Sex workers in Belgium will be able to enjoy labour rights on par with all other workers in the country, Source: Depositphotos

First in the world: Belgium grants labour rights to sex workers

First in the world: Belgium grants labour rights to sex workers

Two years after also being the first European country to decriminalize prostitution

In less than two years, Belgium has become a trailblazer and a pioneer when it comes to bringing prostitution from the underground and into the legal economy. Last week, the country’s parliament adopted a law that codified the labour status of sex workers, allowing them to enter into contracts and enjoy benefits such as guaranteed working hours and wages.

The new legislation will promote the labour rights of sex workers and give them access to social security as well, thus effectively ending economic discrimination towards people working in that sector on the part of the authorities.

The law also includes safety guarantees, such as sex workers being able to refuse certain acts or clients without it being grounds for dismissal and an emergency button in every room. 

Fast change in official attitude

The new law thus makes Belgium the first country on the planet to formally recognize sex work as a legitimate profession. The pioneering shift in legislation is all the more impressive given that only two years ago, practising prostitution was still considered a crime in the eyes of the authorities.

In June 2022, however, Belgium became the first European country to decriminalize sex work (and the second in the world after New Zealand).

"We can no longer turn a blind eye and pretend that sex work does not exist," said Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Federal Economy and Employment Minister, last year.

As far as employing sex workers, there are still conditions to be met. Employers will need to have a clean criminal record and guarantee that a reference person will be present at all times. Anyone who employs sex workers outside the legal framework will still be liable to prosecution.



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