Prostitution and Human Rights What are the Issues? Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh, Ph. D. World of Differences: Languages, Cultures, and Human Rights Conference What are “human rights”? • “rights that belong to an individual or group of individuals as a consequence of being human. They refer to a wide continuum of values or capabilities thought to enhance human agency and declared to be universal in character, in some sense equally claimed for all human beings.”1 1Encyclopedia Britannica Online. (2005). Human rights. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from http://search.eb.com. What are “human rights”? • UN “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” – Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. – Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. – Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. – Article 23: Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.2 2United Nations. (1948-1998). Universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html. How does prostitution violate human rights? • Pro-abolition of prostitution: Prostitution as inherently exploitative and dehumanizing, regardless if “chosen” or “forced” – Article 4: Prostitution as sexual “slavery” – Article 5: Prostitution as “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” • Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) – Video clip3 3Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). (2000). So deep a violence: Prostitution, trafficking, and the global sex industry. North Amherst, MA: CATW. Prostitution=Sex Trafficking & Sexual Slavery • “some 200,000 sex slaves worldwide bringing…an annual profit of $10.5 billion” • Thailand—”estimated 35,000 women working as brothel slaves” of 500,000 to one million prostitutes. • “In 1996 nearly five million sex tourists from the U.S., Western Europe, Australia, and Japan visited Thailand…brought in about $26.2 billion—thirteen times more than Thailand earned by building and exporting computers” • “some 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the U.S. each year, mainly from Asia and Latin America”4 4Leuchtag, A. (2003, Jan/Feb). Human rights, sex trafficking, and prostitution. The Humanist, 10-15. Combating Sex Trafficking • UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children – “The purposes of this Protocol are: (a) To prevent and combat trafficking in persons, paying particular attention to women and children; (b) To protect and assist the victims of such trafficking, with full respect for their human rights; and (c) To promote cooperation among States Parties in order to meet those objectives.”5 5United Nations. (2000, November 15). Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons especially women and children. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from http://www.ohchr.org/english/law/protocoltraffic.htm Combating Sex Trafficking • Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 – “nations including the United States must recognize that trafficking is a serious offense…by prescribing appropriate punishment, giving priority to the prosecution of trafficking offenses, and protecting rather than punishing the victims of such offenses. The U.S. must work bilaterally and multilaterally to abolish the trafficking industry by taking steps to promote cooperation among countries linked together by international trafficking routes…must also urge the international community to take strong action in multilateral fora to engage recalcitrant countries in serious and sustained efforts to eliminate trafficking and protect trafficking victims.”6 6United States Congress. (2000). H.R. 3244, Victims of trafficking and violence protection act of 2000. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from http://thomas.loc.gov. How does prostitution violate human rights? • Sex workers’ rights organizations: Prostitution as “sex work,” freely chosen, and thus deserving of workers’ rights and protections – Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. – Article 23: Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.7 7United Nations. (1948-1998). Universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html. Sex Trafficking all Hype? • Statistics cited by CATW and the like argued as unsubstantiated, exaggerated, and manipulated to serve their agenda (total abolition of prostitution) – “while many current studies highlight the tragic stories of individual prostitutes, especially of women and children deceived or coerced into the practice…many workers entered for pragmatic reasons and with a general sense of awareness of the choice they were making.”8 8Platt, L. (2001). Regulating the global brothel. American Prospect, pp. 10-14. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from http://lexisnexis.com. Sex Trafficking all Hype? • By continuously portraying migrant prostitutes as “helpless victims,” negating self-determination of ThirdWorld women who actively chose prostitution as a viable economic option. – Patronizing toward prostitutes in general – Racist/neo-colonialist/neo-imperialist attitude toward Third-World prostitutes 9 9Kempadoo, K., & Doezema, J. (1998). Global sex workers: Rights, resistance, and redefinition. New York: Routledge. Prostitution=Sex Work • Abuses/rights violations that befall prostitutes are no different than those experienced by other migrant laborers and laborers in low-status jobs—not “hazards of the trade or…conditions that loose women bring upon themselves but [are] abuses of human rights and labor standards.”10 10Platt, L. (2001). Regulating the global brothel. American Prospect, pp. 10-14. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from http://lexisnexis.com. Combating Human Rights Violations of Sex Workers • Legalize/decriminalize prostitution as legitimate work and thus protected by fair labor standards and practices – Minimum wage laws – Overtime/vacation pay – Regulations and/or educational programs to prevent HIV/AIDS & STIs – Right to collective bargaining – Legal redress for labor violations11 11Platt, L. (2001). Regulating the global brothel. American Prospect, pp. 10-14. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from http://www.lexis-nexis.com.; International Committee for Prostitutes’ Rights. (1985). World charter for prostitutes’ rights. Retrieved November 18, 2005, from http://www.bayswan.org/ICPRChart.html The Two Sides… • Pro-abolition of prostitution – Problem: Prostitution in all forms is inherently a violation of human rights. – Solution: Criminalize, focusing on punishing “demand side,” and move toward total abolition. • Pro-decriminalization/legalization of prostitution – Problem: Human rights violation is in not recognizing prostitution as a legitimate work choice and thus not providing equal protections. – Solution: Legalize/decriminalize prostitution and provide fair labor protections. Prostitution and Human Rights What do you think? Prostitution and Human Rights Suggested Reading Leuchtag, A. (2003, Jan/Feb). Human rights, sex trafficking, and prostitution. The Humanist, 10-15. Platt, L. (2001). Regulating the global brothel. American Prospect, pp. 10-14.