The overwhelming majority of Maltese do not consider prostitution a normal job and four in five believe legalising it will lead to an increase in sexual violence in society, a recent study by the Malta Women’s Lobby has shown.
In the first study to gauge the public’s view on the subject, it emerged clearly that the public is completely opposed to the legalisation of prostitution, said Gender Studies expert Anne Borg.
“Sex work is not a job, and the message from the survey supports this clearly. When you are legislating you need to ensure that the legislation falls in line with society’s values, and the results show the majority believe the proposed reforms will not benefit the Maltese or those caught in prostitution,” Borg said.
While the transaction of sex for money involved in prostitution is not illegal, loitering and soliciting in public and living off the proceeds is, and this is what the government is proposing to decriminalise, she explained.
However, almost all of those surveyed believed there were huge risks involved in prostitution, indicating they perceived nothing ‘normal’ about the job.
96% of those surveyed believed prostitution carried a real risk of physical injury, 98% said sex work carried a risk of sexual violence, and 99% believed there is a risk of sexual health problems involved in the job.
And the overwhelming majority saw prostitution as bad for the country, with three out of four saying those involved in money-laundering, human trafficking and the sale of drugs were the only ones who stood to profit from its legalisation.
On the other hand, Borg said 80% believed that if the legalisation of prostitution went ahead, sexual violence would increase, particularly towards women and girls, who all to often found themselves victims of this violence.
“Younger girls are especially at risk, since there is an increase in demand for a younger age group,” she said.
To add to this, since the government does not plan to open brothels for the time being, this will inevitably lead to prostituted persons offering their services from pop up brothels in flats, and homes, in cars, public gardens, she continued.
In response to this, 81% of those surveyed declared they would feel unsafe knowing that a residence next to them is being used as a pop-up brothel.
Other countries, where prostitution had been legalised had also experienced a resulting expansion of the sex industry, and the survey results showed the Maltese did not want the sex industry in Malta to expand, said Dr Borg.
75% of respondents said prostitution has negative impacts that cannot be ignored and 89% agreed the government should provide welfare to help people not get drawn into prostitution in the first place.
“The message is very clear. We are at a crossroads and we are still in time to find solutions that work for this country. Let’s not open up a trade that is going to bring a lot of problems to those vulnerable people that have been caught within it as well as the Maltese,” Dr Borg said
A total of 402 participated in this scientific telephone survey conducted by MISCO in February. The local lobby group collaborated with the European’s Women’s Lobby and the Coalition on Human trafficking and prostitution which is made up of 45 organisations, to carry out the study.