– @UNWomen: « Prostitution introduces a form of legalization of rape »

@UNWomen: « Prostitution introduces a form of legalization of rape »

ressourcesprostitution / October 24, 2016

Submission from the Femme&Libre Association to the consultation on the UN Women approach to sex work, sex trade, and prostitution.

September 2016


By Lise Bouvet, political scientist, philosopher, member of Femme&Libre and co founder of the Ressources Prostitution collective, an international network of women denouncing the sex industry. [1]

For the Femme&Libre Association, Yael Mellul, President, association Bill 1901 combating violence against women, 66 avenue Victor Hugo, 75116 Paris, France. [2]

This submission (1,495 words, excluding notes and appendices) to the UN Women consultation is based on our cross expertise on sexual violence against women and the prostitution system, in the continuation of our interventions[3] in favor of the French legislation of April 13, 2016 [4].


[1] https://ressourcesprostitution.wordpress.com/

[2] http://yaelmellul.livehost.fr/

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/yael-mellul/pourquoi-la-france-sapprete-a-penaliser-les-clients-de-prostituees_b_9586280.html + http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yael-mellul/why-france-is-adopting-a-_b_9635988.html


Question 1) The Horizon 2030 program focuses on universality, human rights and the taking into account of all. How do you interpret these principles in the context of trade/sex work or prostitution?

As the 1949 United Nations Convention [1] for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons states in its preamble: « Prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person”. We fully agree and reaffirm that prostitution is a violation of human rights and their universality, including the right to physical integrity. Indeed, we argue that prostitution establishes a form of legalization of rape.

Rape is an act of physical or moral sexual penetration under constraint, and the supply of money is definitely a constraint, a fortiori in a world where wealth is essentially monopolized by men [2]. The fact that during the act of prostitution, one of the parties surrenders the sexual penetration of her body for an amount of money intended to ensure her survival or worse which will be captured by a criminal enterprise, pimp or trafficking ring is irrefutable evidence of the absence of free consent. To surrender is not to consent: without money, no sexual intercourse; the act is therefore not desired at first. Without this money at stake, sexual penetration would not take place, evidence that the economic need acts as a force, constituting a determining constraint for the prostituted person.

This money embodies both the weapon of the crime of forced sexual penetration and the physical evidence of the purchase of consent. Prostitution is even in the hypothesis of a rare approach called « voluntary », without the presence of a pimp a sexual act imposed under constraint: that of money, which makes it a category of rape as penetration under economic duress, a priced rape, the consent here being wrested by the force of the monetary need. What the client buys is the ability to do without the consent of others to penetrate them sexually as he pleases in a unilateral and asymmetrical relationship where the other is at the mercy of the one who pays.

We refer to studies on sex buyers [3] that demonstrate similarities between their behavior and those of rapists, which is not surprising since, like them, free consent is precisely what they want to do without. We also refer to studies on trauma [4] which show that the daily repetition of these unwanted penetrations constitutes acts of torture for prostituted women, leaving them in states of great suffering and intense post-traumatic stress, with physical and psychological wounds marking them for the rest of their existence. Thus, that one part of humanity (overwhelmingly male and from the richest countries) can buy the rape of the other half of humanity (overwhelmingly female and from developing countries) is a violation of human dignity and of the principle of equality of human beings.

Question 2) The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. The SDGs also include several targets related to women’s empowerment, such as:

a) reproductive rights

b) women’s access to land and property

c) the development of peaceful and inclusive societies

d) the elimination of trafficking of women

e) the elimination of violence against women.

According to you, how do labor, sex trade, and prostitution policies can support these targets and objectives?

Prostitution constitutes a violation of the principle of gender equality in that it allows the purchase of acts of penetration under economic coercion, and thus founds the existence of the sex trade. This violation of the bodily integrity of millions of women throughout the world is an infringement of their right to health, integrity, sexual autonomy and therefore the possibility of reproductive rights, which can only be exercised outside the hold of clients, pimps or traffickers.

Concerning the financial autonomy so promised by the sex trade lobby who assures us that the trade of these sexual acts under constraint could allow prostituted women to survive, it is necessary to recall that:

The social validation of prostitution acts is the condition for the possibility of related criminality; by allowing some to rent the sexual organs of others, a legitimate market is created where all entrepreneurship is welcome and thus the sex industry thrives. All over the world, sex sellers make millions of profits to the detriment of women; pimps and traffickers everywhere get rich on the exploitation of prostituted women. It is precisely where prostitution is legalized and/or regulated [5] that prostituted women are most under the control of « third parties » because, contrary to what the industry lobby wants us to believe, it is not because prostitution is prohibited that it is dangerous or exploitative, prostitution, like rape from which it is only a variation, is in itself violent and unequal. Women do not enter « this market » like in any other, in prostitution they become the merchandise, and we do not see what benefit they could draw from it since it is precisely traumas and the lack of own resources that force them to do so.

One can walk through German brothels, for example, to see that those who become self-sufficient and rich in this business are not the thousands of poor, racialized young women who must endure hundreds of penetrations from strangers, but pimps, traffickers, and brothel owners. When the demand for coerced rape becomes a legitimate market, like any capitalist enterprise, it is encouraged, maintained and growing. This is where women’s economic coercion is no longer enough and human trafficking explodes, in order to feed the brothels with ever younger and fresher human flesh, the customers becoming jaded and demanding. By legalizing the sale of coerced rape, pimping is made a respectable profession, against which it becomes impossible to fight since pimps have become entrepreneurs like the others.

Thus, prostitution not only does not empower women, but it is a major obstacle to empowerment in that it precipitates them into a market dominated by pimps and fuelled by traffickers, into a criminal economy of rape, completely contrary to the possibility of developing peaceful and inclusive societies and the elimination of trafficking of women or the fight against sexual violence. If rape can be bought, it is no longer prohibited, and no woman is safe. In our view, the worst policy in relation to the objectives of the SDGs is the legalization/regulation of the sex industry demanded by its lobbies under the fallacious term « sex work ». Prostitution is not sex because sex concerns equal and consenting persons, prostitution is a form of rape and therefore violence against women in its own right, on the same level as domestic violence or genital mutilation and therefore cannot under no circumstances be considered as « work ».

Question 3) The sex trade is gender-specific. What is the best way to protect from violence, stigma and discrimination women involved in this trade?

Victims of violence are not protected by legalizing violence against them. In our opinion, only the Nordic model [6]  implemented in Sweden in 1999, then in Norway, Finland, Iceland, and France is capable of protecting these women and putting an end to violence inflicted by pimps and sex buyers.

The dual measure of this model is the decriminalization of prostituted women coupled with the provision of exit services. “The sex trade is gender-specific » because the sex industry system is basically organized predation of women’s poverty, itself socially instituted. The first measure to supplant this market is to give women livelihoods other than the selling of their consent to unwanted sexual penetrations. For women to truly have the right to no longer be reduced to renting their sexual organs to strangers, they must be able to benefit from resources that ensure their true financial autonomy. For example, in France [7] this may take the form of a specific temporary allowance and above all vocational training enabling a long-term independence. It also includes medical care and legal assistance, especially for trafficked women. The provision of psycho-traumatic care by the community seems to be a minimum of justice towards those persons for whom society has allowed these repeated rapes as a legitimate means of survival.

The second key measure of this model is to address the root cause of prostitution: the sex buyer. The pimp exists only to respond to a demand, that of paid rapes. Without clients to buy these sexual acts under constraint, there is no market and therefore no pimping or trafficking of human beings, the latter only existing through them and for them. It is therefore abnormal that only pimps are penalized since they are only second in the order of causality. Clients are the main reason and cause of the prostitution system and its ensuing violence. They are directly responsible for the trafficking of women for the sole purpose of serving them. In France as in Sweden, in addition to repressive legislation for procuring and trafficking, sex buyers are held responsible for the existence of this market and their acts are subject to a fine.

1) See ANNEX I, notably the United Nations Convention of December 2, 1949, for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.


2) Women represent 70% of the world’s poor. Source: UNIFEM, 2008. Quoted in


3) See ANNEX III, in particular

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/men-who-buy-sex-have-much-in-common-with-sexually-coercive-men (Comparing Sex Buyers with Men Who Do Not Buy Sex: New Data on Prostitution and Trafficking. Melissa Farley, Jacqueline M. Golding, Emily Schuckman Matthews, Neil M. Malamuth, and Laura Jarrett) 


4) See ANNEX II, in particular

Dr. Judith Trinquart’s doctoral thesis: « Decorporalization in the prostitution practice: a major obstacle to care access ».


5) See ANNEXE IV, notably

Cho, S. et al., Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking? World Development. (La prostitution légalisée augmente-t-elle la traite des êtres humains ? Développement mondial)


6) See ANNEX V, notably

Max Waltman, Prohibiting Sex Purchasing and Ending Trafficking: The Swedish Prostitution Law.


7) French law on prostitution:




  • United Nations Convention of December 2, 1949, for the Suppression of the traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.


  • 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). 


  • United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children.



  • European Parliament Resolution of February 26, 2014, on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality:


  • European Parliament Report of February 4, 2014, on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality:



  • Information report by the Constitutional laws, the legislation and the general administration of the Republic Commission, in conclusion of a fact-finding mission on prostitution in France:


  • Law Proposal to strengthen the fight against the prostitution system:


  • Law No. 2016-444 of April 13, 2016, aimed at strengthening the fight against the prostitution system and to accompany the prostituted persons.




  • Coy, M., ‘I Am a Person Too’: Women’s Accounts and Images about Body and Self in Prostitution in Coy, M. (ed) Prostitution, Harm and Gender Inequality: Theory, Research and Policy. 


  • Cepeda, A., Prevalence and Levels of Severity of Childhood Trauma among Mexican Female Sex Workers. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma.


  • Clarke, R. et al., Age at Entry into Prostitution: Relationship to Drug Use, Race, Suicide, Education Level, Childhood Abuse, and Family Experiences. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment. 


  • Young, A. et al., Prostitution, Drug Use, and Coping with Psychological Distress. Journal of Drug Issues. 


  • John J. Potterat, Devon D. Brewer, Stephen Q. Muth, Richard B. Rothenberg, Donald E. Woodhouse, John B. Muth, Heather K. Stites, and Stuart Brody, Mortality in a Long-term Open Cohort of Prostitute Women.


  • Nishith Prakash, Krishna Chaitanya Vadlamannati, Girls for Sale? Child Sex Ratio and Girls Trafficking in India.



  • Dr Muriel Salmona, La dissociation traumatique et les « troubles de la personnalité » post-traumatiques : ou comment devient-on étranger à soi-même ? 


  • Farley M., Cotton A., Lynne J., Zumbeck S., Spiwak F., Reyes M.E., Alvarez D., Sezgin U., Prostitution & Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.


  • Inspection Générale des Affaires Sociales (IGAS, FRANCE). Prostitution : les enjeux sanitaires, rapport remis le 18 décembre 2012. (General Inspectorate of Social Affairs. Prostitution: health issues. Report submitted on December 18, 2012.)

http://www.prostitutionetsociete.fr/IMG/pdf/201212igasaubinjourdainemmanuelliprostit utionsenjeuxsanitaires.pdf

  • Tiffany Anderson, Jacquelyn Bradford, Olivia Brown, Carolyn Collantes, Sharon Dhillon, Leslie Feigenbaum, Laura Ferro, Andrea Laidman, Matthew Jamison, Laura Matthews-Jolly, Gregory Meves, Lucas Morgan, Lauren Radebaugh, Kari Rotkin, Samantha Schulman, Claire Sheehan, Jenn Strashnick, Caroline Valvardi, Homelessness, Survival Sex and Human Trafficking: As Experienced by the Youth of Covenant House New York. 

https://d28whvbyjonrpc.cloudfront.net/s3fs-public/attachments/Covenant-House- trafficking-study.pdf

  • Trevor Hart, Danielle Schwartz, Carolyn James, Sexual risk behaviors and sexual health outcomes among homeless youth in Canada, Ryerson University. 


  • German psychologists and the scientific case against prostitution.



  • Donna Hughes, The “Natasha” Trade: The Transnational Shadow Market of Trafficking in Women.



  • Review of international press articles on the causes and consequences of prostitution:


  • Collection of over two hundred testimonies from prostituted women (in French and English):



  • Donna Hughes, Combating Sex Trafficking: A Perpetrator-Focused Approach.


  • The Schapiro Group, Men Who Buy Sex with Adolescent Girls: A Scientific Research Study.


  • Bouamama, Legardinier, Les clients de la prostitution, l’enquête. Presses de la Renaissance.

  • Victor Malarek, Les prostitueurs, Sexe à vendre… Les hommes qui achètent du sexe. M Editeur.

  • Lara Janson, “Our Great Hobby”: An Analysis of Online Networks for Buyers of Sex in Illinois.


  • Jan Macleod, Melissa Farley, Lynn Anderson, Jacqueline Golding, Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland.


  • Rachel Durchslag, Samir Goswami, Chicago Sex Buyers.




  • Jacqueline M. Golding, Emily Schuckman Matthews, Neil M. Malamuth, Laura Jarrett, Melissa Farley, Comparing Sex Buyers with Men who do Not Buy Sex: New Data on Prostitution and Trafficking.


  • The Immigrant Council of Ireland in partnership with: Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, Klaipeda Social and Psychological Services Centre, Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies, Multicultural Women’s Association in Finland, Stop Traffick! Tackling Demand for Sexual Service of Trafficked Women and Girls.


  • Jabbour, Exploring the demand for prostitution: What male buyers say about their motives, practices, and perceptions.



  • Press review of articles on clients (French & English):


  • Press review of articles on research on customers (French & English):


  • Press review of articles on the criminalization of sex buyers (English & French):


  • Collection of testimonials from customers and former customers (English & French):



  • Cho, Dreher, Neumayer, Does Legalised Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking? World Development.


  • Aude Harlé, Lise Jacquez, Yoshée de Fisser, sous la direction de Sophie Avarguez, Espagne du visible à l’invisible : prostitution et effets-frontières. Vécus, usages sociaux et représentations dans l’Espace Catalan Transfrontalier, Balzac éditeur.

  • Manfred Paulus, retired detective chief superintendent, Out of Control on Liberties and Criminal Developments in the Red-Light Districts of the Federal Republic of Germany. http://www.8marts.dk/upl/14592/OutofControlbyManfredPaulusJHcleanfinal1.pdf

  • Janice Raymond, Ten Reasons for Not Legalising Prostitution and a Legal Response to the Demand for Prostitution. Journal of Trauma Practice.




  • Ane Stø, Asta Håland, The Crusade of the Pro-Prostitution Lobby.


  • Farley, M., ‘Bad for the Body, Bad for the Heart’: Prostitution Harm Women Even if Legalised or Decriminalised. Violence Against Women, volume 10.



  • MacKinnon, C. (2001) Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality. Harvard Civil Rights ­Civil Liberties Law Review.



  • Mary Sullivan, Sheila Jeffreys, Legalising Prostitution is not the Answer: The example of Victoria, Australia.




  • Demand Abolition, The Evidence Against Legalizing Prostitution.


  • Collection of international press articles on the failure of the legalization of prostitution:


  • Collection of international press articles on the failure of legalization and regulation of prostitution in Germany, Austria and Luxembourg:


  • Collection of international press articles on the failure of legalization and regulation of prostitution in Australia and New Zealand:


  • Collection of international press articles on the failure of legalization and regulation of prostitution in Benelux:


  • Collection of international press articles on the failure of legalization and regulation of prostitution in Spain:



  • Gunilla Ekberg, The Swedish Law that Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services: Best Practices for Prevention of Prostitution and Trafficking in Human Beings. http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/pdf/EkbergVAW.pdf

  • Government Office of Sweden, Against Prostitution and Human Trafficking for Sexual

Purposes (Sweden).


  • Waltman, M., Sweden’s Prohibition of Purchase of Sex: The law’s reasons, impact, and potential. Women’s Studies International Forum.


  • Tyler, M. et al., Demand Change: Understanding the Nordic Approach to Prostitution. Melbourne, Aust.: Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia.


  • Ekberg, G. and Wahlberg, K., The Swedish Approach: A European country fights sex trafficking. Solutions Journal.


  • Yen, I., Of Vice and Men: A new approach to eradicating sex trafficking by reducing male demand through educational programs and abolitionist legislation. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.


  • Max Waltman, Prohibiting Sex Purchasing and Ending Trafficking: The Swedish Prostitution Law.



in French : https://ressourcesprostitution.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/temoignage-de-mme-gunilla-ekberg-au-senat-canadien_vf.pdf


  • Collection of international press articles in French and English on the Nordic Model: