UN Report ‘Prostitution and violence against women and girls’ published

30 May 2024

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, has published her report ‘Prostitution and violence against women and girls’. The report examines violence against women and sexual exploitation as a form, cause and consequence of prostitution, assesses the key conceptual frameworks and terminologies, international human rights and legal standards, and takes stock of legislative and policy models. Ruhama was happy to be one of 300 contributors of submissions to this report.

The report recognises that prostitution is intrinsically linked to different forms of violence against women and girls and that it violates the right of women and girls to dignity. Women almost exclusively represent “the supply” in the prostitution system, while men represent almost exclusively the demand for prostitution. Attaching a payment – whether in cash or “in kind” – to women in prostitution reduces the latter to mere objects and normalizes the commodification of women and girls. The normalization of the purchase of sexual acts gives the sexual act a transactional value and places sexuality in the realm of the market. Therefore, all women can therefore be regarded as having a price. It points out that the consequences of prostitution for mental health are similar to those of victims of torture.

The report also looks at pornography as it is understood to be filmed prostitution.

It concludes that:

‘By shifting the criminal responsibility to the buyer and considering prostituted persons as victims of systemic discrimination, as well as violence against women, the Equality Model offers prevention, protection and exiting alternatives to them. […] The legal obligation to treat prostituted women as victims entitled to protection and rights has resulted in the expansion of State-sponsored victim-support services. […] This approach has demonstrated concrete positive results by improving the situation of persons in or at risk of exploitation; deterring buyers and third parties; and reducing harmful gender stereotypes.’

It is to Ireland’s credit that the Equality Model was adopted in 2017 and that prostitution is formally recognised as a form of gender-based violence by the State. This report emphasises the necessity that other jurisdictions follow suit to ensure true equality for women and girls.

Read the full report here.


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