Czech officials skeptical of EU push to criminalize hiring of sex workers

Under a new proposal that seeks to protect vulnerable women, customers of sex workers could receive a financial penalty or even a jail term. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 06.11.2023 12:24:00 (updated on 06.11.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

A report released by the European Parliament (EP) may change how the Czech Republic regulates its legal sex industry. In September, the EP voted to send to the European Commission (EC) its recommendation for EU countries to adopt the "Nordic model" for handling prostitution. This model criminalizes the purchase of sex while decriminalizing its sale.

The report takes aim at the current system in many EU countries (including Czechia), arguing that it perpetuates gender inequality and takes advantage of women in vulnerable situations, such as those with low education or employment opportunities, single mothers, people in debt, and migrants.

The EC will now review the report and consider its recommendations. Any changes would overhaul how the Czech Republic regulates its legal sex industry, which currently exists in a legal gray area. But Czech leaders remain cautious about adopting the more prohibitive Nordic framework.

Mixed views in Czech politics

Prostitution is a divisive issue in the Czech Republic, where it is not penalized. The proposed Nordic model has received only lukewarm support, according to the Czech news site, primarily from the Christian Democrats and from the opposition movement ANO. On the other hand, the Civic Democrats and Pirates party – part of the current government coalition – are against the change, emphasizing the challenges in eradicating the longstanding practice of prostitution.

Chairman of the ODS parliamentary club Marek Benda expressed his reservations: "Unfortunately, prostitution is one of the world’s oldest occupations, so it can never be eradicated. According to my reports, the criminalization of customers only works in Sweden, and even there prostitution has not been removed." 

“With the introduction of the Nordic model in Sweden, there has been a shift in the attitudes of boys and men towards women engaged in prostitution. They see them as victims of exploitation rather than as objects to satisfy sexual desire. This discourages them from buying sexual services."

German member of European Parliament Maria Noich, who initiated the proposal.

Estimates suggest that 13,000 to 15,000 people make a living from prostitution in Czechia. Organized prostitution – carried out at brothels – is technically illegal, although private prostitution is allowed. Past attempts to prohibit prostitution in the country have not been successful, leaving a legal vacuum since 1922 when the Venereal Disease Prevention Act banned the existence of brothels.

No need to criminalize people, some Czech MPs say

Taťána Malá of ANO called for stricter regulation of the sex work business but stressed the need for careful consideration and expert input before moving toward criminalizing clients of prostitution.

Explicit support for the legalization of sex work is found among the Czech Pirates. It claims that the Nordic model could discriminate against (and potentially criminalize) those who voluntarily offer sexual services, who do it out of choice, and as a way to earn some extra cash.

Support for the Belgian model exists

Czech member of European Parliament Radka Maxová of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats political group suggests that a model used in Belgium – where a certified and regulated register of sex workers is in place – could be more suitable for the Czech Republic. This model involves inspections and citizenship requirements for sex workers, ensuring better protection.

While the EP’s proposal is not legally binding, it contributes to the ongoing discussion on how to address the issues of prostitution and gender inequality in the EU.

Do you think users of sex workers should be criminalized in Czechia?

Yes, it should be a criminal offense to hire a sex worker 17 %
No, things should stay as they are 9 %
Sex work and brothels should be entirely legalized in Czechia 74 %
133 readers voted on this poll. Voting is open
Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more