The issue of the legalization of prostitution in our country is not new, but it only exists at the level of concept. However, there are other ways to solve this problem, namely decriminalization or adopting the Swedish model. Opinion discovered the arguments of both legalization opponents and supporters, whether it is necessary to decriminalize prostitution, and what is the Nordic Model.
What are the arguments of the legalization supporters?
A new wave of discussions on this topic arose after a recent interview of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yurii Lutsenko, in which he supported the idea of the legalization, assuring that the controlled prostitution is more profitable for society.
“Yes, it is not easy, but nevertheless, it is necessary to recognize the realities and make them less dangerous for society. The controlled prostitution is far more profitable to society than its allegedly illegal prosperity. I believe that a law of such nature should be adopted. Another question is who and when will dare to introduce it to the Parliament”, – Lutsenko emphasized.
Dmytro Sinchenko, the head of the NGO Association of Political Sciences, stressed in a comment for Opinion that he also fully supports the idea of the legalization, as it is one of the most effective ways to fight corruption in law enforcement, increase the budget and protect the rights of people who are engaged in prostitution.
“I fully support this idea. The legalization of prostitution, as well as pornography, sale of weapons and many other things. It is the most effective way to prevent corruption in this area, especially in the Interior Ministry, to attract significant funds to the state budget of Ukraine, to protect the rights of sex workers, to reduce the crime rate and significantly decrease the level of sexually transmitted diseases. I do not see any negative points at all,” said Mr. Sinchenko.
Halyna Tretiakova, the head of the Institute of Civil Liberties, also supports the legalization. In her opinion, in addition to the state budget replenishment, the development of tourism and related industries may be another advantage of it.
“I fully support the legalization of the sex industry, as well as the entire team of the Institute of Civil Liberties. Without the legalization, we increase corruption risks in the state both in the Criminal code and fiscal authorities’ fields. The positive effect of the legalization lies in the increase in the income section of the budget and the creation of legal jobs not only at the expense of the sex industry itself but also through the development of our tourism industry and related fields. For example, the industry of hotel services, food etc., which is the catalyst for the development of the state as a whole,” the head of the Institute of civil liberties told Opinion.
How real is the legalization?
According to the lawyer Olena Zaitseva, the claims about the need to legalize prostitution are so far merely PR and an attempt to attract attention.
“So far it is only PR and an attempt to attract attention before the elections, as legally it contradicts a number of international obligations of Ukraine. But I suspect that the officials might also give signals that they are ready to work in this area with the Northern (many women are sold to the Russian Federation) and the Western owners of the relevant “businesses”: that means to supply them with Ukrainian women,” said the lawyer of the NGO Development of Democracy Center.
Not legalize, but decriminalize?
Alina Sarnatska, the human rights activist and the coordinator of the NGO Aeneas Club is sure we should decriminalize prostitution by repealing punitive laws. In her opinion, at this stage, the idea of the legalization is risky because it is unclear how exactly the state control will be established and whether this will increase the number of human rights violations.
“We should take away the license to violence against sex workers from the police – to stop their mocking, raping, blackmailing, intimidating and covering etc., and to toughen punishment for engaging the minors in prostitution. Therefore, we need the decriminalization – the abolition of the punitive laws. That is, the abolition of the article 181 of the Code of Administrative Violations, part one – “Prostitution”, and of the article 303 of the Criminal code “Procuring or engaging a person in prostitution”.
Decriminalization will protect the lives and health of sex workers – people who are someone’s parents, relatives, partners, and friends. If these people want to leave sex business, they must live up to that moment and preserve their health,” Sarnetska says.
But the gender expert Mariia Dmytriieva explained in a conversation with Opinion that in practice decriminalization might increase the number of human trafficking cases. Moreover, the practice of certain countries shows the same.
“The concept of the decriminalization of prostitution is supported by Amnesty international. In fact, this idea is promoted by the trade union of so-called ”sex workers” which consist of pimps, security guards, human traffickers, and others. By the way, some of the authors of this concept are now serving sentences for human trafficking for the sake of sexual exploitation. Frankly speaking, it is a mystery to me why Amnesty international has not yet withdrawn this policy. But what do they require? They are convinced that there should be punishment neither for women nor for customers, nor for pimps. And in fact, it means that everyone who used to be traffickers can turn into… managers for the movement of human resources. In the countries where such initiatives have been implemented, the volume of human trafficking has increased significantly,” the expert explained.
What are the arguments against the idea of the legalization?
According to the gender expert Mariia Dmytriieva, the state will evade its responsibilities to monitor the observance of human rights and turn into another pimp.
“When the state decriminalizes or legalizes prostitution, it means that it absolves itself of full responsibility for any issues with human and in particular women rights. These are the rights to bodily integrity, education, work, the right not to recognize humiliation and the right to protection of human dignity. The latter is a key point in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human dignity is recognized as a value and must be protected at the state level. So, the legalization of prostitution can simply reduce all this, which means that the state will become another pimp,” – the expert explained to Opinion.
Olena Zaitseva, a lawyer of the NGO Development of Democracy Center, told our newspaper that the legalization will not solve all the problems. In her opinion, the thesis of bringing prostitution out of the shadow through the legalization is a myth that has long been debunked by the experience of other countries.
“Under the guise of the words “legalization of prostitution” lobbyists say not so much about the legalization of prostitution as such (the abolition of administrative responsibility for prostitution), but about the release from criminal liability of all those who earn on women (most of the workers in the prostitution industry are women) – for the abolition of articles on the maintenance of brothels and procuring. In fact, they are speaking in favour of legalizing the business of sexual exploitation of women, which is contrary to Ukraine’s international obligations.
The myth of bringing prostitution out of the shadows by its legalization, or reducing violence in it, has long been debunked by the experience of several Western neighbors (in particular, Germany and the Netherlands): there it was impossible. Throughout 3 years of studies on this topic, I collected a lot of data on the increase in the crime situation in areas with brothels, numerous complaints and fears of local residents, the crowds of the sold young foreigners (sometimes even by their own families) into the legal prostitution, and terrible information from the prostituted persons themselves – about extremely low life expectancy, alcohol and drug addiction, suicidal tendencies and PTSD, which affects the victims of torture or military actions. Individual claims “for” the legalization are usually heard from the representatives of questionable organizations (the heads of which from time to time are put in jail for procuring),” – said the lawyer.
What is the Swedish model?
The gender expert Mariia Dmytriieva stands for the adoption of the Swedish model in Ukraine. The expert is convinced that this is the only correct vector of the state’s action.
“I support the adoption of the so called Swedish model (Nordic Model) in Ukraine – this is what was done in Sweden in 1999. The law provides for the removal of any liability for women in prostitution and introduces punishment for their clients. Its adoption is the result of the long-term work of women’s organizations, numerous surveys, and studies. The law is much more educational than punitive. It says in the plain text that the state protects women’s rights and does not allow them to be humiliated, beaten or raped, even if they are engaged in prostitution. In addition, this law has reduced the sale of people to sexual slavery to almost zero in Sweden, and the number of women in prostitution has almost halved. They have well-designed exit programs: women receive training, the opportunity to restore their health and return to the life they have always dreamed of.
What do the critics of this law tell us? They note that prostitution went underground, and women ended up in even greater danger. That’s actually a lie. The clients have to be in certain places to find these women, for example, on the Internet. And if clients could find them, so the law enforcement authorities can find them as well. The police tell them: “We are on your side, we support you. And if something happens – ask for our help”. And in this situation, women engaged in prostitution are turning to law enforcement agencies much more often. Studies show that in Sweden, no woman involved in prostitution has been killed since the adoption of this law. The number of serious crimes has decreased. But if you look at the total number of crimes committed against women in prostitution in Sweden, you will see that there are more of them now. This is the same situation as with domestic violence: if suddenly the statistics of offenses/appeals “climbs” up, it does not mean that there are more crimes. This might mean that women are no longer afraid to seek help. Accordingly, the reproaches that this law worsens the lives of women engaged in prostitution are untrue, which is confirmed by numerous studies, as well as the fact that the Swedish model has been adopted by other countries. These include Canada, Ireland, France and Israel.
What are the chances that the Swedish model will work in Ukraine?
Mariia Dmytriieva is sure that the adoption of such a model is a logical continuation of the international obligations that our country has accepted. In addition, the issue of the legalization does not fully coincide with Ukraine’s ambition to become a member of NATO.
“Almost all international obligations of Ukraine contribute to the adoption of the Swedish model as a logical continuation. In addition, Ukraine aspires to join NATO, where there is zero tolerance for human trafficking. Military personnel of any NATO country is forbidden to buy sex services because there is no way to clearly prove that a person provided them on of her own volition,” the gender expert explained.
By Dmytro Zhuravel