Suppose a terminally ill woman wanted to do something nice for her husband. So she hires a prostitute for his pleasure. Do you think the terminally ill woman should be put in jail for this? That was the hypothetical (I believe) question posed to me this week by Independent MP, Mr Alex Greenwich, at the NSW inquiry into Brothels where I was a witness.
No, Mr Greenwich, I don't want a terminally ill woman put in jail because she bought a woman for her husband for a sexual encounter. But I believe the more pertinent question should be, is it right to be able to buy a woman for a man's use?
Having sex is not a human right. The perceived needs of one sub-set, in this case a terminally ill woman paying for her husband to have sex, should not trump the rights of another sub-set, and by that I refer to the human right of all women to equality and not to be an commodity to be bought and sold for another's pleasure.
The NSW government's aim from the inquiry includes examining possible reforms that address social, health and planning challenges that are associated with legal and illegal brothels.
NSW's Deputy Police Commissioner, Nick Kaldas, gave evidence at the inquiry. His concern is that the lack of regulation is allowing criminal activity in the industry. "Where standards are not enforced in this industry, the cost to human beings could be horrendous," he said. He told the inquiry there had been a recent increase in the reporting of sexual servitude in brothels, alleging "large scale networks using Asian students as sex slaves".
NSW councils also registered concern in regard toworkplace injuries, violence, sexual servitude, organised crime, sex trafficking, and levels of public health and safety.
Prostitution is a form of violence particularly against women and girls. Prostitution is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. As a society we should reject the notion that women are a commodity to be bought and sold.
Men's demand for sex and willingness to pay for it means prostitution exists and flourishes, and yet prostitution is inherently harmful shown by multiple studies which reveal between 60 and 75% of prostitutes have been raped, between 70 and 95% physically assaulted, and 68% meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder in the same range as combat veterans. 85-95% of the women in the study by American clinical psychologist, researcher and feminist, DrMelissa Farley, said that they wanted to escape prostitution.
Some maintain that prostitution is a choice and therefore a person's right. Let's examine this 'choice'.
The majority of the world's prostitutes are women. Gender inequality is the single most powerful determinant of being sold for sex. Nobody can choose what sex they are born with.
Disproportionately, women around the world in prostitution are members of socially disadvantaged racial or ethnic groups. You don't choose to be born into a disadvantaged racial group or lower caste.
The majority of prostituted women worldwide are there because of poverty. Prostituted women tend to come from disadvantaged backgrounds and from families with high rates of interpersonal difficulties. They are more likely to have suffered physical abuse, to have left home and school early, have lower qualifications and fewer work opportunities. Being born into poverty is not a choice.
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