Prostitution is generally defined as performing, offering, or agreeing to perform a sexual act for any money, property, token, object, article, or anything of value. Prostitution strongly affect communities. Some argue that prostitution affects the community by contributing to the objectification of women. Men who participate in buying a prostitute view women as mere sex objects and not human beings.
This terrible attitude towards women accounts for the high incidence of violence and murder perpetrated against prostitutes. This antisocial macho persona is typically defined by the all-too common illegal urban occupation of the pimp. The pimp does not respect the agency of his female employees. He is only interested in the money they can produce for him. Since he provides “protection” for his prostitutes, the pimp feels that the power dynamic in the employee and employer relationship is skewed in his favor. He then mercilessly wields his power with physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive methods to “discipline” what he believes to be bad behaviour on part of the prostitute.
The relationship between a pimp and his prostitution is an unsavory form of power abuse whose disproportionate authority is strengthened by the illegal nature of their respective roles in society. The life of a prostitute is a not a comfortable one. The street poses many dangers to a prostitute as prostitutes are also subject to violence from their clients who feel empowered by the fact that prostitutes are considered part of the lower echelons of society. Unfortunately, due to the illegality of prostitution and the vicious perpetual cycle of poverty and abuse, the public tends to be indifferent and apathetic towards the welfare of prostitutes. The entire life of the average prostitute can be summed up in two words: alienation and exploitation. Many prostitutes have felt dis-empowered and alienated from society and their parents all their lives. Many prostitutes are the project of abusive homes which they runaway from and are not legally qualified to work in any legitimate industry.
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They ultimately resort to prostitution as a means of getting by. This history of abuse increases the likelihood of substance abuse and this fortifies a person’s role in society as a prostitute. Pimps take advantage of the prostitute’s situation and exploit them for most of their money. There is no such thing as union organizing for prostitutes as their would be serious violence in retribution for their “insubordinate” behavior. The prostitution industry is ultimate expression of the free market without the rule of law when the power is determined by the use of force against the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Society has basically given up on eliminating prostitution. Therefore, in most major cities around the world, there are neighborhoods where prostitution is concentrated. Society drives prostitution into one part of town where prostitution can go “unseen” during the hours of the night. These neighborhoods were typically laden with existing street crime and poverty before the introduction of prostitution. It is a bad part of town. The most famous of these urban districts is Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
In fact, the term “red light district” has become the generic term for any urban neighborhood notorious for its high concentration of prostitution. London, New York, and Paris are famous for their own “red light districts.” The brunt of social stigma of prostitution is generally placed on the prostitute because she is the most visible actor in the industry. The law recognizes the human rights of every individual because justice is blind to the differences of people. The law protects prostitutes from violent crimes committed against them. However, the law fails to prevent prostitutes from engaging in the risky behavior in the first place. The law can only punish someone after the fact. The law is fair on prostitution, it is illegal because it has so many social consequences ranging from higher incidences of poverty, drug abuse, violence, and sexually transmitted disease. Attitudes in law enforcement and the general public have reoriented themselves towards punishing the pimp and client due to their potential to harm prostitutes. The law still punishes prostitutes for their illegal activity but is not as harsh due to the unfortunate nature of their role in society.
THE REAL HARM OF PROSTITUTION
In prostitution, men remove women's humanity. Buying a woman in prostitution gives men the power to turn women into a living, breathing masturbation fantasy. He removes her self and those qualities that define her as an individual, and for him she becomes sexualized body parts. She acts the part of the thing he wants her to be. The women explain to us how it feels to be treated like a rented organ. "It is internally damaging. You become in your own mind what these people do and say with you. You wonder how could you let yourself do this and why do these people want to do this to you?" Women who prostitute have described it as "paid rape" and "voluntary slavery". Prostitution is sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, often worse. His payment does not erase what we know about sexual violence, domestic violence and rape. Women in prostitution have the highest rates of rape and homicide of any group of women ever studied. They are regularly physically assaulted and verbally abused. Sexual violence and physical assault are the norm for women in legal prostitution. In one study, 60 per cent of women in legal prostitution were physically assaulted, 70 per cent were threatened with physical assault, 40 per cent experienced sexual violence. Prostitution should not be legalised because it can't be fixed, only abolished. More than 90 per cent of those in it tell us that they want escape from prostitution. In order to escape they need housing, education, jobs that provide a sustainable income, health care and emotional support. We should all be working on providing women with alternatives to prostitution.
EFFECTS OF PROSTITUTION
The problems associated with street prostitution affect not only the prostitute, but also the community in which he/she works and the family members of the individuals who use the prostitute’s services. Prostitution reinforces the perception of women as objects that can be bought and sold at a price. Alienation from society, societal labelling, criminal records, addiction to drugs, lack of marketable skills and low self-esteem all work to prevent prostitutes from leaving the trade. Furthermore, prostitutes are subject to abuse by pimps and johns and are disproportionately exposed to harassment by law enforcement officials. Residential and commercial areas are also subject to problems associated with prostitution. Community groups argue that prostitution creates traffic congestion, noise, litter, harassment of residents and declining property values. Business people in the commercial districts cite loss of sales and attraction of a criminal element (i.e., drug trade) as concerns arising from street prostitution. Family members of individuals who visit prostitutes may also be adversely affected. An individual who frequents prostitutes will deplete money that would otherwise be circulated within the family. Moreover, infidelity may lead to contracting communicable diseases, to the break-up of the family and, at the very least, distrust and emotional suffering. When violence against women is considered, prostitution is often exempted from the category of violence against women. However, a consideration of the dire health consequences of prostitution demonstrates that prostitution not only gravely impairs women’s health but firmly belongs in the category of violence against women.
The health consequences to women from prostitution are the same injuries and infections suffered by women who are subjected to other forms of violence against women. The physical health consequences include: injury (bruises, broken bones, black eyes, concussions). A 1994 study conducted with 68 women in Minneapolis/St.Paul who had been prostituted for at least six months found that half the women had been physically assaulted by their purchasers, and a third of these experienced purchaser assaults at least several times a year. 23% of those assaulted were beaten severely enough to have suffered broken bones. Two experienced violence so vicious that they were beaten into a coma. Furthermore, 90% of the women in this study had experienced violence in their personal relationships resulting in miscarriage, stabbing, loss of consciousness, and head injuries The sex of prostitution is physically harmful to women in prostitution. STDs (including HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, human papilloma virus, and syphilis) are alarmingly high among womilis, gonorrheal, herpes). General gynecological problems, but in particular chronic pelvic pain and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), plague women in prostitution.Another physical effect of prostitution is unwanted pregnancy and miscarriage. The emotional health consequences of prostitution include severe trauma, stress, depression, anxiety, self- medication through alcohol and drug abuse; and eating disorders.
Ultimately, women in prostitution are also at special risk for self- mutilation, suicide and homicide. More succinctly, women in prostitution suffer the same broken bones, concussions, STDs, chronic pelvic pain, and extreme stress and trauma that women who have been battered, raped and sexually abused endure. In fact, the case can be made that women in prostitution -- because they are subject to being battered, raped and sexually abused all at the same time over an extensive period of time -- suffer these health consequences more intensively and consistently.
SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM OF PROSTITUTION
Anti-AIDS groups have largely focused on negotiating "safe sex" by promoting condom usage. In both developing and industrialized country contexts, current campaigns to control the spread of HIV/AIDS by advocating "safe sex" for women in prostitution fail to address the blatant inequities between women who are bought for sex and the men who pay for it. Any AIDS strategy based on negotiating condom use between the purchaser of sex and the woman who must supply it assumes a symmetry of power that does not even exist between women and men in many personal consensual relationships.
If AIDS programs are serious about eradicating AIDS, they must challenge the sex industry. Women in prostitution are targeted as the problem instead of making the sex industry problematic and challenging the mass male consumption of women and children in commercial sex. This is institutionalized when governments and NGOs argue for the medicalization of prostitution when they propose laws on prostitution which subject women to periodic medical check-ups. It is stated that women in the sex industry would be better protected if they submitted, or were required to submit, to health and especially STD screening. The way in which sex industries are responsible for the widespread health problems of women and children is mystified with proposals to implement health checks of women in the industry. No proposals have been forthcoming, from those who would propose both mandatory and voluntary medical surveillance for women in the sex industry, to medically monitor the men who would purchase sex.
On the other hand, proposals to medicalize female genital mutilation have been soundly rejected by women’s groups. Women’s human rights organizations have refuted arguments that girls and women undergoing genital cutting would be better protected from its health risks and physical trauma if it was performed in hospitals under trained medical supervision. Although policies and programs that medicalize female genital mutilation may reduce some injury and infection, women’s groups have stressed that these policies and programs do not address or end the abuse of women’s human rights represented by the very institutionalization of this unnecessary and mutilating surgery in a medical context. The same is true with current attempts to medicalize prostitution. No action will stabilize the sex industry more than legitimating prostitution through the health care system. If medical personnel are called upon to monitor women in prostitution, as part of "occupational health safety," we will have no hope of eradicating the industry. Furthermore, from a health perspective alone, it is inconceivable that medicalization of women in the industry will reduce infection and injury without concomitant medicalization of the male buyers. Thus medicalization, which is rightly viewed as a consumer protection act for men rather than as a real protection for women, ultimately protects neither women nor men.
As with other forms of violence against women, eradicating the health burden of prostitution entails addressing but going beyond its health effects. To address the health consequences of prostitution, the international human rights community must understand that prostitution harms women and that in addition to needing health services, women must be provided with the economic, social and psychological means to leave prostitution. Until prostitution is accepted as violence against women and a violation of women’s human rights, the health consequences of prostitution cannot be addressed adequately. Conversely, until the health burden of prostitution is made visible, the violence of prostitution will remain hidden.
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