When the Law Meets Feminisms: The Shortcomings of Contemporary Prostitution Policies across the European Union

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Prostitution is a multi-faceted reality at the intersection of divergent meanings. Some feminism narratives have led to its polarised interpretation, conflating prostitution with a practice of gender oppression or an instance of personal autonomy. Framed according to legal principles, such binary has been transposed into three legal frameworks that are currently in force across the European Union; namely, neo-prohibitionism (where the purchase of sexual services is criminalised), abolitionism (where all the ancillary activities to prostitution are criminally prosecuted) and neo-regulamentarism (where prostitution is decriminalised and regulated by law). Against this background, this article will attempt to understand to what extent the legal reasonings behind these frameworks are divergent and whether the legal solutions in force are suitable within the multi-faceted realm of prostitution. Its final aim will be to posit an alternative set of legal principles able to address the contemporary shortcomings and form the basis for more inclusive regulation. By doing so, it will also seek to integrate the legal discourse with the feminist literature that the national legislators have traditionally disregarded, as well as the claims shared by sex workers' organisations in fighting for their legal protection at the international and European level.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102467
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

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  • feminism
  • prostitution
  • discrimination
  • consent
  • intersectionality
  • equality


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