Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to compliment my colleagues from the Canadian Parliament, and all the witnesses and persons present.
I am a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe, for the ones who might not know, is much larger than the European Union. It comprises 47 member states. It is the big Europe, from Russia to Portugal.
One of our main concerns is the elevated number of people who are trafficked every year. It is estimated in Europe that between 70,000 and 140,000 people every year are put on the circuit of trafficking human beings. The problem is that 84% of the victims of trafficking is for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced prostitution.
Although we understand that prostitution and trafficking are separate phenomena, there is a strong link between prostitution and trafficking. This concern lead the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to nominate me as rapporteur for the report that is called “Prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe”. We are talking about modern slavery in Europe when all these people are forced to do something against their will.
I would like to show you a map of Europe. If it's possible that you can see, there are many different situations approaching the prostitution phenomenon in Europe. You see, in red, the countries in Europe where there is a total prohibition on prostitution. Then you see, in blue, the countries where prostitution is accepted but some aspects are criminalized. The ones in green are the ones where prostitution is legal. The ones in pink are the ones that have approached the Swedish model, where the purchase of sexual services is criminalized, as is the case in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, for the moment.
In this report, there was no intention of making any kind of moral judgment, and there is also no philosophy or ideology in the report. I tried to go to certain member states to conduct fact-finding visits and missions, and to have dozens and dozens of meetings with members of government; members of Parliament; NGOs, including sex worker organizations; police forces; and all the types of institutions that deal in one way or another with the phenomenon of prostitution. We were convinced that the policies on prostitution could have an impact on reducing or increasing the level of trafficking of human beings. That's why I went, first of all, to Sweden. That was the basis of the motion for this report, to study the Swedish model and see the weaknesses and strengths of that model.
There are no models that are 100% perfect. They are all subject to criticism, of course, but we have to check the results. I went to Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, which are three examples of legalized systems of prostitution. I wanted to check the results of these policies on legalizing prostitution.
Let me start by saying that the Swedish model—after 1999, with the sex purchase act, prohibiting and sanctioning the purchase of sexual services but not their sale—really had an intention. They wanted to curb the demand because they wanted to attack the root cause. The root cause is that without man's demand, there would be no demand for trafficking of human beings. The prostitution industry would not be able to flourish so much.
They are taking the basis that prostitution is harmful to women and is also affecting the boundaries of equality between men and women. It's a barrier to gender equality. Also, they think that this distinction between voluntary and forced prostitution is not relevant.
I must tell you in the beginning, in 1999, when this purchase act was approved, there was a big division in Swedish society. Some political parties were against, some others were in favour, and the society was divided.
One of the conclusions after all these years, since 1999 until now, is that now there is a large consensus, or at least the majority of public opinion supports this policy. All of the political forces—I spoke with all of them in the Parliament—stand together. There is no division on the political forces, so the results are being appreciated.
Of course, there is the criticism that when you attack prostitution on the street probably you are making it behind the scenes, and this would put more danger on the women. But the fact is that there are other ways of checking if this is true or not, if the Internet is replacing the street.
The other ways...for instance, Interpol intercepted a lot of calls and intercepts every day, and the calls between the criminal organizations that are connected with the trafficking on human beings don't consider Sweden anymore as an attractive country for their business. This is also some kind of reality.
The aim in Sweden was really to eliminate rather than regulate the prostitution. They have sanctions. They have administrative sanctions just like fines, and they have prison as criminal sanctions. But it's also important to say that practically no one was sent to prison because usually it remains on the fines. What they want is to send a strong message to the public that prostitution is not acceptable on their standards.
May I also tell you that the number of people who have been trafficked in Sweden, according to the data available—I will mention the problem with the data—has decreased substantially.
Let me just tell you that I went to Germany. Germany introduced in 2002 the legalization of prostitution. What I heard from many organizations is the following. The main proposals of the legalization system all failed because one of the main proposals was to attack the criminal organizations that were behind the scenes of trafficking and prostitution, and the result was totally the contrary.
Another one was to improve the status of prostitutes, and it's absolutely the contrary. The prostitutes are no longer checked either on health or on safety. Even the police have no access to the brothels. The industry has totally and tremendously expanded.
Now some things happen in Germany that I think, from the perspective of human rights, we should not accept that human beings, and women especially, are treated like that. What is called gang bangs and what is called the flat rate, and that is described by the press and the media.... I have a lot of articles about it.
It's really unacceptable that one man can pay 70 euros or 100 euros and can have sex with as many women as he wants to. At the end there are some who make the comment that the women are not in good condition to have sex. Of course. There are no timetables. There are no limits. They don't have a home. They live in the brothels. So this is the situation, and that was confirmed by many people on both the political side and the NGO side.
We have the sex workers' organizations, and they all claim they have the right, and this is some kind of right to choose prostitution as a way of being. But the problem, and my conviction after these meetings, either in Sweden, or in the Netherlands, or in Germany, or in Switzerland, is that those associations of sex workers really do not represent what is the reality in Europe, and I mean it. It's in Europe. I'm talking about the European experience.
What happens is that, in reality, the great majority of prostitutes nowadays in Europe are trafficked. They are there against their own will. Many of them are illegal and are not represented by these sex worker organizations. That is the problem; they don't have a voice.
If you look at the advertisements, it's very easy to understand. They are circulating between town to town, between member state to member state. When we read that there is a new stock of new flesh in town coming from this place or that place, we easily understand that they are controlled by mafias. They are controlled by criminal organizations. That was exactly what these countries that have adhered to the legalization wanted to avoid. Look at the Netherlands, for instance. In the Netherlands, you see that the mayors in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague are reducing the number of licences for what is called the red light district, those windows where the women present their product.
When the police in the Netherlands made a report saying that 90% of the famous red light district in Amsterdam was controlled by criminal organizations, this is totally the opposite of the intention when they legalized prostitution in that country.
Of course, I'm doing a report—