When 8000 women from all over the globe arrive in New York City in March each year, we know it’s time for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations. This year I attended several parallel events during the first week of the commission. I concentrated on sessions that dealt with human trafficking and prostitution. It was encouraging to learn about what various countries are doing to bring an end to trafficking and to assist victims in rebuilding their lives. Examples are:
Ireland’s Turn Off the Red Light Campaign
The Nordic Model
Australian Plan to Reduce Violence against Women
A particularly interesting event was presented by the Coalition against Trafficking in Women: Twenty Years after Beijing: Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, and the Quest for Equality. Panelists from several countries, including survivors, spoke from their area of expertise – medicine, psychology, social justice activism, human rights advocacy, etc. – on progress made and new models and solutions yet to be tried.
Throughout the week, an important distinction continued to be made regarding prostitution. On one side, representatives from countries where prostitution is legal spoke of how their governments regard it as a respectable employment choice for women. On the other side, speakers made clear that prostitution must be addressed as it exists, not as it is imagined. Prostitution is violence against women and a form of slavery. Legalization may be seen as a country’s effort to help the slave and make it nicer on the plantation, but legalization cannot eradicate slavery or close down the plantation. These laws sometimes result in harm reduction, but fail to change the system.”