An analysis of five years of implementation of the Law on Public Order and Peace (2016-2020) issued this week by the Autonomous Women's Center shows that engaging in prostitution is sanctioned on average 3.5 times more than the use of prostitution services, although legally responsible for prostitution are both persons who provide prostitution services and persons who use them.

During the 16 days of activism, the publication was sent to all misdemeanor courts, the Misdemeanor Court of Appeal, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs.

The key findings of the analysis entitled “I appeal to the court…“ - Monitoring of the five year implementation of the Public Peace and Order Act, Article 16 – Prostitution (2016 – 2020)” show:

  • 386 persons were convicted for engaging in prostitution (of which 356 were women and 30 were men);
  • 109 persons (all men) were fined for using prostitution services;
  • Most convictions were handed down by the Misdemeanor Court in Belgrade, where there is the biggest difference between the number of convictions for engaging in prostitution and the use of prostitution services;
  • Women convicted for engaging in prostitution are unemployed, mostly uneducated or poorly educated, more than half of them have children, and most are single mothers. In two-thirds of the cases, they engaged in prostitution on the street, for amounts from 1,500 to 2,500 dinars, and the average fine they were sentenced to was 30,000 dinars. As much as a third of these women were convicted of engaging in prostitution more than once, that is, from 2 to even 12 times;
  • Men convicted of using prostitution services generally have an established employment relationship, and an equal number of them (about a third) are unmarried and married/cohabiting. More than a third of them have children.

The analysis points to inconsistencies in judicial practice when it comes to determining the misdemeanor act of "prostitution". The majority of courts in Serbia strictly adhere to the definition of prostitution from the Law on Public Order and Peace as "the provision of sexual services for compensation in money or other value", and consider it necessary for a conviction that both the woman engaging in prostitution and the user of the service are caught in the act. On the other hand, some courts, based on the misdemeanor charges filed by members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, consider that the mere 'offering of prostitution services', that is, the intention or 'attempt' of the act, are sufficient for a conviction.

Because of all that has been said, the Autonomous Women's Center appeals to the importance of decriminalization of persons engaged in prostitution and systemic support for exiting programs. At the same time, we appeal that, while the current legal solution is in force, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the misdemeanor courts standardize their actions in such a way that the users of prostitution services are not exempted from responsibility.

The results of the analysis were presented at the Round Table "Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Prostitution in Serbia" held on November 30, 2022 in the premises of the Embassy of France, in cooperation with the Association of Citizens ATINA and with the presence of about 50 representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, misdemeanor courts, parliamentarians and deputies. Introductory speeches at the Round Table were given by Fatih Akčal, First Counselor at the Embassy of the Republic of France in Serbia, H.E. Ambassador of Sweden in Serbia, Anika Ben David, Brankica Janković, Commissioner for Protection of Equality and Marijana Savić, Director of ATINA.

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H.E. Jean-Claude Brine, French ambassador and Radmila Dragičević Dičić, judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation spoke about threats from transnational crime at the first panel "Advantages of the Abolitionist Prostitution Law". The analysis “I appeal to the court…“ - Monitoring of the five year implementation of the Public Peace and Order Act, Article 16 – Prostitution (2016 – 2020)” was presented by Sanja Pavlović and Vanja Macanović from the Autonomous Women's Center.

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The event was moderated by journalist Iva Parađanin.

A video clip from the Round Table is available at this link.

The analysis “I appeal to the court…“ - Monitoring of the five year implementation of the Public Peace and Order Act, Article 16 – Prostitution (2016 – 2020)”is available at this link..