Legalized prostitution cannot exist alongside true equality for women.
The idea that women should be available for men’s sexual access is founded
on a structural inequality of gender, class, and race. Moreover, it is a violation
of international law that cannot go unchallenged. The failure to challenge
legalized prostitution undermines every human rights norm mandating the
dignity of the person and equality for all.
Prostitution is one of the most serious human rights issues we face today.
According to the renowned trafficking expert and activist, Gunilla Eckberg,
“Trafficking and prostitution of women and girls for profit is one of the fastest
growing global enterprises.”1 It is now ranked as the second most important
arena of international crime, trailing just behind illegal drug sales, and tied
with illegal arms sales.2 Women and children are particularly vulnerable to
forced prostitution in what amounts to modern slavery. Of the estimated
600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year,
approximately 80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. Trafficking of women and children is a growing problem that needs
to be tackled across the world.
At the same time, general acceptance of “sex workers” and the number of
the prostitution industry’s customers have likewise grown worldwide. The
prostitution legalization movement has contributed to this change. Numbers
are difficult to come by, but a British study found that the rate of paid sex with
women had doubled between 1990 and 2000, while the incidence of sexually
transmitted infections had also risen.4 Clearly, human trafficking allows the
market demand for sex to be met, in an economy which is willfully blind to
the source of its supply.
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