Keep the Anti-Prostitution Provision in PEPFAR

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Section 301 of the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) bars federal AIDSprevention funding for organizations that promote prostitution and sex trafficking.

Prostitution exposes women to health risks: Prostitution is associated with many health risks, physical and psychological. In some areas, 70 percent of prostitutes are infected with HIV/AIDS.

Ethics: Prostitution, like the slave trade, reduces human beings to commodities to be bought and sold. Our tax dollars should not subsidize groups that promote and assist prostitution.

Prostitution fuels trafficking: Historically, legalized prostitution has been correlated with an increase in sex trafficking. One year after the Netherlands legalized prostitution, traffickers controlled 50% of women in prostitution.

Groups that won’t condemn prostitution, as required by Section 301, claim that this law interferes with providing condoms to prostituting persons. However, Sec. 301 only prohibits federal funding for groups that promote prostitution, an activity that leads to increased risk of HIV/AIDS.

Section 301 Promotes Health and Hinders Rapid Spread of HIV/AIDS

“The 2005 UNAIDS report states that ‘across Asia, the [HIV] epidemics are propelled by combinations of injecting drug use and commercial sex.’ Thus, both prostitution and sex trafficking contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS.”1 Sixty-eight percent of 827 people in prostitution in nine countries met criteria for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The severity of PTSD symptoms of participants in this study were in the same range as treatment-seeking combat veterans, battered women seeking shelter, rape survivors and refugees from state-organized torture.2 Providing condoms to prostituting persons without addressing the cause of their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS is equivalent to treating a burn while leaving the person in the fire. This overrates the effectiveness of condoms (which have failure rates that increase the more they are relied upon, especially in situations where compliance is optional) and minimizes the wide range of health harms linked to prostitution. No “job” other than war combat has comparable rates of physical assault, rape and homicide.

Section 301 Protects Women, Promotes Human Dignity:

Prostitution forms a sub-class of human beings – those who can be traded for sex. Such systems treat humans as commodities to be used, abused and discarded when convenient. Prostitution is an obstacle to promoting dignity and respect toward others. Civilized societies should reject the objectification of human beings. Contrary to that goal, the legalization of prostitution epitomizes and enshrines in law the practice of dehumanizing a class of people as property to be used.

Prostitution Is Inherently Harmful

One study revealed that 89 percent of people involved in prostitution wanted to escape prostitution but did not have other options for survival.3 Prostitution disproportionately affects women in poverty. Entry into prostitution is not the exercise of a meaningful choice but a consequence of the lack of viable livelihood opportunities for millions of women. They need help to get out, not to stay in. “The majority of trafficked women find themselves in brothels where they have little or no control over their bodies and lives. They are stripped of every right to negotiate safe sex. Coercion, alien environment, fear of deportation and other factors keep them from seeking any kind of help. These conditions make them increasingly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.”4

Section 301 Discourages Sex Trafficking

Legalizing prostitution increases demand for commercial sex, especially for acts that willing women will not do. This has led suppliers (pimps) to sexually traffic unwilling women. In the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, one report found that 80% of women in its sex industry are from other countries, a factor highly indicative of sex trafficking.5 National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD-22 states, “… the United States Government opposes prostitution and any related activities, including pimping, pandering, or maintaining brothels as contributing to the phenomenon of trafficking in persons. These activities are inherently harmful and dehumanizing. The United States Government’s position is that these activities should not be regulated as a legitimate form of work for any human being.”

Exporting Abroad What We Reject at Home

  • The legalization of prostitution has been rejected by 49 states in the United States. Americans should not be forced to fund abroad what they reject overwhelmingly at home.

Section 301 Does Not Violate the First Amendment

The D.C. Court of Appeals recently upheld the PEPFAR policy in DKT International v. USAID. The ruling states that Congress authorized the distribution of AIDS funds “on such terms and conditions as the president may determine.” Judge Randolph found that, “The act does not compel groups to advocate the government’s position on prostitution and sex trafficking; it requires only that if groups wish to receive funds it must communicate the message the government chooses to fund.” “In sponsoring Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ anti-drug campaign, the First Amendment did not require the government to sponsor simultaneously a ‘Just Say Yes’ campaign.”

ACTION: Join Concerned Women for America (CWA) in Supporting the anti-prostitution provision in PEPFAR.

End Notes

  1. U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, 2007.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Farley, M., et al., Prostitution and trafficking in nine countries: An update on violence and posttraumatic stress disorder. Prostitution, trafficking and traumatic stress. USA: Haworth Maltreatment & Trauma Press), 2003.
  4. UNDP HIV & Development Programme, n.d., p. 8.
  5. Budapest Group. (1999). The Relationship Between Organized Crime and Trafficking in Aliens. Austria: International Centre for Migration Policy Development. June 1999. Bureau NRM (2002).

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