Legalizing Prostitution at the U.N.

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United Nations Headquarters, New York City – When discussion at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Conference turned to sex trafficking and how to abolish the practice that enslaves from 700,000 to 4 million women and girls each year, liberal feminists at the United Nations asserted that the legalization of prostitution is a solution, arguing it would empower women.

But a panel presentation titled “Prostitution: Male Violence Against Women Exposed” shed light on how instead of eradicating sex trafficking, legalizing prostitution exacerbates the problem.

Melissa Farley, Director of Prostitution Research and Education, a project of the San Francisco Women’s Center, revealed the findings of a survey of 854 people currently or recently involved in prostitution in Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United States and Zambia, and their experiences of sexual and physical violence.

The survey showed that of those involved in prostitution:

89% wanted to escape, but did not have other options for survival;65% to 95% had been sexually assaulted as children;70% to 95% were physically assaulted;60% to 75% were raped;88% experienced verbal abuse and social contempt;68% met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. The severity of symptoms was in the same range as combat veterans seeking treatment, battered women seeking shelter, rape survivors, and refugees from state-organized torture.

Next, Sheila Jeffreys, associate professor of the University of Melbourne and Director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women for Australia, spoke on the conditions women suffered under legalized prostitution. The industry is mainstreamed in Australia, which has legalized brothels in New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Victoria.

Jeffreys explained that legalized prostitution did not solve the problem of criminal involvement in the industry. It did not solve the problem of unregulated expansion. And it did nothing to quell the violence committed against street-prostituted women. In fact, all of these problems worsened.

Trafficking has increased the supply of new brothels. Child prostitution has grown markedly in Victoria compared with other Australian states. Men who were formerly called procurers and pimps now comprise a newly respected class of sex “businessmen.” And the state of Victoria has become dependent on the earnings of prostitution through increased taxation, licensing fees and the promotion of prostitution for tourism.

The Far Left has argued that legalizing prostitution would enable women to choose their working conditions and their clients. According to an article in Victoria’s The Age newspaper (3/1/1999), former pimps with criminal convictions are forbidden by legalized prostitution from owning legal brothels, but they control them under front organizations. Furthermore, it is virtually impossible for exploited women to set up business for themselves.

The United States is quite clear on the issue. Last week President Bush signed a Presidential Directive that committed his country to working toward raising awareness and reducing incidences of trafficking in persons through programs of prevention, protection and prosecution. Furthermore, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) stated that “Organizations advocating prostitution as an employment choice or which advocate or support the legalization of prostitution are not appropriate partners for USAID anti-trafficking grants or contracts.”

“Anyone who considers legalizing prostitution as a solution to sexual trafficking or poverty should be required to learn what prostitutes endure,” said Wendy Wright, representing Concerned Women for America. “No one wants their daughter to grow up to be sexually abused, so we shouldn’t legitimize the abuse of other people’s daughters.”

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