Belgium Decriminalizes Prostitution

Belgium has become the first European country that decriminalizes prostitution.

Numerous European countries possess this ability. Legalized prostitution. This means that prostitution is allowed in certain and strictly controlled circumstances, but it remains a crime outside of these guidelines. To be allowed to work legally in Greece, sex workers need to register with the state, have a professional certificate and undergo twice-monthly physical exams.

Others European countries have also instituted an asymmetrical criminalization system, where selling sex (under some circumstances) is permitted but not paying for it.

Belgium was the first European nation to decriminalize sex selling, buying it and working with sex employees. This is according to a proposal by Vincent Van Quickenborn, Federal Justice Minister, which was approved last week by Parliament.

Van Quickenborne released a statement saying that this was a landmark reform in the field of sexwork. It ensures that sex workers will not be stigmatized, exploited or made dependent upon others. Belgium was the first European country to legalize sex.

Belgium has a current law which criminalizes but not enforces “provok”[ing]A person who is addicted to debauchery. While both paying for and sex work are allowed in Belgium, there were many rules that were unclear, restricted, and inconsistent. According to the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, “Each region develops its own policy. Sex businesses are more likely to be found in areas that have been approved by authorities.” To be a sexworker outside of the toleration zones would probably make it illegal. This could lead to administrative fines for workers.

Belgian sex workers could not use this as evidence of employment to obtain a loan, or for any social welfare benefits because sex was not recognized in Belgium as a professional.

In addition, “third parties involved with sex workers are committing a crime,” explains Maïthé Chini in The Brussels Times. “This brings many problems, as anyone who works with sex workers – such as an accountant or a driver – also becomes part of criminal practices.”

Under the new reform, sex trafficking will remain criminalized and—in place of the law criminalizing any third parties working with sex workers—the country will instead criminalize abuses of prostitution. Chini says that some abuses involve putting pressure on the sex worker to determine how many clients they have each day. Or telling workers that sexual acts can be permitted and that it is up to them.

Van Quickenborne stated that “sex work” is an economic activity that can be done regularly, as long as it is performed by adults, which was the case for those who chose to engage in this type of activities. People can still practice what they love, but can also work as an accountant and receive social insurance.

In a statement, the sex worker rights association UTSOPI said that this reform was the culmination of a struggle we, sexworkers, have waged for the past 30 years. “This isn’t a fight that takes place here. There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world fighting for what we have here. This is a reform that puts an end to a  counterproductive discourse of victimization that only further stigmatizes sex workers sex and make them dependent on others.”

People can help if they really care, the group stated, adding that Belgium should be an example to the rest of the world.

Maxime Maes told the story of UTSOPI director The Brussels TimesBelgian sex workers preferred legalization over decriminalization. Maes suggested that it was important to give sex workers the ability to select their practice and choose their clients. This is the heart of consent.