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Lithuanian people are ready for a future free from sexual exploitation

If you have ever looked at the Lithuanian law on administrative offences, you probably know that prostitution is illegal in Lithuania, and Article 182 (1) of the Code of Administrative Law Violations makes it an administrative offence punishable by a fine. Moreover, Prostitution as an administrative offence could be considered in case a prostituted woman is older than 16 years and of sound mind. Can you guess when this regulation was introduced by the Code of Administrative Offenses? If you can’t answer, we have got you! Article 182 (1) dates back to as early as 1987 which was 35 years ago! Lithuania was still a part of the Soviet Union, the USSR had sunk into a deep economic crisis, and Lithuanian people were trying to speak up on their rights to freedom and had completely different lifestyles and views on every matter. Yes, we understand that life was different then but it is 2022 now and we are living in a modern world that has experienced the growth of tolerance as a political and social belief.

What we are trying to say in the previous paragraph is that Lithuanian people have to go through a lot to get where they are today. Their knowledge has developed and they are ready to overcome some abnormalities and unfairness in the casual rhythm of life all around the country. To justify these statements, Klaipeda Social and Psychological Support Center with the support of the European Women's Lobby and research, design and campaign consultancy The Language conducted a study delivered by Baltijos Tyrimai in August 2021 on how modern-day Lithuanians perceive prostitution and whether or not they agree with the Law that has been in place for 35 years.

The study results were shocking and people’s opinions directly prove the necessity of altering Article 182 (1) in the Code of Administrative Offenses. According to the study, 91% of the respondents perceive that physical injury and sexual violence are a risk for individuals working in prostitution, while 92% stated that mental trauma and sexual health problems are also risky for those working in prostitution. It is important to note here that the vast majority of people in prostitution would prefer not to do it. 9 out of 10 women in prostitution have said that they would leave it if they could (Farley, 2003). Moreover, the majority of respondents disagree with the idea of legalizing prostitution in Lithuania. According to them, legalizing prostitution will lead to sex tourism, increased organized crime, inappropriate attitudes of men toward women, more difficulties with getting out of prostitution, and the increased sex trade. These statements are consistent with those stated by Farley (2003) that over two-thirds of women in prostitution reported PTSD mental trauma on par with soldiers returning from war and 62% of women in prostitution have reported having been raped.

Potential social impacts of the legalization of prostitution have also been discussed in this study. 65-72% of participants believe that the legalization of prostitution can lead to lessened reports of sexual assault, young people seeing prostitution as a career choice, difficulties in gaining social equality for women, difficulties with educating young people on the importance of sexual consent, and prosecutors and courts being less sympathetic to victims of sexual offences.

Additionally, 80-81% of participants agree that prostitution is sexual exploitation and people should be supported to leave it and it is a form of sexual violence and should be stopped. That is why it is important for Lithuania to accept the Equality Model. The Equality Model supports people who are vulnerable to exploitation and reduces selling and buying. Individuals operating as escorts or in brothels benefit from decriminalization because they know the law is on their side. They are no longer being pursued by the police. They are considered crime victims and witnesses. The burden of criminality is focused on pimps, traffickers, and brothels who exploit others, and sex buyers are held responsible and accountable for the impacts of their behaviour. A study by Baltijos Tyrimai asked its participants questions related to the support of the Equality Model. The majority of the participants believe that the government should provide welfare supports to help people not get drawn into prostitution and the government should provide welfare supports to help people to leave prostitution.

Hence, the Equality Model is a perfect opportunity for the maturation of the country and to increase the tolerance toward its citizens. The Model protects individuals in prostitution and supports those who want to leave prostitution without them having to deal with the legal consequences that are not only disproportionally placed on women - victims of prostitution, but also place them in a blind spot of finding escape from sex trafficking system. While the majority of people are against legalizing prostitution, they agree that it can be beyond harmful for those working in this field. Therefore, they fully agree with the idea of the Equality Model - decriminalization of prostituted women will make it easier for those that have suffered from all the negative aspects of prostitution while pimps, traffickers, brothels, and sex buyers will be held responsible for the harm their actions can cause.

So, dear Lithuania, time to make some effective changes for your people and for the well-being of your country as a whole.

Article written by: Mariam Mestiashvili

Study conducted by: Klaipeda Social and Psychological Support Center with the support of European Women's Lobby (Belgium), The Language consultancy (Ireland) and delivered by Baltijos Tyrimai (Lithuania


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