Draft bill in Dutch Parliament offers useful tools in fight against human trafficking

Yesterday Dutch ECPM member party ChristianUnion, together with the Dutch Labour Party and Socialist Party presented a proposal to criminalize the purchase of sex from trafficked persons when the buyer can be reasonably presumed to have known of the abuse. The draft bill seeks to amend the Dutch Penal Code and to give the police and judicial authorities the possibility to combat human trafficking by dealing with the demand side (i.e. the customers) instead of only going after pimps and traffickers. ECPM applauds this proposal and urges the Dutch Parliament to swiftly adopt it.

The Netherlands was among the first European countries to legalize prostitution after many decades of prohibition but toleration. From the year 2000 prostitution has been considered a normal ‘profession’ with all rights and duties attached. The ChristianUnion (and SGP) has always been vehemently opposed to the legalization of prostitution as it goes against all notions of human dignity and our shared belief that men and women are created in the likeness of God.

In recent years a debate has flared up following several reports that pointed out large scale abuse of people working in prostitution and the extensive presence of organized crime in the legal prostitution sector. The Dutch police estimated in 2012 that at least 55% of people in prostitution were exploited. The Dutch National Rapporteur on Human also pointed out that in order to combat human trafficking in the sex industry, it is important to raise awareness and responsibility on the demand side of the abuses that take place. In the same period other countries had reformed their prostitution legislation in the direction of criminalizing the purchase of sex from trafficked people in the case of the UK (with Finland having already done so in 2006), or a general prohibition of purchasing sexual services in the cases of Norway and Iceland. This bill is an attempt to take a step in the right direction towards ending a terrible and dehumanizing form of modern-day slavery. It proposes a prison term of maximum 4 years or 20,000 euros fine.

Gert-Jan Segers, Member of the Dutch Parliament for the ChristianUnion said:

,,The purpose of this bill is not to fill our prisons with clients of prostitutes, but to make sure everyone keeps their eyes open. A woman covered in bruises, who offers her services for ten euros, with two bouncers before her door: that means something’s wrong. I have good hope to get broader support in Parliament for our proposal. And that is vital in our fight against coercion and abuse. People are no commodity!”

Leo van Doesburg, Director for European Affairs of the ECPM said:

,,The Netherlands for many years has proudly presented itself as a liberal country and pushed others to follow its example. Unfortunately this liberty enslaved many women. The reality shows that prostitution is far from being a normal industry. It is good that with this proposal responsibility for this modern slavery also lies with the client. I hope that the tide will now turn, that the Dutch see the problems with their approach more realistically and start protecting and respecting the inherent dignity of human life. And then let them push others to follow their example!”

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