By Constantinos Psillides
Eight months after Parliament voted to criminalise paying for sex, police have not made a single arrest according to Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou, who said she was concerned.
“While police have conducted a number of operations to battle trafficking, no arrest of people seeking to pay for sex has come to my attention. This is troubling development, since it endangers the benefits of this legislation and raises serious questions over the authorities’ willingness to enforce it,” Savvidou said in a report.
The law ensuring that sex clients are also made accountable in court was voted by Parliament on April 15, 2014. It stipulates that anyone who has reasonable suspicion that a woman was a victim of sex-trafficking but goes ahead and purchases sexual services should be held criminally accountable.
The crime of paying for sex in full knowledge that the person is a sex-trafficking victim carries a maximum prison sentence of three years or a fine up to the maximum of €15,000.
Police have been repeatedly criticised for the practice of busting sex-related establishments often through entrapment by sending an associate to buy sexual services with marked bills and then subsequently arresting the prostitutes or their pimps, but never the customers.
Savvidou said she was also concerned that the public still appeared to remain ignorant of the new legislation, despite “numerous events and campaigns aimed at discouraging sex clients.”
She welcomed the new legislation, noting that it shifted the focus to clients, toppling traditional views that the client has a right to pay women for sex while ignoring the fact that a third party was taking advantage of them and the conditions under she they were forced to provide that service.
Police could not be reached for comment.