Legalising has not helped globally

April 06, 2012 12:00 am | Updated 07:38 am IST

Apne Aap believes that sex is different from sexual exploitation and as feminists we have a right to sex without domination. Apne Aap organises women and girls, who are victims and survivors of prostitution in numerous small groups of ten to resist the sexual exploitation of themselves and their daughters. These women are from poor, low-caste families and do not see their prostitution as “work” or a “choice.” At best it is a survival strategy.

Body invasion is inherent to prostitution and differentiates it from livelihoods in the unorganised sector like agriculture and domestic work that Ms Ghosh talks about. In addition, I would like to point out to both Ms Ghosh and Ms Roy the uniformly disastrous results where ever the selling or renting of human beings for sexual purposes has been legalised and normalised. In Australia and the Netherlands where prostitution has been legalised, for instance, trafficking and the harms that come with prostitution have not decreased but increased. In Victoria, Australia, it not only allowed legal brothels to proliferate, but illegal brothels increased by 300 per cent in one year. A hospitable environment for sex tourists and other buyers drove up demand, local women and girls had too many alternatives to becoming the supply, and women and girls were trafficked from South East Asia. The same is true of Amsterdam where trafficked Eastern European and North African girls outnumber Dutch citizens in brothels. The Mayor of Amsterdam reports that the red-light district has become a centre for illegal immigration and money laundering. In Germany and in an area near Las Vegas in the US where prostitution has been legalised, government agencies tried to make applicants for unemployment benefits show that they had attempted to find “work” in the so-called “hospitality industry” of prostitution in order to become eligible for such benefits.

In the few countries that have legalized prostitution -- with the idea that it would reduce harm to prostituted women themselves, as is now being argued by some in India -- rates of assault and rape against prostituted persons have not dropped at all. In an upscale legal brothel in Australia, for example, rooms are equipped with panic buttons, but a bouncer reports that the women's calls for help can never be answered quickly enough to prevent violence by clients, which occurs regularly.

Finally, we must remember that the commodification of human beings focuses on women and children, usually poor or low-caste, and creates a separate class of human beings whose bodies can be rented or sold. It is the very opposite of the universal protection of human dignity enshrined in the body of the Indian Constitution.

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