The question was posed... what is prostitution?
- "Commercialization of sexual deeds and the cornerstone of gender inequality"
- "Paid rape, involuntary servitude. It is not about sex to the person being sold, it is an ask of desperation for her as a result of the lack of alternatives"
- "Buying and selling of women and girls, sexual torture"
This is how the panel members defined and discussed prostitution. Despite these terrible descriptions, people often argue that prostitution and sex trafficking offer women in poverty a chance to make a living and a chance at a better life. It can be argued that they have more power and control than the men buying their services by taking advantage of their circumstances to make a living. This is the foundation for arguing that by legalizing prostitution, the women would be safer and have more control over the industry. It also allows them to take men and pimps to court that violate them. This panel argued, legal or not, these women are being violated which is demonstrated by their definitions. They do not have a choice and sex cannot be bought. It is only being bought by one person, the man, and the women is basically an object men can violate in whatever way they please.
The women on this panel felt very strongly that prostitution is not a choice, its not sex and it results in lifelong physical and psychological damage. Legalizing prostitution, as has been done in many countries, has not improved the situation at hand. In fact, violence in Germany increased and an illegal industry grew as a result. The panel agreed that the best way to go about legislation regarding sex trafficking and prostitution is the Nordic Model. The Nordic Model ensures that the women are not criminalized, focuses on punishing the sex buyers and provides exit services for the women. The police are trained not to detain these women in prisons for more then 48 hours because they are not the criminals. The sex buyers are sanctioned by more then just a slap on the wrist that equivalent to a violation for j walking. The exit services are extremely important so that women receive the psychological treatment they need, find out who she is and keep their records clean from criminal activity that allows them to move forward in life.
It is important the UN and the world recognize this model is the only model that makes sense and criminalizes the right individuals when it comes to sex trafficking and prostitution. A version of this model has been exemplified in Minnesota, through a non-profit called Breaking Free. The main goal is to provide a better way to deal with criminalizing sex buyers and taking care of the women upon exiting the industry. Additionally, the organization helps educate society about the reality of violence against women and help young girls understand there is an alternative.
The panel moderator was from the Coalition Against Trafficking and in Women (CATW) and more information can be found here http://catwinternational.org/. Vednita Carter's foundation, Breaking Free, can be found here http://www.breakingfree.net/.