Sex workers perform songs at an event to celebrate decriminalization, Brussels, Belgium. Photo Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Joanna Gill

Society Belgium9. June 2022

Historic Move: Sex Work No Longer a Crime in This Country

Belgium becomes the first European country to decriminalize sex work, thus granting rights to sex workers, reducing exploitation and violence, and boosting their access to medical services.

“Decriminalisation will provide a clear framework with minimum conditions that can be controlled, so that problematic situations will be detected more quickly,” says a Justice Ministry spokesperson.

From now on, sex workers can set their own terms, and get legal protection to work ad safely as any other worker. Within the new law, hotel owners, accountants, or web developers are no longer liable for prosecution as enablers. And should landlords charge exorbitant rents and banks close accounts, sex workers have the right to sue them for discrimination. The next step is to guarantee them access to a pension, paid annual leave, sickness, and maternity leave. “You prosecute the ones that don’t respect the labor code,” says Daan Bauwens from the union of sex workers Utsopi,  who believes that destigmatizing sex work reduces the risk of violence, and of infections like HIV.

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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