Law: Does a Law that Prohibit the Selling of Sex Protect or Infringe Womens Rights?
As the United Nations Universal Human Rights of 1948 highlight that sex work is not a recognized field in the workforce as a legal entity, the author has noted those individuals who sell sex and it’s exploitation as prostitute(s).
This paper examines the universal human rights in relation to the laws that prohibit the selling of sex and it’s primary affects on women rights. The term sex work has been coined since the 1978, as a means of practice of engaging in sexual and erotic activity with a client for payment in place of an occupation. This corrupt use of one’s bodily assets for financial gain can otherwise be noted as prostitution as it is incompatible with international law. As Overs and Loff noted, it is necessary to repeal and reform criminal and other types of law that unnecessarily limit sex workers’ access to safe workplaces, services, and economic opportunities (Overs and Loff ). Understandably, international policy and lawmakers are concerned about infringing women rights while being able to prostitute with similar benefits as other workers. Should prostitution be universally legal? I beleive, in fair proposition, this essay argues that in a collective perspective of women rights in general, prohibiting prostitution can protect these individuals who are subject to discrimination, violence, socioeconomic measures, lack access to healthcare, and further inequalities. This essay uncovers extremities faced by allowing prostitution to prevail, such as the violation of basic legal civic entitlement, exacerbated health services, police brutality, and inhumane jobs that disempower women.
Universal human rights, including the facets that pertain to women as well, are highlighted within the 2030 United Nations Agenda, which leaves nobody behind. These principles set forth are standards that are interpreted in relation to the selling of sex. International law defines prostitution as a human rights violation. General Assembly of the United Nations highlights that “accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with dignity and worth of the human person”(OHCHR). Entities should be under a binding obligation to respect and protect the dignity of all human beings, and to ensure that they work towards protecting victims of prostitution. This must be upheld as a common understanding in order to achieve attainable and sustainable rights in this field of workforce, especially for women. The Articles 3 and 5 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person…no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degraded treatment or punishment” and prostitution is incompatible due to it’s nature of inequalities (OHCHR). In terms of women empowerment and achieving the sustainable development goals set out to uphold gender equality, the goals include several points such as reproductive rights, women’s ownerships of land assets, building peaceful and inclusive societies, eliminating violence against women, and most importantly the ending of trafficking of women. If proper policies are set forth there will be no need for dependence on selling one’s bodily assets for survival. Priority policies such as guaranteeing access to fundamental social rights such as the right to healthcare, legal status, and decent jobs can offer real alternatives (Webber).
It is stated by a joint action report by UNAIDS that sex worker groups argue that the criminalization of sex work negatively impacts overall sex workers’ health and human rights. However this contradicts the set of UN Sustainable Development Goals highlighted above which state that criminalizing the purchasing of sex can be most effective measure that can eliminate immediate human trafficking. Overs and Loff, of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, claim that sex workers identify stigma as the core issue and that the law as a powerful tool can either empower or further victimize them without recognizing the legal status of prostitution. However, it should be emphasized by the following that majority of cornerstone of universal human rights laws propose selling of sex and its resultant exploitation as prostitution because this cannot be considered, nor recognized as work on a legal status. They also claim that sex workers might then enjoy the protections that accompany recognition of their equality with others, including the ability to conduct their trade in safe workplaces, union, and access other services (Overs and Loff). However, the liberalization of prostitution laws increase demand for commercial sex and therefore can also exacerbate human trafficking, pimping, and forms of exploitation and abuse. According to the legal framework Overs and Loff attempt to structure, public health laws play an important part in the regulation of sex workers and that medical examination of female sex workers should be required in order to provide healthcare services that can accomodate their rights. However, forced medical testing for HIV and STI can result in the “naming and shaming” of sex workers and have previously witnessed discrimination of women rights as police publish pictures of arrested prostitutes and their tests on official sites (Webber).
It is supported by The Swedish Sex Purchase Act of 1999 that instead of police being a source of protection, sex workers fell hunted by the, and were promptly ‘subjected to invasive searchers and questioning’. And according to the Norwegian Ministry of Justice, harassment by the police has increased and the clients fear arrest themselves. Prostitutes use pimps for protection and in some cases face sexualized violence in the face of no social escape as social workers have problems reaching out to such prostitutes because of this brutality.
In terms of status and legal recognition of female prostitutes, although sex trade can include all sexes, the trade is gendered and and can harm women through violence, stigma, and discrimination through the reaffirmation of socially established imbalances of power in sexual relationships. This is contrary to universal human rights and dignity, which continues to ensue inequalities and accommodating the international law and investing in universal rights can end the trade itself. Many claim that prohibiting of prostitution builds on the idea that women who sell sex are victims and that the law propagates stereotypical notions about sex workers. Dodillet and Östergren clearly stated that the sex workers object to the fact that they were not consulted in the making of the law. An example of limited rights that can cover such female prostitutes are those who are also undocumented migrants and refugees are most vulnerable to violation of human rights as pre-existing conditions of humanitarian violations, lack of legal status due to deprivation of all ordinary civil entitlements, and social stigma play a significant role of their disproportionately. Prostitutes under these conditions have limited access to services and can further infringe on the goals of gender equality and developing a universally recognized status of women (Dodillet and Östergren).
A case study of The Law That Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services, which first came intro force in 1999 after the public advocacy conducted by the Swedish Women’s Movement, portrays the partnership of the United Nation Sustainable Goals in the plight of securing women in the transition of eliminating the selling of sex in the basis of protecting their economic rights. The law attempts to address the root cause of prostitution by eliminating sex work practices and in return providing public education, awareness, and victim support. Ekberg claims that the number of men who buy prostitutes women decreases, and the local prostitution markets become less lucrative, which thus results in the lack of economic support of women (Ekberg). However, if policies are set in place to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (8) of Good Jobs and Economic growth, women can be equally empowered with other sources of profit. Education must be set to prevent the commoditization of the human body as a means of survival. This can set forth an equal playing field for women in the education system as well as it highlights gender equality.
The impact of eliminating prostitution and its exploitation has been very closely studied in extended depth and its nature has had history of conflicts on rights of women from the forced comfort women, or ianfu, by the Imperial Japanese Army to the current influx of modern sex trade in Los Angeles. The formal challenges that lawmakers have faced in creating gender equal and sustainable implementations in the workforce of prostitution has only rendered aggravated results of pre-existing human rights violations. The values of human dignity has been replaced with degraded treatment of women through selling of sex, as well as fueling stigma, gender bias, discrimination, and abuse. While different methods and implementations of deterring violations of women rights in sex trade has shown little to no impact, it is argued and proven that prohibiting the selling of sex and its exploitation altogether can protect the rights of females universally.
D. Webber, “Criminal law: HIV and substantive criminal law issues,” in D. Webber (ed.) AIDS and the law, 4th edition (Aspen Publishers, 2011 Supplement), [F] Prostitution, pp. 7–40–7–43; K. McCurtis, S. Outlaw, C. Sardina, and P. Saunders, “Report submitted to Global Commission on HIV/AIDS,” Best practices policy project (August 7, 2011). Available at http://www.bestpracticespolicy.org/GlobalCommissionRep2011Text.html.
Dodillet, S., & Östergren, P. (2011, 3 March). The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed Success and Documented Effects. Retrieved July 11, 2020, from http://www.petraostergren.com/upl/files/54259.pdf
G. Ekberg. (2004, 1 Oct). The Swedish Law That Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services. Best Practices for Prevention of Prostitution and Trafficking in Human Beings. Sage Journals. Retrieved on July 12, 2020. http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/pdf/EkbergVAW.pdf
Overs, C., & Loff, B. (2013). Toward a legal framework that promotes and protects sex workers’ health and human rights. Health and Human Rights, 15(1), 186–196. Retrieved July 11, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/healhumarigh.15.1.186
Office of The High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), (1948, 10 Dec). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from https://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Pages/UDHRIndex.aspx
Office of The High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), (1949, 2 Dec). Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/TrafficInPersons.aspx