Eight EU-based human rights organisations have “wholeheartedly” backed a proposed law to decriminalise prostitution in Malta.

In a joint statement, the international union of sex workers and gay rights organisations, said the move would protect the well-being and dignity of sex workers. 

“Our organisations wish to express our support to the Maltese government in its effort to develop a law reform that would ensure that the rights of sex workers are protected,” it said.

The statement goes against the views of a coalition of 40 national women’s rights, anti-trafficking and social work NGOs, who recently flagged their concern that the proposed law would be a “gift” to pimps and human traffickers.

Currently prostitution in the form of an agreement between two people that includes the exchange of money and takes place in a private place is not a crime. However, loitering, soliciting in public and living off the proceeds of prostitution is illegal.

MP Rosianne Cutajar, who was leading the reform until she resigned as junior minister, wants full decriminalisation of prostitution, including for clients of sex workers.

The government has now been supported by eight international organisations. 

“Our organisations, after careful consideration, consultation and research wholeheartedly support the decriminalisation of sex work,” they said. 

“Globally sex workers and their organisations are demanding decriminalisation, the right to self-determination and self-organisation. Our organisations support the principles that laws and policies which impact marginalised communities should be developed with the meaningful involvement of those communities, ensuring their views are heard and their demands included.”

They said the impact of the so-called Swedish Model, which criminalises clients, has a negative impact on sex workers, making them more vulnerable to violence and infectious diseases. 

On the other hand, countries were sex work is decriminalised allowes greater access to legal protection, they said. 

Malta is already seen as a leading country in protecting LGBTI rights. 
The statement was backed by ILGA Europe, Transgender Europe, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Youth & Student Organisation, the Platform for Intrnational Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, La Strada International, European NGO platform against human trafficking, European AIDS Treament Group and the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe.

“The evidence is clear: only decriminalisation of sex work will protect the well being and dignity of sex workers,” they said. 

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