Prostitution risks becoming further unregulated if the buyers of sex are criminalised, Equality Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar told Times of Malta on Friday.
Ms Cutajar was contacted after her announcement in a Lovin Malta interview that both sex workers and their clients would no longer face criminal repercussions under a proposed reform of the existing legal regime.
Her announcement caused an immediate uproar among a coalition of over 40 NGOs who are advocating the so-called ‘Nordic model’ that proposes to decrease the demand for prostitution by holding the client liable for prosecution while decreasing the vulnerability of the sex worker through decriminalisation.
However, in her comments to Times of Malta on Friday, Ms Cutajar remained steadfast in her views.
“In countries which are following the ‘Nordic Model’, we have seen prostitution being driven underground which is extremely dangerous,” she said.
She said that rather than copy other countries’ models, it was necessary to find an approach that suited the Maltese context.
While there were some women who were driven into sex work because of their vulnerability, others freely chose it as a profession.
"We need to keep in mind both of these realities and find a legal pathway to protect both of them."
NGOs Aditus and Integra Foundation, are also advocating for full decriminalisation of prostitution.
“We should shift the focus away from catch-all offences that criminalise most or all aspects of sex work, towards laws that protect sex worker’s health and safety and that oppose all acts of exploitation and trafficking in commercial sex,” the NGOs wrote in a document submitted for public consultation on the proposed reform.
Ms Cutajar also reiterated that while she was in favour of 'full decriminalisation' this did not mean that she condoned violence.
"We are against pimping and against people who believe they can make money from women's bodies," she said.