EWL News

We can end prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation now!

[Brussels, 26 April 2011] On 21 April EWL Policy Officer Pierrette Pape and EWL member Andrea Matolcsi published a joint contribution to the UN blog ’No to Violence Against Women’ as part of the EWL Campaign ’Together for a Europe Free From Prostitution’. Read the entry below.

On April 12th, 2011, the UN Regional Information Centre in Brussels, in partnership with the Goethe Institute, organized an event about the sexual exploitation of children to mark the International Day for Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery. After the screening of the powerful documentary Redlight, which tells the stories of Cambodian children trafficked into prostitution, representatives of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) and the MONA Foundation for the Women of Hungary, together with a representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were invited to engage in a discussion with the audience.

Trafficking is a channel to the systems of prostitution and therefore if there was no prostitution there would be no trafficking. Trafficking for sexual exploitation exists because there is a high demand for women and children in prostitution, and the only way to meet this demand is to “recruit” victims through using deception, lies, violence, force and/or the exploitation of another’s vulnerable situation. Although it is commonly held that prostitution is a ‘victimless crime’ and that most persons in prostitution are in it voluntarily without any physical, psychological or economic coercion, studies show the exact opposite to be the case. Moreover, since, globally, the average age of entering prostitution is 12-14 years, child prostitution – and prostitution in general – are grave and urgent problems.

The root cause of prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, as well as trafficking for this purpose, is inequality between women and men, compounded by ethnic and other socio-economic inequalities. Globally, women are reported to be victims in approximately 79% of trafficking cases (this includes all types of trafficking, including for labour exploitation and organs), while 79% of trafficking victims are subjected to sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation and trafficking exist because it is acceptable for those in society with more power (adult men) to purchase and use those with less power (women and children, and among them especially – but not exclusively – ethnic minorities, the poor, the disabled, etc).

Sexual exploitation and trafficking for this purpose are driven by the demand for sexual services, therefore it is the demand that needs to be tackled if we are to effectively combat the phenomena. Sweden since 1999, and Norway and Iceland since 2009 have legislation criminalizing the purchase of sexual services. In Sweden, where the law has been in effect the longest, prostitution has been reduced and trafficking has been kept at bay (whereas both have risen dramatically in neighboring countries that do not tackle the demand in their legislation or policies). Importantly, the legislation has also affected societal attitudes, and most Swedes – especially the youth – reject the idea of purchasing another person for sex. Other countries, Including Ireland and France, are currently considering adopting similar legislation.

Research and contacts to local social workers and authorities in countries which attempt to regulate prostitution (legalizing the operation of brothels, the organizing of prostitution, in some cases pimping/procuring, etc.) have confirmed that this approach increases trafficking and organized crime surrounding the sex industry, worsens the situation of persons in prostitution in terms of their physical and mental health and social standing, and negatively affects attitudes among society in general regarding the roles of men and women, as the acceptance of prostitution and sexual exploitation is the acceptance of the subordinate role of women and children as sexual objects to be used and the superior position of men with money as those who can use them. This means that even if we as individuals are not direct victims of sexual exploitation or trafficking, we all suffer from their existence.

The EWL believes that all forms of prostitution must be tackled, in order to effectively protect our children from sexual exploitation. And this can be done now! It is a matter of each of us standing up against the system of prostitution and supporting abolitionist policies! Join or contribute to EWL campaign ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’.

Pierrette Pape joined the European Women’s Lobby in 2009, where she works as Policy Officer and Project Coordinator. Andrea Matolcsi joined the MONA Foundation for the Women of Hungary (a member of the Hungarian Women’s Lobby) in 2008, where she is project coordinator.

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