Posted on 18 November 2011
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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