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31 May, 2024
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Cypriot commissioner wants women out of sex work

Gender commissioner sees prostitution as violence, targets stereotypes, wants public debate on sex industry


Cyprus’ gender commissioner is on a mission to steer debate on ending prostitution, saying she wants to criminalize paid sex and offer “a way out” for women in the unregulated industry of the world’s oldest profession.

According to Philenews, Gender Commissioner Josie Christodoulou is launching a campaign to end prostitution, one of her main goals, along with tackling the pay gap between men and women, female empowerment, and gender discrimination.

“I see prostitution as violence, it is clearly power and control over a woman’s body,” Christodoulou said.

'Personally I would like us to follow the Irish model, which criminalizes the purchase of sex, meaning the customer, while at the same time offering women comprehensive programs to exit prostitution'

The commissioner, who previously worked as an unpaid gender advisor for the foreign ministry, went on to say she would push for legislation to protect women by criminalizing the purchase of sexual services.

“Personally I would like us to follow the Irish model, which criminalizes the purchase of sex, meaning the customer, while at the same time offering women comprehensive programs to exit prostitution,” she said.

Christodoulou, who previously advised the foreign ministry on matters including sex trafficking and violence against women, told Philenews that she would seek public debate on policies regarding prostitution and the sex industry “so that we can move forward with a new legal framework that can protect these women.”

“It is shown through studies internationally that trafficking is facilitated wherever prostitution is legal,” Christodoulou argued.

But critics have argued that lack of regulation is dangerous for sex workers, who often rely on abusive illegal networks including in the Republic of Cyprus, where prostitution is legal but remains unregulated.

The recent murder of a prostitute in Limassol has stirred debate on social media, with many fearing crime was on the increase while also worrying that illegal networks often force sex workers into the hands of pimps who exploit them.

Stereotypes, sexualization, gender gap

Christodoulou also spoke against the gender gap, citing a recent case where a boys’ team was said to have been favored over a girls’ team in subsiding a sports mission abroad.

The commissioner is also fighting gender stereotypes in advertising and further calling for their deconstruction as well as better education and prevention. She said her office teamed up with the state’s advertising regulatory agency, citing a recent example where a highway billboard was taken down.

“It was on the Nicosia-Larnaca highway and they pulled it down. The ad had to do with cleaning services. It was talking about cleaning ladies and had a drawing of a smiling woman wearing an apron,” Christodoulou said.

The gender commissioner argued the ad was replicating negative stereotypes about the role of women.

Christodoulou has spoken in the past against stereotypes that she believed were sexualizing women.

A tourism video in 2021 was pulled down after critics, including Christodoulou, said a woman emerging out of the water and approaching an eldery man on a beach was sexist.

The commissioner also had previously weighed in on an another controversy about a portable urinal for men in the shape of a naked woman in an explicit sexual position.

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