trafficking is a crime that shames us all. Such a crime does not, and should not have a place in a civilised world, and our work here, including our support for the relevant draft resolution of Mr Mendes Bota, is to do everything in our power to ensure, on both national and international level, that we put an end to this shameful phenomenon, which shatters people’s lives and curtails their undeniable right to freedom and human dignity. I send my most sincere congratulations to our colleague, Mr Mendes Bota, for this most important report, and I will support his resolution.
Ms MILADINOVIĆ (Serbia) – Thank you, Mr President, and Mr Mendes Bota, for the opportunity to speak about this issue. Trafficking in human beings is one of the gravest human rights violations. It denies its victims freedom of movement and freedom of choice. Victims are stripped of all rights and put in a position similar to slavery.
It is a global phenomenon. It affects all countries undergoing political and economic transition, namely developing countries and especially war-affected and post-conflict regions, as such countries are usually the countries of origin of victims. But it also affects economically developed countries, as they are the countries of destination. The push and pull factors that influence the increase in the number of victims of human trafficking overlap with those that precipitate migration. Human trafficking functions according to the principle of supply and demand. In conditions of economic crisis and high unemployment the demand for forced labour is increasing.
Modern slavery takes different forms and affects all people, irrespective of age, race or gender. However, bearing in mind its purpose of exploitation, we could say that one of its causes is gender inequality. Men are more often victims of forced labour, while women are most often victims of sexual exploitation. In conditions of major unemployment and economic crisis, women are the first to be made redundant and the last to get employment. They thus are forced to turn to informal labour markets where they have no protection from abuse and are in danger of becoming victims of human trafficking. That is why human trafficking for sexual exploitation is by far the most widespread form.
Exploitation in the sex industry is both the cause and the consequence of gender inequality. It is a severe form of violence against women and girls and a flagrant violation of human rights, including the rights to equality and non-discrimination, dignity, health and protection from violence. There are different approaches to the issue, depending on major or more subtle cultural differences and sensitivities. That makes it difficult to propose a single model of regulation. However, all models should all be based on the principle of the protection of human rights. The Nordic approach denies the right of men to purchase sexual services and promotes the right of women to protection, health and non-discrimination. The Swedish approach has two major objectives: to curb demand for commercial sex, which increases sex trafficking, and to promote gender equality. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should give its support to every efficient approach aimed at reducing prostitution and sexual exploitation in general.
Mr SHERIDAN (United Kingdom) – I would like to add my congratulations to Mr Mendes Bota on his valuable work on this report.
Prostitution, human trafficking and sexual exploitation worry us all. But, as Mr Mendes Bota recognises, due to the underground nature of those issues we know far too little about them. It is the worst nightmare of all of us that our children, siblings or other family or friends could get involved in the situations documented in the report. Each one of the vulnerable women, girls, men and boys who have been pressured and coerced into these roles and have been abused is somebody’s daughter, son, sister, brother, family member or friend. We must accept that any amount of trafficking is unacceptable. Although our efforts up until now may have improved the situation, they have still failed the tens of thousands of people trafficked in Europe each year.
The report is damning in highlighting that certain member States have not signed, ratified or implemented the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. I urge fellow parliamentarians here today to take the report’s messages back to the leaders in those countries. Human trafficking is an international problem and we need a co-ordinated approach to tackling it. We can do only so much in our home countries and can see only the tip of the iceberg. I agree with Mr Mendes Bota that to see more of the iceberg we need more data and research on prostitution and trafficking. We seem to be floundering in the dark, and are perhaps neglecting to tackle the worst forms of human trafficking because we do not know that they are there.
In the United Kingdom, for all other laws, we have teams of civil servants putting in background research and finding out what needs to be done. I am not criticising those civil servants here, but I am saying that we need a better co-ordinated approach to finding out the scale of the problem. In the United Kingdom, we have estimates ranging from one of 2 600 women who have been trafficked and are now involved in off-street prostitution, to a 2008 Home Office estimate of 4 000 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, and a House of Commons Select Committee estimate of 5 000. The Centre for Social Justice’s Slavery Working Group says that “a large proportion of cases are never recognised or reported, and do not appear in any statistics or measures of the size of the problem.” Clearly, the numbers we are looking at are huge, but we do not know the extent of the number of people involved.
Prostitution will remain the main reason people are trafficked, but I would like to make a quick mention of forced labour. In the United Kingdom Parliament I was proud to bring forward the legislation for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. That body is designed to curb exploitation in some sectors, making sure workers receive fair treatment, pay, benefits and conditions. It came about after the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecombe as the result of absolute exploitation. Those workers were paid as little as 11p an hour and were not looked after in what was, and still is an extremely dangerous job. The scope of the report does not tackle other reasons for human trafficking, but it is important to remember events such as those, and work hard to ensure that we protect all those people who are victims of trafficking.
Ms ČRNAK MEGLIČ (Slovenia) – I am another in the line of those who would like to congratulate the rapporteur on his outstanding report, which reflects remarkable work on a subject that is in fact a global social problem, the dimensions of which go far beyond national and regional location.
I particularly support two ideas that the report focuses upon: first, that voluntary prostitution is in most cases only a myth; and secondly, that each system of regulation in this area presents advantages and disadvantages, but policies prohibiting the purchase of sexual services are still more likely to have a positive impact on reducing trafficking in human beings.
On the first point; I personally think that it is sheer hypocrisy to talk about prostitution as a voluntary activity. Alarming figures speak against that argument. Among members of the most vulnerable groups who are victims of human trafficking, 62% are forced into prostitution. Most of those, of course, are women and children. Trafficking is a low-risk, high-gain criminal activity, generating an annual $32 billion according to the ILO. On the basis of available information, the European Commission estimates that 100 000 people are trafficked in the European Union every year. It is a serious problem and we, as lawmakers, should react to it. We should do so as quickly as possible, so as to minimise the harm affecting more and more people every single day, particularly children and women.
After studying some models of different approaches to tackling the problem, I fully agree with the rapporteur’s thesis that criminalisation that follows the Swedish model, in which we criminalise the purchaser, has proved to be a better mechanism than legalisation in combating this hideous human rights violation. I personally think that decision makers in countries all over the world should devote all necessary attention to the problem by following that model, albeit with certain modifications, if needed, to take into account different legal approaches and cultural sensitivities.
I also agree with the rapporteur that criminalising the sale of sexual services is not a positive move, especially when we consider that, in most cases, we are talking about victims who in fact need help – in the form of counselling, legal and health assistance, and exit programmes – and not punishment. As for protecting victims and prevention, we would need another report to deal with how to ensure that the problem does not increase. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT – Ms Arib is not here, so I call Ms Ohlsson.
Ms OHLSSON (Sweden) – Thank you, Mr President, and thank you, Mr Mendes Bota, for your important report. The Swedish Act prohibiting the purchase of sex came into force after more than two decades of public debate and government commissions on the correct legal response to this unwanted phenomenon. Prostitution had increasingly been framed as a problem of gender inequality at national government and parliament level, at least since the end of the 1970s. The women’s movement played an important role in the process.
In 1998, the Swedish Parliament passed an omnibus Bill on men’s violence against women that placed prostitution and the new measures in the context of gender inequality, rather than among crimes against morality, decency, or public order. The Bill stated that prostitution and violence against women were “issues...related with each other. Men’s violence against women is not consonant with the aspirations toward a gender equal society…In such a society it is also unworthy and unacceptable that men obtain casual sex with women for remuneration.”
The government’s latest inquiry states that the purchase of sexual services “is more of a crime against a person than a crime against the public order, even if its background has elements of both”. Quite simply, there is nothing good about prostitution. Further, it was recognised that women engaged in prostitution had often had deprived childhoods in which they were neglected and deprived of a sense of self-worth. It was also emphasised that there was a strong link between child sexual abuse and prostitution. By criminalising the buyer, and decriminalising and supporting the prostituted person, the State clearly recognises the inequality of prostitution as being wrong.
Of course, the prohibition of the purchase of sex is not, on its own, enough to solve the problem, to create better lives for the more than 1 million women and children who are being bought and sold all over the world for sexual exploitation, or to solve the problem of men’s violence against women, but we have to be aware that such legislation must be in place. We need this law for several reasons. First, we need it because we need to address the perpetrators. Prostitution exists because people, mainly men, demand it. Secondly, we need this law because we must create possibilities for the people involved in prostitution. We know that they want to escape their situation, and we have to strengthen their position against the purchaser, who has abused the prostituted person’s circumstances of deprivation or abuse.
The law has to address the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community more effectively. The stories of people in that community are still untold and unheard. Homosexual men and transgender people are very vulnerable in this context, and we must include them in our analyses. Once again, thank you, Mr Mendes Bota, for your important report.
Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – How appropriate that two Swedes will conclude this discussion. I thank the rapporteur, Mr Mendes Bota, and the entire Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, for the good job done, and the enormous effort put into the report. We have been working on it for a long time, and it has been very interesting.
It is also interesting to note the many men speaking in this debate on what is, essentially, a gender equality issue, as we are the problem. There is a very good quote in paragraph 72 of the explanatory memorandum explaining the justification for the Swedish law: “without men’s demand for and use of women and girls for sexual exploitation, the global prostitution industry would not be able to flourish and expand”.
I did not intend to speak in this debate, but given the discussions that I have heard over the past few days, I felt that I had to paint a picture of why Sweden chose the model that it did, and what we have learned over the years. It has been said in this debate that there is no proof that the model works, but there is, and that is well explained by Mr Mendes Bota in the explanatory memorandum. In Sweden, support for the law has increased over the years. It has a clear normative effect on attitudes towards buying sex. Today, doing so is almost unacceptable; very few people in the Swedish population think it is okay to buy sex. That has changed; previously, the practice was at least accepted by a huge proportion of citizens in my country. That is the main thing about the legislation: it has a clear normative effect, and it curbs the demand for sexual services. The result is that Sweden is no longer an interesting country for traffickers to traffic human beings to. In that sense, the law has been a success. The proof is there, and members can read about it in the report.
I urge all members to vote in favour of the report, and to say no to some of the amendments, which would take away the whole purpose of the report. If we do not keep in the reference to the model that was chosen in Sweden, Iceland and Norway, and is being discussed in many other countries, the report will lose importance. The main thing is to discuss and try a new tool to combat trafficking and prostitution. We have to remind ourselves sometimes that prostitution is a breach of human rights in itself. There is no right to buy another human’s body. Thank you very much.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Gunnarsson. That concludes the list of speakers. I call Mr Mendes Bota, rapporteur, to reply. You have five minutes.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – Thank you, Mr President. Allow me, first of all, to pay tribute to the staff of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination for all their fantastic work. I would like to make special mention of Giorgio Loddo, who has accompanied me right from the beginning of my work. He has a fantastic memory for all the dozens of meetings that we had in our fact-finding missions. Only he could get right the messages that we heard, some of which were, of course, contradictory.
We have had a fantastic debate. Not all reports attract 36 speakers. They were not all in agreement; some had differing opinions, and that made the debate richer. Of course I am in favour of debate, and want all countries to reflect on the situation, and on the model that they do or do not have. They should go further in carrying out research. Some of the main conclusions of my report are that we need more available, comparable and reliable data, and more surveys. We need to know about the phenomenon. We need to know who is in prostitution, why they are there, where they come from and are going to, what they are earning, whether they are exploited, and if so, by whom, and about the mafia chains. We need to know much more.
The problem, however, is that I had to make this report now. I cannot push it into the next decade. The information that I received came from both sides and was contradictory, so I came to a conclusion. There are at least three models: the Swedish model, the prohibition model and the legalisation model. I am not saying that the Swedish model is the most perfect and we are not here to discuss only the Swedish model, but I heard things and read things – I am no expert – and had to make a conclusion. From what I heard, I decided that the most effective way to combat human trafficking was the Swedish model. Of course, as I say in the report, there is criticism and there are weak points and the problem is perhaps being exported, but some people are also interested in importing the problem. When prostitution is legalised in one country, the doors are opened to those who want to export the problem. That is why it is important that we discuss the matter and its implications. Some people are interested in saying that prostitution and trafficking are different phenomena that have nothing to do with each other, but from all that we have seen and heard, can anybody say there is no strong link between them? Of course there is. We cannot suggest otherwise.
I did not put emphasis on this in the report, but the problem also involves violence against women and gender inequality. The aim of the report and the resolution, however, was to try to establish whether there is a link between prostitution and trafficking and to see which system would be most effective in combating human trafficking. My dear friend Mr Fischer, you know how much I like you, but when you say here that prostitution is the oldest job in the world, I have to tell you that killing and robbing have also existed since humankind existed, but that does not make them acceptable and we have rules and policies to combat them. That is the reality.
On the old question about the difference between free and forced prostitution, I must say that it is a myth. Why? I am convinced – perhaps I am not alone – that the majority of those involved in prostitution today are forced into it. I visited an NGO in Berlin that, following a survey, came to the conclusion that 80% of young women and girls in forced prostitution joined freely because they were attracted with promises of jobs or even because their families pushed them into it to try to get some money to bring home. They joined freely, but the problem is not about entering the system; it is about them being unable to get out. Witnesses and survivors have left the system and they tell us that it was like going to hell and back.
I thank all colleagues for their contributions, even the ones who do not agree with all my proposals but still contributed to a rich debate.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Mendes Bota. I now call Ms Wurm, the Chair of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.
Ms WURM (Austria) – On the behalf of the committee, I congratulate Mr Mendes Bota on his excellent report.
(The speaker continued in German.)
We had a controversial debate on this subject in committee, but Mr Mendes Bota afforded us an opportunity to consider the various legislative initiatives in different member States of the Council of Europe. Here in Strasbourg, we have had the opportunity to conduct hearings on the subject, and the committee is most grateful for the fact that we have been able to discuss a burning issue at length. We have been considering the matter for almost two years and we have added to our knowledge on the subject and have been able to move towards a set of common conclusions, some of which have shown themselves during the debate. We share a desire to protect the victims. The Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which has been open for signatures since 2005, must be signed up to. We also agree that organised crime must be fought and that we need more knowledge. Studies should be carried out to discover exactly what the situation is in each of our countries.
The report received a substantial majority in committee, and I want to congratulate the rapporteur once again on this important work, which has taken the Parliamentary Assembly a step further on this issue.
The PRESIDENT – The debate is closed.
The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has presented a draft resolution, Document 13446, to which four amendments and one oral sub-amendment have been proposed.
I understand that the Chair of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 2 to the draft resolution, which was unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.11.
Is that so Ms Wurm?
Ms WURM (Austria) – Yes.
The PRESIDENT – Does anyone object?
As there is no objection, I declare that Amendment 2 to the draft resolution has been agreed.
The following amendment has been agreed:
Amendment 2, tabled by Ms Ohlsson, Mr Debono Grech, Mr Bonnici, Mr Fenech Adami, Ms Bilgehan, Ms Fresko-Rolfo, Ms Spadoni and Ms Saďdi, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 184.108.40.206, to insert the following paragraph:
“raise general public awareness of the need to change attitudes towards the purchase of sexual services and to reduce the demand, including by countering social encouragement, particularly in the workplace”.
The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the Compendium and the Organisation of Debates. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.
We come to Amendment 3, tabled by Ms Werner, Mr Fischer, Mr Hunko, Mr Schennach, Mr Kox, Mr Gross, Ms Rawert, Ms Drobinski-Weiß, Ms Finckh-Krämer, Ms Groth and Ms Fiala, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 5, to replace the words “in the false hope that the existence of a legal sex-work sector would reduce the attractiveness of this business for criminal organisations or may improve the working conditions of sex workers” with “with the aim of reducing the attractiveness of this business for criminal organisations and improving the working conditions of sex workers.”
I call Ms Werner to support Amendment 3. You have 30 seconds.
Ms WERNER (Germany)* – The committee was in agreement over the amendment. We wanted to add that legalisation has the aim of improving working conditions and that that aim has not yet been implemented in practice.
The PRESIDENT – I have been informed that Mr Mendes Bota wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment, on the behalf of the committee, as follows:
In Amendment 3, insert at end the words “with limited results.”
In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules. However, do 10 or more members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated? That is not the case.
I call Mr Mendes Bota to support the oral sub-amendment.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – When I said “with false hope” in the original resolution, that is not exactly what I meant, so that will be removed and the oral sub-amendment will add “with limited results” to the end of the relevant sentence.
The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the mover of the amendment, Ms Werner?
Ms WERNER (Germany) – In favour.
The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms WURM (Austria) – In favour.
The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
The oral sub-amendment is adopted.
Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 3, as amended? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms WURM (Austria) – In favour.
The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
We come to Amendment 4, tabled by Ms Werner, Ms Groth, Mr Hunko, Ms Rawert, Mr Fischer, Mr Kox, Ms Fiala, Ms Drobinski-Weiß, Mr Schennach and Ms Finckh-Krämer, which is, in the draft resolution, to delete paragraph 12.1.1.
I must inform the Assembly that if the amendment is agreed to, Amendment 1 falls. I call Ms Werner to support Amendment 4.
Ms WERNER (Germany)* – We move the deletion of paragraph 12.1.1. I wish to contradict the previous speaker, who said it would change the gist of the report. There are still some important things in there, but as the debate clearly showed, certain points could not be made here. There are proposals from Italy and Germany, and other motions and ideas. The report talks about issues such as domestic violence, which have not yet been resolved. We will have the results of the Swedish model only in 2015. We believe the deletion of the paragraph would not deprive the report of its gist.
The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Gunnarsson.
Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – As I said in the debate, the amendment would remove much of the meaning of the report. As Mr Mendes Bota said, this is the most effective way of working that we have found, so why should we not propose that others try it?
The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms WURM (Austria) – The committee is against.
The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
Amendment 4 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 1, tabled by Mr Fabritius, Mr Ullrich, Ms Strenz, Mr Hennrich, Mr Fischer, Mr Pushkov, Mr Wellmann, Mr Hardt and Mr Wadephul, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 12.1.1, to replace the words "the most" with “a more”.
I call Mr Fabritius to support Amendment 1.
Mr FABRITIUS (Germany)* – We would like to move a change to improve the text. We are saying not that criminalisation is not a good thing, but that it is not the best solution. It is just one out of a series of possible solutions. To say it is the best is highly speculative. I therefore suggest that we move back to a more neutral wording, which would improve the report. I appeal to the Assembly to support the amendment.
The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case. What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms WURM (Austria) – The committee is against.
The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
Amendment 1 is rejected.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13446, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 13446, as amended, is adopted, with 82 votes for, 17 against and 25 abstentions.
I thank the rapporteur, his collaborators and the committee. Thank you for all your contributions.
2. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3.30 p.m. with the agenda that was approved yesterday morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 12.55 p.m.)
1. Prostitution, Trafficking and Modern Slavery in Europe
Presentation by Mr Mendes Bota of report, Document 13446
Speakers: Ms Gafarova, Ms Fiala, Ms Werner, Ms Maury Pasquier, Ms Kyriakides, Ms Bourza, Ms Mitchel, Ms Crozon, Mr Ghiletchi, Mr S. Kalashnikov, Mr Heer, Ms Spadoni, Ms Blanco, Ms Seara, Ms Johnsen, Ms Nikolaeva, Ms Gorghiu, Ms Antičević Marinović, Mr Tilson, Ms Schou, Ms Mattila, Ms Mulić, Mr Schennach, Ms Christoffersen, Ms Hetto-Garsch, Ms Constantino, Mr Fischer, Mr Chiti, Mr Yatim, Ms Rawert, Ms Kyriakidou, Ms Miladinović, Mr Scheridan, Ms Črnak Meglič, Ms Ohlsson, Mr Gunnarsson
2. Next public business
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk
Alexey Ivanovich ALEKSANDROV/Anton Belyakov
Lord Donald ANDERSON
Danielle AUROI/Bernadette Bourzai
Egemen BAĞIŞ/Suat Önal
Gérard BAPT/Pascale Crozon
Gerard BARCIA DUEDRA/Silvia Eloďsa Bonet Perot
Doris BARNETT/Mechthild Rawert
José Manuel BARREIRO*
Ondřej BENEŠIK/Gabriela Pecková
José María BENEYTO*
Anna Maria BERNINI/Claudio Fazzone
Ľuboš BLAHA/Darina Gabániová
Philippe BLANCHART/Fatiha Saďdi
Jean-Marie BOCKEL/Jacques Legendre
Mladen BOJANIĆ/Snežana Jonica
Mladen BOSIĆ/Ismeta Dervoz
Anne BRASSEUR/ Marc Spautz
Gerold BÜCHEL/Rainer Gopp
Mikael CEDERBRATT/Lennart Axelsson
Lorenzo CESA/Milena Santerini
Tudor-Alexandru CHIUARIU/Viorel Riceard Badea
Henryk CIOCH/Grzegorz Czelej
Deirdre CLUNE/Olivia Mitchell
Carlos COSTA NEVES*
Milena DAMYANOVA/Irena Sokolova
Joseph DEBONO GRECH
Armand De DECKER*
Manlio DI STEFANO
Arcadio DÍAZ TEJERA
Peter van DIJK/Marjolein Faber-Van De Klashorst
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*
Lady Diana ECCLES*
Tülin ERKAL KARA
Franz Leonhard EßL
Joseph FENECH ADAMI
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU*
Axel E. FISCHER
Gvozden Srećko FLEGO
Sir Roger GALE
Tamás GAUDI NAGY
Nadezda GERASIMOVA/Olga Kazakova
Francesco Maria GIRO
Alina Ştefania GORGHIU
Fred de GRAAF*
Patrick De GROOTE*
Arlette GROSSKOST/Frédéric Reiss
Mehmet Kasim GÜLPINAR*
Maria GUZENINA-RICHARDSON/Jouko Skinnari
Andrzej HALICKI/Beata Bublewicz
Adam HOFMAN/Zbigniew Girzyński
Anette HÜBINGER/Johann Wadephul
Ali HUSEYNLI/Sahiba Gafarova
Denis JACQUAT*/ Marie-Jo Zimmermann
Gordan JANDROKOVIĆ/Ingrid Antičević Marinović
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Frank J. JENSSEN/Kristin Řrmen Johnsen
Josip JURATOVIC/Gabriela Heinrich
Ulrika KARLSSON/Kerstin Lundgren
Bogdan KLICH/Marek Borowski
Unnur Brá KONRÁĐSDÓTTIR*
Dmitry KRYVITSKY/Igor Chernyshenko
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*
Igor LEBEDEV/Sergey Kalashnikov
Lone LOKLINDT/Nikolaj Villumsen
George LOUKAIDES/Stella Kyriakides
Trine Pertou MACH*
Meritxell MATEU PI
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA*
Ivan MELNIKOV/Robert Shlegel
José MENDES BOTA
Djordje MILIĆEVIĆ/Stefana Miladinović
Rubén MORENO PALANQUES*
Joăo Bosco MOTA AMARAL
Marian NEACŞU/Florin Costin Pâslaru
Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*
Mirosława NYKIEL/Iwona Guzowska
José Ignacio PALACIOS
Marietta de POURBAIX-LUNDIN
Cezar Florin PREDA
John PRESCOTT/David Crausby
Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*
Pavlo RYABIKIN/Iryna Gerashchenko
Vincenzo SANTANGELO/Maria Edera Spadoni
Bernd SIEBERT/Jürgen Hardt
Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Algis Kašėta
Björn von SYDOW/Jonas Gunnarsson
Romana TOMC/Iva Dimic
Lord John E. TOMLINSON
Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ
Dana VÁHALOVÁ/Simeon Karamazov
Snorre Serigstad VALEN
Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN/Jaana Pelkonen
Vladimir VORONIN/Grigore Petrenco
Klaas de VRIES
Dame Angela WATKINSON*
Kristýna ZELIENKOVÁ/Ivana Dobešová
Barbara ŽGAJNER TAVŠ/Andreja Črnak Meglič
Guennady ZIUGANOV/Vassiliy Likhachev
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised
Hans Fredrik GRŘVAN
Ernesto GÁNDARA CAMOU
Mr David TILSON
Partners for democracy
Mohammed Mehdi BENSAID
Nezha EL OUAFI
El Mokhtar GHAMBOU