Brussels mayor doesn’t understand why prostitution is allowed again
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Brussels mayor doesn’t understand why prostitution is allowed again

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The mayor of the City of Brussels, Philippe Close, does not understand the decision of the Council of State to overturn the prostitution ban on his territory while bars have to close, but said he will still respect it.

“How do you explain that bars are closed, but that the directive to keep a distance of 1.5 metres does not apply to prostitution?” Close said during the municipal council on Monday evening. “I do not understand that.”

He said he does not understand the Council of State ruling to overturn the ban “in these Covid-19 times, when we have to maintain physical and social distance,” but will respect the decision.

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The Council of State is the legal body which deals with cases questioning the legality of the decisions of all levels of government. Normally, governments also submit their legislative proposals for scrutiny before they become law.

At the end of September, the City of Brussels issued a ban on prostitution in order to curb the spread of the new coronavirus on its territory.

The ban did not only concern street prostitution, which happens mainly in the Alhambra district, but also sex work in any buildings in the territory of Brussels 1000, meaning that the district’s so-called rendez-vous hotels also had to shut their doors.

The decision led to a lot of anger from Belgium’s sex worker union UTSOPI, which said that the virus was only used as “an excuse” to shut the sector down.

Many of the sex workers in the City of Brussels, especially those working the streets in the Alhambra district, already were in precarious situations, with the ban only making it harder on them, according to the union.

Several organisations announced their intention to appeal against the decision, and on 9 October, the ban was overturned by the Council of State. The court ruled that a municipality did not have the authority to order such a ban, which can only be done by a regional or federal authority.

Municipal council member Mathias Vanden Borre (N-VA) agreed with Close’s lack of understanding for the Council of State’s decision, and asked the mayor to ask Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort to set up an approach for the entire Capital Region.

According to council member Céline Vivier (MR), banning prostitution does not help, “something that has been proven many times before,” adding that a better legal framework is necessary.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times