The room was overflowing with conference participants, with many sitting on the floor and others crowding the doorway and hall outside. At the front sat a panel of six women, all with a testimony to share with us. A testimony demonstrating their personal realities as women who have survived prostitution.
The panel was titled “Impact Testimony: The Reality of Prostitution’s Legal Frameworks on the Ground,” sponsored by SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling For Enlightenment), The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and The Women’s Front of Norway. The stories the panelists told brought to life jarring truths about prostitution in Canada, the United States, England, and Germany. Although each had different experiences, there were commonalities among all of them. Many of them were victims of child exploitation, and were led into prostitution through family, abusive relationships, and severe poverty. Prostitution, a panelist remarked, is not a choice.
In all contexts, lack of government and legal support inhibits women and girls in prostitution from breaking free, and in many cases, works against them. In the countries discussed in the panel, the common legal frameworks are either prohibition or legality of prostitution. In either case, it is the women being prostituted and trafficked who are silenced, marginalized, and criminalized, while the buyers of sex and pimps remain free.
All panelists supported that prostitution and trafficking are one in the same, and strongly advocated for the implementation of the Nordic, or Abolitionist, Model as the most adequate for bringing justice for women being prostituted and trafficked. This model supports laws which criminalizes the person who buys the sex, and decriminalizes the sellers. The reality is this: current legal structures regarding prostitution in some of the world’s most powerful countries serve to marginalize and imprison girls and women, the victims. It is time for this to change.