CSW 47--2003 CATW Statement

CATW March 5, 2003 United States

March 5, 2003

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, together with Equality Now, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Elizabeth Seton Federation, International Public Policy Institute, Global Women, Soroptomist International, World Federation for Mental Health, Coordination Francaise pour le Lobby Europeen des Femmes, and Mouvement pour l?Abolition de la Prostitution et la Pornographie take the floor to condemn prostitution as a form of violence against women:

There is a very clear and close link between trafficking in women and girls and prostitution. Without the demand for prostituted women and girls, there would be no trafficking in women and girls for prostitution and no commercial sexual exploitation. Reports indicate the close connection between a thriving sex tourism industry or the stationing of military troops or peacekeeping forces, and the accompanying increase in trafficking. Demand for prostitution and other commercial sexual services is what makes vulnerable women and girls such enticing cargo for traffickers. What would dramatically diminish traffickers' incentives to lure and transport women and girls? The government of Sweden shows that where the purchase of sexual services is prohibited by law, the cost/benefit analyses of traffickers turn decidedly against trafficking. Conversely, where prostitution is legalized, demand for both legal and illegal prostitution increases as does the incidence of trafficking, and the overall level of violence and abuse directed against women servicing these industries does not decrease. 

Prostitution is inherently degrading and humiliating to the woman or girl. In purchasing a woman's or girl's body for the hour or the night, a man thinks he purchases the right to degrade her humanity as he experiences erotic pleasure from inflicting such degradation -- to insult her, rape her, slap her, dehumanize her. These acts include all the forms of sexual violence that women's advocates and human rights groups have long sought to eliminate from women's beds, homes, workplaces and streets. Trafficked and prostituted women and girls have little redress against the abuse, violence, harassment and debasement to which they are subjected. We strongly believe that no society that purports to uphold the dignity and equality of women should tolerate such transactions and the commodification of women and girls who are most often victims of poverty and past physical or sexual abuse. Moreover, governments must strictly prohibit military and peacekeeping forces from prostituting and trafficking women and girls. 

Victims of prostitution often suffer severe health consequences ranging from injuries inflicted by beatings, rapes, and unwanted sex; psychological devastation, including trauma, depression, and suicide; HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; and alcohol and drug abuse induced by pimps or by the women's attempts to self-medicate. Prostitution is itself violence against women. 

We must shift the moral and criminal responsibility for sexual exploitation away from the women and girls to the men who purchase and violate women's and girls' bodies, the traffickers who enslave and transport them and those governments who countenance such violence against women and girls. We must increase support and services for trafficking survivors and prostitutes. We must initiate public education campaigns aimed at preventing victimization and curbing demand. Effective laws against trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women must be enacted, strengthened and enforced. The military and peacekeeping personnel complicit in prostituting and trafficking women and girls must face severe penalties. 

Sexual exploitation is not inevitable. If we are truly committed to women's human rights, we can achieve a world without sexual exploitation - a world in which all girls and women own their bodies and their lives.