Monday, January 19, 2004

Attack of the Prudes

Is the Irish government so utterly bereft of new ideas for its presidency that it should float as silly a scheme as this one? And isn't it surprising that the proposed legislation should have been spurred by a report from the ultimate nanny-state?

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ireland, current president of the European Union, said Monday it would propose a ban on paying for sex throughout the EU but held out little hope of agreement among the 15-nation bloc.

"(It) has not been discussed in any meaningful way at European level yet, but certainly it is something which will have to be considered during the Irish presidency," Willie O'Dea, minister of state at the Irish Department of Justice, told reporters.

O'Dea was responding to questions from reporters about a report on the multibillion dollar sex industry drawn up by Swedish European Parliament member Marianne Eriksson, which suggested a ban on paying for sex. Sweden is the only EU state where it is illegal to pay for sex.

"I would envisage that it is one of those controversial proposals where it will be difficult to find common ground, but I certainly think it should be put up for discussion," O'Dea said.


"We are faced with a very wealthy and powerful industry, one of the richest in the world, which is quoted on several stock exchanges," Eriksson said.

Making Germans accountable

She recommended that the EU should ban companies such as German sex shop chain Beate Uhse Ag and Sweden's Private Media Group Inc., from being listed.

Reacting to the report, a spokeswoman for Private Media Group said being listed meant it was more accountable and regulators had greater control of the company.

"Banning or trying to build barriers won't necessarily enable a greater control over the industry. There is an enhanced risk of pushing it underground," said spokeswoman Alex Moore.

Wonderful. Europe-wide legislation to block voluntary transactions between willing adults, just because their activities don't accord with the proprieties of a few politicians? The sheer cheek of the proposal beggars the mind. It simply doesn't cross the minds of certain people that some things just aren't their business, whether they approve of them or not. Really, how difficult is the concept to grasp? As for the defense put forward by the Private Media Group representative - it just goes to show how compliant so many Europeans have become that they should think of defending their freedoms by phrasing things in terms of being under more regulatory control, rather than insisting on their rights to trade wherever and with whomever they please.

It will be interesting see just how far this proposal gets - let's just hope that the Dutch and the Germans don't feel themselves obliged to make the Irish presidency "successful" by selling their citizens' freedoms down the river. The last thing Europe needs is the imposition of Swedish-style prudery across the entire continent.