“My experiences show that a woman doesn’t choose prostitution. She is choosing survival. Prostitution isn’t a choice. It is the absence of choice. Nobody makes the choice to be poor, low caste, or female. Society and individuals take advantage of this lack of choice.
“Language is politics. I use the term ‘prostituted woman.’ People wonder, ‘Who prostituted her?’ The system of inequality is what prostitutes women and girls.” Ruchira Gupta talking about her book, River of Flesh: The Prostituted Woman in Indian Short Fiction.
Prostitution involves unwanted sex, which is itself a form violence, and the punter requires the woman to pretend that she is enjoying it, even if she finds it physically and emotionally repulsive. This is a form of psychological violence. But punters and pimps are often also physically violent. Right up to murder.
Nothing can make prostitution safe. The numbers of dead women tell us that. Dead bodies don’t lie.
Women often struggle to exit prostitution, and many of the ones that do, find themselves returning after a temporary reprieve, due to the difficulties in finding a stable home and income. Added to which, many are affected by mental health problems, low self esteem and an anxiety with life outside of prostitution.
Well funded support and exit services are vital for women trying to remain exited, and the Nordic Model is the only legislation that prioritises this approach in assisting women to rebuild their lives.
Changing the law to decriminalise prostitution sends out the message that buying sex is now considered acceptable. This inevitably leads to more men buying sex more frequently, and more pimps and brothel owners wanting to cash in on all that extra money. But there aren’t enough women to fill this increased demand, because women who have genuine choices don’t generally choose to go into prostitution. So pimps and traffickers use force and coercion to recruit and trap women into prostitution. This usually meets the UN definition of human trafficking.
Studies of men who buy sex (punters) show that they are significantly more likely than other men to rape and engage in all forms of violence against women. A US study found that punters were nearly eight times more likely to rape than other men.
A UN study of violent men in six countries found that buying sex was the second most significant common factor in the backgrounds and lifestyles of men found guilty of rape.
The law in England and Wales recognises that each sexual encounter and activity requires separate consent and that a person has the right to withdraw or refuse consent at any time for any or no reason, and this applies equally to all persons and regardless of the relationship between them. The practical realities of prostitution are incompatible with the prostituted person’s absolute legal right to reject sexual advances and activity for any or no reason.
Since 2009, it has been illegal in England and Wales to buy sex from someone who’s been forced, coerced, or deceived into it, regardless whether you are aware of this or not. When this law was passing through Parliament, its terms were made increasingly restrictive, thus ensuring it would be more or less ineffective. This is a very strong argument for the Nordic Model itself.
“Trafficking” is a verb. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it has one and only one meaning, “to deal or trade in something illegal.” Human trafficking therefore means dealing or trading in human beings. You can only deal or trade in things that you have the power of ownership over. Therefore human trafficking is about the power of ownership over another human being, treating her as a commodity, for personal gain, whether that’s financial or material gain or sadistic pleasure. Ownership of another human being is slavery.
CEDAW – the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women – is an international bill of rights for women, adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1979. Countries that have ratified it are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. The UK ratified it in 1986. One of its provisions is to suppress the “exploitation of prostitution of women” – in other words, pimping, brothel keeping, and other forms of profiteering.
Suffolk police implemented a Nordic Model style prostitution strategy after a punter, called Steve Wright, murdered five prostituted women in Ipswich.
A subsequent evaluation found that every £1 spent on the strategy saved £2 of public money, because of savings to the criminal justice and social support systems.