Decriminalising prostitution should be tied to penalising the buying of sex, the equality commission said on Wednesday.
In a statement, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality weighed in on an upcoming reform of prostitution laws.
Reforms Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar last week said that a prostitution reform technical committee was drafting a legal framework that aimed to decriminalise sex work.
The consultation period is over and the committee's report is being finalised before being presented to Cabinet.
A group of over 40 entities involved in the sector has protested that no one on the committee appeared to have any expertise in the matter.
The coalition argues that the proposed approach to the decriminalisation of sex work would be "a gift to pimps and traffickers" and have a "devastating effect" on vulnerable people.
According to the equality commission, any prostitution reform should be based on the principles of human rights and equality.
"In view of the upcoming finalisation of the report by the Prostitution Reform Technical Committee, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) states that the prostitution reform should adopt a human rights approach, entailing both the decriminalisation of prostitution as well as the penalisation of sex-buying,” the commission said.
Prostitution, the commission holds, is a form of exploitation rife with physical and psychological violence.
It is also largely an exercise in power and control of men over women, since the absolute majority of prostitutes are women while the absolute majority of pimps and clients are men.
"While prostitutes should not be punished for suffering exploitation, sex-buyers should be penalised. This disrupts the exploitative sex market and sends a strong message in favour of gender equality,” the commission said.
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