In Europe, there is still a debate regarding whether prostitution should be legalized or not. I also have some difficulty to decide between the two principal arguments. On one side, legalization allows a better protection of sex workers, which is more than necessary regarding the danger of this occupation and the abuses that are committed. On the other side, I can’t see it otherwise than an exploitation of human beings that should be banned. Whereas the discussion is complex, it appears much easier to decide when we are talking about minors’ prostitution. The answer seems clear: children should be legally protected from prostitution. If someone would have asked me five years ago if the prostitution of minors was legal, I would have sworn that it was not possible in Switzerland … And I would have been wrong. Indeed, until 2013, the prostitution of minors aged between 16 and 18 was legal.
How that could be possible in 2010 in a western, supposedly developed nation? That seems crazy, but it was possible due to two factors combined together. First, prostitution is legal, contrary to the US, and only the forced prostitution is illegal. Second, the age of consent, which is the age at which a person is deemed legally competent to consent to have sexual intercourses, is fixed at 16 years old, as it is in most of US states.
Fortunately, in 2010, The Swiss Federal Council, approved the 2007 Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (or “Lanzarote Convention”), which took effect on July 1st, 2010. The modification of the Swiss Penal Code necessary to respect the terms of the convention was adopted in September 2013 and took effect on July 4th, 2014, which means legislators took 4 years to produce a law stating that requiring the services of minor prostitutes is a crime.
This situation was qualified as “ gap in the law” when it came to the attention of the public through the media, but I can’t prevent myself from thinking we did not legislate on that earlier because it was mostly a feminine problem. As often, these questions take years to solve and don’t seem to be taken seriously as a real problem.