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Legalisation of sex work opposing it

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  • 1. LEGALISATION OF SEX WORKA REASON TO OPPOSE IT1/6/2012Dr. RAHUL MATHEW NIMMAGADDATATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
  • 2. Victor Hugo a famous novelist and human rights activist in his well known novel LesMisérables quoted that “We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this isnot true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.” Can the physical, social, and psychological harms of prostitution be controlled ordecreased by decriminalization, regulation, or other state monitoring? Is there any way to makeprostitution safer? Is it possible to protect the human rights of those in prostitution? Doeslegalization or decriminalization decrease the dangers of prostitution? This house has moved the motion that Sex work should be legalized. I stand before youto oppose the motion. Most countries of the world have an ambiguous stand for legalization ofsex work including India. Sex work has been legalized in few countries of the world likeNetherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the state of Nevada in USA and so on. In Indiaon the other hand prostitution / sex work is legal but a number of related activities includingsoliciting in public place, keeping a brothel, pimping and pandering are outlawed. Why legalization of sex work? The proponents of legalization of sex work quote thefollowing reasons for supporting the argument of legalization of sex work. Legalization isadopted and proposed as solutions for the problems associated with sex work such as publichealth concerns, safety of prostituted women, containment of organized crime, increasing theamenities in the brothels, making women safer, eliminating street prostitution, eliminatingtrafficking of women and children and to promote the occupational safety of sex workers. Butthe underlying principle behind these arguments is that male lust and sexuality is seen asuncontrollable, and in the absence of such safety valves men will rape all women. There aresome arguments put forth that prostitution is a necessary evil that helps preserve the family andprevent rape of women. Prostitution and even more so legalizing it actually perpetuates ratherthan challenging patriarchal ideology. The UN Declaration of Human Rights 1948 guarantees human dignity and integrity to all.Prostitution is violence against women and violates the most basic human rights to sexualautonomy and integrity. The human rights of women everywhere are seriously threatened by themassive and growing exploitation of women. The Convention for the Suppression of the Trafficin Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others 1949 declares prostitution and theaccompanying evil of trafficking for prostitution, to be incompatible with the dignity and worthof every human being. The state has a duty towards its citizens to give equal opportunities beyond caste, class,region, religion and above all gender. One of the few reasons for pushing people into prostitutionis poverty and illiteracy. The state has failed in its duty to provide equal rights and opportunitiesto all its citizens and if the state intends to legalize prostitution, it is only going to prove that theDr. RAHUL MATHEW NIMMAGADDA 2011HS016
  • 3. state has revoked its responsibility. It will guide people that if there is absence of opportunitiesthen women can take up sex work as a respectable profession. Can a woman on social security ordole be asked to take up prostitution as a fitting work? Prostitution is offering sexual intercourse for pay. In this process there is acommodification of women. To legitimize the commodification of human beings is not only anineffective policy, it is an unconscionable abdication of the state’s responsibility to protect itscitizens and promote the value of human life. Legalization is embarked upon with the aim of preserving the public’s health fromSTD’s. In fact the object is to protect the health of the male buyers. Legalization will make itmandatory that all sex workers will need to undergo regular medical checkups. Why does thesame legalization not make it mandatory for all clients also to undergo mandatory medicalcheckups? Can we take the individual rights of a person in a particular profession granted? Prostitution causes many health problems like cervical cancer, traumatic brain injury,HIV, STD’s, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, premature old age and many more. There is ainherent social stigma attached to sex workers across the globe and more so in India. This isitself causing a lot of problem of non diagnosis of many cases of HIV/AIDS, STD’s and cervicalcancer. The death rate among sex workers is 40 times higher than general population accordingto a study. Legalization intends to increase the condom usage rate to prevent spread of HIV/AIDSand STD’s. The present condom use in India as per NFHS – 3 is 5.2%. According to a studydone in South Africa, women were at a higher risk for physical violence when they insisted oncondom use with customers. 47% of women in U.S. prostitution stated that men expected sexwithout a condom, 73% reported that men offered to pay more for sex without a condom, and45% of women said that men became abusive if they insisted that men use condoms (Raymond,Hughes, et al., 2001). Prostitution is inherently exploitative and fosters sexual violence. Legalization increasesperverted forms of sex like sadomasochism and other kinky forms of sex. Sadomasochism is theworst form of physical torture any human being can endure and there is no legal course for thesame because it was paid for under the legalization ambit. In Netherlands and Las vegas, Nevadawhere prostitution is legalized, there has been increased reports of rape and violence against thewomen. In a 9 country study it was found that 95% of sex workers experienced sexualharassment on the job. In Germany, 59% of the sex workers believed that their legal status doesnot increase their safety from sexual assault. According to a study done by Potterat et al., in 2004about 50% of sex workers are murdered in the US.Dr. RAHUL MATHEW NIMMAGADDA 2011HS016
  • 4. The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International (CATW) has conducted2 major studies on sex trafficking and prostitution, interviewing almost 200 victims ofcommercial sexual exploitation. In these studies, women in prostitution indicated thatprostitution establishments did little to protect them, regardless of whether they were in legal orillegal establishments. The only time they protect anyone is to protect the customers. Legalization and regulation of sex work represents a return to a time when it wasconsidered reasonable for the state to take a role in providing disease free women for men’ssexual purchase. Legalization legitimizes the pimps, traffickers and the system of manipulation,thus increasing the emotional dependence of the trafficked women. The shelf life of the sexworker is also short and the woman would be thrown out or she becomes a part of the system. Legalization of sex work means there would be increased commercial sex which will inturn need more sex workers. This will lead to increased trafficking of women which is now doneby organized crime syndicates. Legalized or decriminalized prostitution industries are one of theroot causes of sex trafficking. One argument for legalizing prostitution in the Netherlands was that legalization wouldhelp end the exploitation of desperate immigrant women trafficked for prostitution. A reportdone for the governmental Budapest Group* stated that 80% of women in the brothels in theNetherlands are trafficked from other countries and 70% had no immigration papers. In the1970s, the majority of foreign prostitutes were from Thailand and the Philippines, in the 1980sfrom Latin America and the Caribbean. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many prostitutes camefrom Central and Eastern Europe. No more than one third was Dutch nationals, the remainderrepresenting 44 nationalities. The majority were from the Dominican Republic, Colombia,the Czech Republic, Romania and Poland. The government of the Netherlands promotes itself as the champion of anti-traffickingpolicies and programs, yet cynically has removed every legal impediment to pimping,procurement and brothels. In the year 2000, the Dutch Ministry of Justice argued for a legalquota of foreign sex workers, because the Dutch prostitution market demands a variety of bodies. Legalization also brings us to the forefront of another argument. If the government islegalizing sex work and establishment of legal brothels, will they also provide government loansfor the brothel entrepreneurs and pimps to establish business? Is legalization of sex work a wayto tax the burgeoning industry? In Netherlands, taxes from the sex work industry account for 5%of their GDP. There is a huge misuse of refugee status to supply women as part of the traffickingfor prostitution. Australia has legalized sex work and most of the prostitutes in that country areSouth East Asians. The law is taking a blind eye of the same because the earnings are around$ 1 million per weekDr. RAHUL MATHEW NIMMAGADDA 2011HS016
  • 5. In New Zealand, street prostitution is legalized and the state has intended to start safehouses or sex worker centres to facilitate the sex workers to take their clients. Will these becalled “State Brothels”? Caste, class, race and color segregations occur in most countries of the world. In India,most of the prostitutes come from the oppressed castes especially dalits. This is also a part of theage old devadasi system in which lower caste families dedicated their daughters to the templewho later became prostitutes. Even in New Zealand which has legalized prostitution and has theapartheid system the indigenous women are placed in the bottom of the race and class hierarchywithin prostitution. 89% of the women studied as part of a 9 country study said that they wanted to leaveprostitution but did not have other options for economic survival. To legalize and normalizeprostitution / sex work as a reasonable job choice for poor women makes invisible their strongdesire to escape prostitution. The government need to take immediate steps to protect the women from the bottomlesspit of prostitution by giving formal and non formal education, providing rehab care and laterreintegration of the women into society, creating awareness of their human rights. Mostimportantly they need to change their stand of ambiguous legality and move to the Swedishmodel of criminalizing the purchase of sex and not the seller. In legalizing sex work the policymakers will be engaging in a risky experiment with the lives of women. I would like to end by quoting Emma Goldman from Feminism “Nowhere is womantreated according to the merit of her work, but rather as a sex. It is therefore almost inevitablethat she should pay for her right to exist, to keep a position in whatever line, with sex favors.Thus it is merely a question of degree whether she sells herself to one man, in or out of marriage,or to many men! The economic and social inferiority of woman is responsible for prostitution.”Let’s fight it.Dr. RAHUL MATHEW NIMMAGADDA 2011HS016

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