We were surprised and deeply
disappointed to read UN Women's note on sex
work, sexual exploitation and trafficking from October 9, 2013.
And we are not reassured by your declaration later in October, that it’s
not an official statement, only a "technical clarification".
It still reveals UN Women's views on prostitution. The question we are
left with is: what do you ground your statements on?
When UN Women declares that it is important that we "recognize
the right of all sex workers to choose their work" you show
a complete lack of understanding of the condition of women in prostitution.
For example, the German Goverment's evaluation of its law on prostitution
as "work" showed that after five years only 1%
(one percent) of the women in prostitution had employment contracts. They
didn’t want it. When asked why, the majority of the women answered
that they saw prostitution only as a temporary
solution to an impossible (financial) situation, and as something
they wanted to get away from. 1.
UN Women shows the same lack of understanding of prostitution as a phenomenon,
when you state that you want to "ensure
safety in and through the workplace" in order to make prostitution
"free from exploitation, violence and coercion".
This displays that UN Women fails to understand that prostitution in
itself is exploitation, violence and
coercion against the ones being bought, primarily women. The prerequisite
of prostitution is the expectation that the one getting prostituted does
not want to have sex. The buyer pays to turn a no into a yes –
at the expense of human rights and equality. The prostitution perpetrator
is forcing his own sexuality onto somebody else, but buys himself "free"
And no matter what the laws say, no matter if it takes place indoors or
outdoors, prostitution everywhere is dangerous and harmful to women. 2.
Violence being an integral part of prostitution
should be enough in itself to make UN Women understand prostitution as
UN Women also claims that human trafficking/sexual exploitation are human
rights violations, while "sex work" is not. But all kinds of
prostitution have the same basis, as we’ve explained here above.
That is why it’s not surprising that in countries where prostitution
is legalized, illegal prostitution and trafficking increase. 3. They all
link together, as they are part of the same phenomenon.
Also, all forms of prostitution have the same effects on society's
view of women. How can we struggle for a society where women and
men are equal, if at the same time men have the legal right to buy sexual
access to women’s bodies? How can we fight against sexual harassment
in workplaces, if the very same actions that the society define as sexual
harassment and abuse, occasionally should be seen as a "job"?
Prostitution is a human rights violation and
there should be no compromise in efforts to address it. We expect
the UN and its subsidiary organs to act against all kinds of oppression;
racism, imperialism, class and gender oppression. All these kinds of oppression
come together in prostitution.
Therefor we strongly urge UN Women to consider what happens to women’s
human rights in societies where women can be bought for sexual
We also wish you will read the Swedish Government's evaluation of the
law against the prostitution perpetrators, the buyers. Your political
statement in the note differ from the results in the Swedish evaluation
as well as from what police, social services and the women who have exited
prostitution testify there.
And finally we sincerely urge you to read our booklet "Speaking
of prostitution", where we have gathered arguments for and
Sweden in October, 2013
The Women’s front in Sweden
by the Federal Government on the Impact of the Act Regulating the Legal
Situation of Prostitutes (Prostitution Act) by Bundesministerium für
Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, 2007.
2. Study on National Legalisation on Prostitution and the Trafficking in Women and Children. The EU Parliament/Transcrime, 2005.
Prostitution is not the Answer, The example of Victoria, Australia,
by Mary Sullivan and Sheila Jeffreys, Coalition Against Trafficking in
Women, CATW, 2001, and
Legalization of Prostitution: Myth and Reality, A Comparative Study of
Four Countries, by Nomi Levenkron, Hotline for Migrant Workers, Israel
2007, and Swedish
government report SOU 2010:49 The Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services.
An evaluation 1999 - 2008.
here or on the icon
this Open letter as a pdf-file.
Women's note on sex work, sexual
exploitation and trafficking (pdf).
National Committee Sweden has expressed
it's concern about the content of Note issued by UN Women on
prostitution and trafficking.
(pdf) to the critic.