“Belgium is the first country in Europe to decriminalize sex work”
ILLUSTRATION BY MATT HANEY, GPJ
The House of Representatives gave its final approval to the reform of sexual criminal law in plenary session on Thursday night. The bill, introduced by Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, aims to take into account the evolution of society and to place the notion of consent at the heart of the new legislation.
“In terms of sex work, this is a landmark reform,” comments Minister Van Quickenborne. “It ensures that sex workers are no longer stigmatized, exploited and made dependent on others. Belgium is the first country in Europe to decriminalize sex work.”
“This is a historic reform. It ensures that sex workers are no longer stigmatized, exploited and made dependent on others.”
The text approved on Thursday is the result of several months of work: the Justice Commission had conducted three days of hearings of actors and experts, including the College of Public Prosecutors, the College of Courts and Tribunals, the High Council of Justice, Avocats.be, university professors or the associations Utsopi, Espace P, SOS Incest, Women of Law or Child Focus. Several demonstrations aiming at amending the project, in particular of the Faces network which gathers several feminist associations, had also been organized. Following the hearings, many amendments were tabled.
“The work that is now being done on the question of our status is dizzying,” wrote sex worker, activist and artist Marianne Chargois :
“But to hear a Minister of Justice quote the words of sex workers, noting that they are admirable, to see that Vincent Van Quickenborne has defended our legitimacy to exist to the end, despite this last year of continued pressure… these are precedents that have never existed.
Tonight, a minority battle was won. And to taste for the first time what tears of joy feel like is a thrill beyond words.”