Following the removal of Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar from Cabinet, the Coalition on Human Trafficking and Prostitution is calling on the government to review its position on decriminalising prostitution and sex buying in Malta.
“The government’s position, spearheaded by former Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar, was ill-informed of the human, societal and economic costs of the proposal to legalise sex-buying. It fails to acknowledge, much less address, the many perverse and damaging consequences that this course inevitably steers us towards,” the coalition said in a statement.
The Coalition on Human Trafficking and Prostitution consists of over 40 NGOs that have come together calling for the Nordic Model to be adopted, where sex buyers are penalised. The coalition has stressed that legalising prostitution will turn Malta into a hub of sex tourism.
The NGOs issued the statement after Cutajar was found to have breached ethics when brokering a €3.1 million sale of an Mdina property to Yorgen Fenech who is accused of being complicit in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The organised were critical of Cutajar’s proposed reform, saying it is “replete with dysfunction and dystopian realities”. Crucially, it fails to acknowledge the inextricable link between legalised prostitution and human trafficking.
Despite demonstrably strengthening the resolve and capacity to combat trafficking, the US State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report finds Malta still failing to achieve minimum standards for its elimination. The report highlights inadequacies in our capacity to identify victims, coordinate between ministries, enforce labour recruitment regulations and monitor massage parlours where there was a higher incidence of trafficking indicators.
“Accepting the inevitability of increased trafficking as a result of the government’s current proposal, these existing difficulties will be exacerbated. Malta will slide deeper into failing to meet minimum standards with more disenfranchising consequences for us all.”
The coalition said that, following the FATF greylisting, Malta must improve its capacity to investigate and prosecute money laundering and tax evasion. The global sex trade is worth around €1 billion annually and controlled by international gangs and networks of pimps and traffickers.
“There are significant vested interests in maintaining and expanding the trade, equipped with top-shelf expertise in circumnavigating the state to launder ill-gotten gains. Creating a veil of legality is the enabling environment for pimps and traffickers to hide illicit profits. When we are already failing to investigate and prosecute money laundering and tax evasion crimes to requisite international standards – why would we make the problem worse and more difficult for ourselves?” the coalition said.
The group pointed out that Cutajar’s position was informed by a technical committee lacking the technical and field expertise in the human, social and economic realities of these challenging and complex issues. It has excluded the wisdom and experience of multidisciplinary experts, including any of our Coalition’s 46 member organisations representing all of Malta’s leading experts and many of Europe’s.
They called on Minister Owen Bonnici, who was handed Cutajar’s equality portfolio despite having been found guilty of breaching human rights while justice minister, to change the technical committee and to work on a reform that does not criminalise victims of the sex industry but removes the exploitative and abusive power and control of johns, pimps and traffickers while ensuring that trafficking does not expand.