Brussels to create unified policy for sex work
The authorities of the Brussels-Capital region have agreed to develop an integrated approach to sex work in the region. The new framework aims to establish "a harmonious and respectful relationship between all parties involved".
Belgium decriminalised sex work in March 2022, making it the first country in Europe and only the second in the world after New Zealand. However, the capital still struggles with an outdated and fragmented policy framework around sex work.
"Sex work is mainly concentrated around three municipalities, where policies are completely different, which is detrimental to the safety of sex workers and the liveability of neighbourhoods," said Brussels MP Els Rochette (one.brussels - Vooruit).
Brussels's most famous red-light district is Rue d'Aerschot, near Gare du Nord. The district straddles the municipalities of Schaerbeek and Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, which means that regulations vary depending on where on the street a brothel is located.
On Tuesday, the Brussels region voted in favour of a resolution for a regulatory framework in the parliament's Home Affairs Committee. "This is a comprehensive approach to provide the best possible framework for sex work," said Rochette.
"The aim of the resolution on sex work is a harmonious and respectful relationship between all parties involved," she said. The resolution provides for the creation of a consultation platform that will allow municipalities, the region, police zones, sex workers' representatives and neighbourhood committees to "work together on a common approach".
Concentration area 'still taboo'
The new resolution proposes several measures, including ensuring straightforward access to social services and healthcare, training social workers to guide or reorient sex workers in a non-stigmatising way, and improving access to public toilets in Brussels. Finally, the region wants a reference person for human trafficking for each police zone.
Opposition parties criticised the resolution. "The majority text falls short on many levels," said Brussels MP Mathias Vanden Borre (N-VA). "For us, it is clear that sex work must take place in a safe way, which for us is best done by banning window prostitution and only tolerating it in a defined concentration area - which is still a taboo in Brussels."
© BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM