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CATW Applauds the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls and her Report on Prostitution and Violence Against Women

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Applauds the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls and her Report on Prostitution and Violence Against Women   

NEW YORK, NY, June 21, 2024 – The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) welcomes the groundbreaking report “Prostitution and violence against women and girls” issued by the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, scheduled for presentation on June 21 in Geneva, Switzerland, at the 56th session of the Human Rights Council, 18 June – 12 July 2024.

We join thousands of women’s rights organizations, direct service providers, human rights experts, and survivors of the sex trade from around the world in commending the Special Rapporteur on her unflinching analysis of the system of prostitution, its inherent violence, its racial and gender-based discriminatory practices, and its devastating impact on women and girls and on society.

In the report, the Special Rapporteur explores “violence against women and sexual exploitation as a form, cause and consequence of prostitution” and evaluates legislative and policy models in the context of international human rights and legal standards.

In a global call for input, the Special Rapporteur received over 300 submissions from diverse stakeholders, each offering unique viewpoints and conclusions. The Special Rapporteur also consulted with 86 human rights experts and women globally, including victims and survivors of sex trafficking, prostitution, and pornography.

Encompassing the breadth of research and testimonies, the report concludes, in part, that, “Prostitution is a system of exploitation and an aggregated form of male violence against women and girls that intersects with other forms of structural discrimination. It is exercised systematically by a wide web of State and non-State actors that subjugate, control and exploit women and girls in violation of their fundamental human rights.”

This report – and the forceful denunciation of States that “allow, tolerate or condone the violence and exploitation in the prostitution system and pornography” – is validation to every woman and girl who has suffered, and perished, within the system of prostitution at the hands of exploiters and men who purchase sexual acts.

The report also recognizes that patriarchal norms created and continues to help flourish the system of prostitution, relying on the intersecting vulnerabilities of marginalized women and girls, including those based on class, race, ethnicity, migratory and legal status.

Of great importance, the report explicitly rejects the terms “sex work” or “sex worker,” dismantling the notion that prostitution is a “legitimate” form of labor. In outlining how prostitution does not align with the international standards of “decent work,” noting the sexual, physical, economic, and physiological violence inherent to the sex trade, the report shows how referring to prostitution as “work” is not only inaccurate, but deeply offensive to the women and girls who have endured unrelenting abuse within the system.

“We are grateful to the Special Rapporteur for bringing this outstanding report to the Human Rights Council and to Member States, » said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of CATW. “It is a tremendous victory for sex trade victims and survivors in their quest to seek justice, and an unprecedented recognition of the ensuing trauma they sustained, which to date has been inexcusably overlooked by the UN system and governmental bodies meant to protect the rights of women and girls.“

States’ parties have an obligation under international human rights law to develop and implement policies that investigate, prosecute, punish, and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls, including the prostitution of women. The report acknowledges that “sexual buyers are the main perpetrators of violence” and “the main actors who drive the demand and fuel the commercial sex industry.” The Special Rapporteur therefore underscores the importance of States to adopt policies that address the demand for the purchase of sexual acts, i.e., the Abolitionist Model (also known as the Nordic Model or the Equality Model), as the optimal legal framework that offers support to those who are bought and sold in the sex trade, while holding the perpetrators, including sex buyers, accountable for the harm they cause.

In partnership with our global coalition of survivors and advocates, we ask that the United Nations honor the findings of this report and support the recommendations to Member States mandated to safeguard and uphold the fundamental human rights of women and girls everywhere.



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