Belgium’s Historic Decriminalization of Sex Work

In her Reuters article, “How COVID-19 helped sex workers in Belgium make history,” (May 31, 2022) writer Joanna Gill accounts for the Belgian Parliament’s groundbreaking decriminalization of sex work.

With the law’s recent implementation, Belgium became the first country in Europe to decriminalize sex work. The new law moves to ensure that sex workers can “set their own terms, reduce exploitation and violence, and make it easier to access medical services.”

While other European countries have legalized prostitution, they continue to have heavily restrictive measures as to whether selling or paying for sex is allowed in an asymmetrical form of criminalization.

Gill describes activists’ claims “the coronavirus pandemic was the catalyst for parliament’s March vote to remove sex work from the penal code, [as] lockdowns left sex workers with no income and – given their uncertain legal status – no unemployment benefits.” Therefore, too many this legal win marked the culmination of a three-decade-spanning push to decriminalize sex work in Belgium, for both those buying and selling sex.

“It’s the freedom to be me … the freedom to decide the conditions of my work,” an anonymous sex worker told Gill.

Read the complete article here.


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