Sex Workers in Brussels Successfully Challenge Police Regulation

European Regional Correspondent

The State council in the district of Saint-Josse, Brussels, ordered the suspension of the police regulation of window sex work on the 30th of November, 2015.

The regulation adopted in November prohibited sex work activities from 23h to 7h and stated sex workers could not work on Sundays. Sex work was allowed only in four streets of the town. The regulation also required sex workers to obtain a certificate of conformity, which costs 2500 EUROS.

The regulation intended to fight sex work, human trafficking, arms and drug trafficking.

The legal situation around sex work is complicated in Belgium. There is no clear federal law on sex work. Each municipality has its own regulations.

The spokesperson of the Belgian sex workers union UTSOPI Maxime Maes, stated, “in order to work in a window in Brussels, sex workers needed to buy the licence, it cost 2500 euros and it is valid for 5 years. Then the sex worker needed to pay 3000 euros every year to the municipality of Saint-Josse. Totally it makes 5500 euros. To pay this money an average sex worker needs 220 clients. It is a lot of money.”

“The vast majority of sex workers in Belgium are migrants. Politicians believe that every migrant sex worker is exploited. Automatically. You can't be migrant and do sex work willingly,” continued Maxime.

Five sex workers from the area filed a lawsuit for the suspension of the regulation before the Council of State.

The court found the certificates of conformity, the municipal administrative sanctions, and the enforced closing hours to be illegal. The town of Saint-Josse clearly committed an abuse of power by setting strict timetables during which sex work could take place.

Individual districts are not competent enough to operate a licence system - for which you have to be a licence holder to be able to be a prostitute - or to issue regulation within the field of prostitution, accompanied by administrative penalties and closing hours,” said Vincent Letellier, the lawyer of the sex workers who lodged an action with the Council. “That is within the jurisdiction of the federal government to decide,” he continued.

“There are problems and exploitation in Saint-Josse. We would like to work together with politicians and other organisations and find the best solution. The journalists and media are very friendly with us. We have a good lawyer too. But I don’t think the politicians will listen,” concluded Maxime.