Take Amsterdam for example and its Red Light district. Earlier this year, Dutch Advertising agency Duval Guillaume, in collaboration with Stop the Traffik, organized a PR stunt named ‘Girls Gone Wild’. Consisting of six scantily-clad women in Red Light style windows, the women danced and entertained the applauding bystanders on the street. Two minutes later, the bystanders are neither entertained nor aroused; a sign appears over the heads of the women. It reads "every year, thousands of women are promised a dance career in Western Europe. Sadly, they end up here. Stop the Traffik. People shouldn't be bought or sold."
Duval Guillaume’s stunt worked, as it has bought much-needed attention to two crimesthat are going on in every country, on most continents: human trafficking and as a result, prostitution. According to the UN, 58 per cent of all trafficking cases are for the purpose of sexual exploitation. It would therefore follow that 60 per cent of trafficked persons globally are women - with 17 per cent of them being girls.
Prostitution, as result of human trafficking, is a complex and delicate issue. In places such as the aforementioned Red Light District, prostitution is legal. But are women in places such as these, safer compared to places where paying for sex is illegal? Although they have certain degree of protection (clean places to work, contraception and access to STD tests), according to Humanity in Action, sometimes women must work 16 hours and up to 6 or 7 clients a day in order to pay for rent, her window and her pimp. They must also pay tax. Due to the extortionate fees sex workers must pay, many don’t register themselves with the government and in doing so make themselves more vulnerable by soliciting themselves illegally.
However, in countries like the UK where prostitution is illegal, women have no or little rights and can face arrest if discovered. This fear is probably furthered if you’rein the country illegally - via trafficking - which is likely, seeing as 4 of 5 sex workers in the UK are foreign nationals. It’s hard to envisage a situation where a trafficked woman will run up to a police officer and say ‘hello officer, I’m here illegally and my pimp has just beaten me and taken all my money, could you do something about it please?’. They’re more likely to be terrified of arrest themselves and thus have no one to turn to.
So legalizing prostitution isn’t great and illegalizing prostitution isn’t great either. So, what’s to be done about it? Well for a start, I think we should not put the fear of god into sex workers who are here illegally and not driveround with vans that ask ‘are here you illegally’ with a picture of handcuffs on them. Secondly, more needs to be to punish those who use sex workers and not the actual workers themselves. In countries where prostitution is legal, more needs to be done to regulate and improve standards of living so that women don't feel like working illegally is an option. And lastly, maybepeople should just have respect for a women’s body and realise it’s not a commodity to be bought, used and sold.
Maybe if this happened, less women would be trafficked and suffer abuse. As prostitution is known as ‘the world’s oldest profession’ and nothing in the past 2000 years shows that that’s ever likely to change, I’m suggesting we go with option number two. But it’s a thought though, isn’t it?