Human trafficking and prostitution in European countries

Human trafficking and prostitution in European countries

Theme 2

Human trafficking and prostitution in European countries

Legislation and policy measures on prostitution and human trafficking have been changing over the decades in European countries, ranging from criminalization to decriminalizing and regulating such prostitution and human trafficking. Two theoretical perspectives on prostitution and human trafficking can be identified: 

  • an abolitionist perspective that rejects prostitution and that equates prostitution with violence against women and emphasizes its correlation/relation with human trafficking (“sex trafficking”), 
  • a laboristic perspective that advocates the decriminalization and regulation of prostitution as legitimate work for profit.

In the Netherlands, the views of interest organizations and politicians diverge widely on these two perspectives, which complicates policymaking, legislation and intervention. At the same time, human trafficking still occurs within the sex industry in many European countries.

As human trafficking, including forced prostitution, is often part of organized crime, the present sub-project has parallels with sub-project 1 In this project, too, a symmetrical approach will be adopted which places the rights of both victims and suspects (criminal organizations as well as the clients of prostitutes) in a central position. 

Key questions: 

  • What is the effectiveness of different legal regimes in Europe in combating forced prostitution? 
  • Do these regimes provide sufficient legal protection for sex wor¬kers as well as suspects in trafficking and the clients of prostitutes? 
  • What is the role of criminal organizations in sex trafficking? 
  • Why do the clients of prostitutes desist from making use of their services, or continue to do so, when they become aware of the human trafficking situation.