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Supporting the adoption of the Abolitionist model in Spain: CAP International’s Advocacy Tour in Madrid and Catalonia


In the context of a promising move towards the adoption of the Abolitionist model, CAP International meets Spanish parliamentarians and NGOs

Rita María Hernández, Director of Policy and Advocacy of Rescue Freedom and Jonathan Machler, Executive Director of CAP International intervening at the Parliamentarian day organised by PSOE MPs at the Spanish Parliament, Madrid, Spain

As Spain is shaken by an Abolitionist momentum driven by the civil society, the feminist movement and Abolitionist political champions, the International Secretariat of CAP International spent a week in the country within the scope of an advocacy tour organised by the International Abolitionist School.

On 13 October, CAP International participated in a conference called “Hacia la Ley Abolicionista de la Prostitución: Una propuesta desde el activismo global” (Towards Abolitionist Prostitution Law: a proposal from global activism), organised by the Parliamentarian group of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE currently in power) and the International Abolitionist School, in the Parliament in Madrid. CAP International along with prominent Abolitionist champions, such as activist and survivor leader Amelia Tiganus, Spanish MP Carmen Calvo, Executive Director of the International Abolitionist School Graciela Atencio and several political leaders from the PSOE, joined voices to call for the adoption of the Abolitionist model in Spain, the most protective and ambitious model for persons in prostitution and victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Watch the full Conference here

CAP International participates in a seminar on Advocacy and good practices to support victims of prostitution at La Ciba

Rita María Hernández, Director of Policy and Advocacy of Rescue Freedom, Jonathan Machler, Executive Director of CAP International, Héma Sibi, Advocacy Coordinator of CAP International at the Conference in Santa Coloma, Catalonia, Spain. 

On October 14th CAP International intervened at a seminar focused on sharing expertise on Abolitionist advocacy and good practices to support victims of the prostitution system. The conference, organised by the International Abolitionist School, gathered various experts from civil society and took place at La Ciba, an amazing resources centre for women and a space for social economy, solidarity and feminism located in the municipality of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, an openly Abolitionist municipality in Catalonia near Barcelona.

Meeting with Núria Parlon, Mayor of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Abolitionist champion

Meeting with Núria Parlon, the Mayor of Santa Coloma de Gramenet

CAP International had the opportunity to meet the Mayor of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Núria Parlon, in order to discuss the feminist and Abolitionist policies she is implementing in her municipality. Ms Parlon is also the coordinator of the “Red de Municipios Libres de Trata” (Municipalities free from trafficking), an initiative gathering several municipalities working together to end the prostitution system and trafficking at a local level.

Participating in an Abolitionist march at La Jonquera

Abolitionist march at La Jonquera, in front of the brothel “Paradise”, Spain.

On October 16th Feminicidio, with other members of the Spanish Abolitionist movement, organised an Abolitionist march at La Jonquera, one of the hotspots for prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation in Europe. The protest, led by the survivor and Abolitionist leader Amelia Tiganus, confronted the pimps and sex buyers exploiting women in the brothel “Paradise” and demanded the immediate adoption of the Abolitionist model in Spain.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pledges to adopt the Abolitionist model in Spain

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Photo by Getty Images

Empowered by the Abolitionist momentum fostered by the massive and very dynamic Abolitionist movement in the country, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pledged to adopt the Abolitionist model in Spain at the occasion of the 40th Congress of the PSOE during the weekend. “Prostitution is one of the cruellest aspects of the feminisation of poverty and one of the worst forms of violence against women” stated Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. The Spanish and International Abolitionist Movement will now work on supporting these dynamics in order to achieve this historical change in Spain and adopt an Abolitionist law.

CAP International Side Event on Championing the elimination of trafficking in human beings and the exploitation of prostitution

Championing the elimination of trafficking in human beings

and the exploitation of prostitution

Side event Parallel to 47th Human Rights Council & 79th CEDAW Sessions

Co-sponsored by France, Iceland & Sweden – In cooperation with OHCHR & OSCE/ODIHR

Tuesday 22 June 2021 – 12 pm CEST

In English – French – Spanish – German


On the occasion of the 47th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council and the 79th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in Geneva, CAP International gathers States, International organisations and Survivors leaders to highlight international human rights law and good practices to eliminate trafficking in human beings and the exploitation of prostitution.

Trafficking in human beings and the exploitation of prostitution constitute a serious violation of human rights. Most identified victims are women and girls, their sexual exploitation being the purpose of trafficking is linked to organised crime in most cases. The total number of victims has grown considerably following the unprecedented increase in migration and forced displacement, due to armed conflicts, persecution, human rights violations, and the outbreak of COVID-19.

6 months after the adoption of CEDAW General recommendation No. 38 on trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration and 2 years after France and Sweden have developed a common strategy for combating human trafficking for sexual exploitation in Europe and globally, this event aims to create a platform to share lessons learned on efforts to eliminate sexual exploitation and to improve cooperation as well as to support advocacy, initiatives and the mobilisation of additional resources.

Panelists include:

  • Ms Anna JARDFELT, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN in Geneva
  • Ms Tserenchunt BYAMBA-OCHIR, Survivor, Founder and Director of Talita Asia (Mongolia)
  • Ms Dalia LEINARTE, Former Chair and member of CEDAW Committee
  • Ms Youla HADDADIN, Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Persons, OHCHR
  • Ms Tatiana KOTLYARENKO, Advisor on Anti-Trafficking Issues, OSCE/ODIHR
  • Ms Sandra NORAK, Survivor (Germany), Member of OSCE/ODIHR International Survivors of Trafficking Advisory Council (ISTAC)
  • Ms Anna EKSTEDT, Swedish Ambassador-at-Large for Combating Trafficking in Persons
  • Mr Jean-Claude BRUNET, French Ambassador-at-Large against Transnational Criminal Threats
  • Representative of Iceland
  • Ms Mickey MEJI, Survivor, Founder of Kwanele (South Africa)
  • Ms Delphine BORIONE, French Ambassador-at-Large for Human rights

This event will be held online. In order to attend the event, please register online by clicking on this link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_sJ2dQemUSzycfPHN0OtFqg.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Join us!

CAP International’s members on the frontline during the Covid-19 crisis

The 33 member organisations of CAP international are working in support of more than 15,000 prostituted persons and victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, in 27 countries.  They see on a daily basis how women and girls who are economically and sexually exploited by the prostitution system are being hit hard by the current crisis.

The COVID-19 virus seems to affect first and foremost, and more seriously, men, especially older men.
However, the accompanying health, economic and social crisis is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable groups in our societies and, as a result, women and girls belonging to the most discriminated communities. Women and girls who are migrants, refugees, displaced persons, indigenous people, ethnic and religious minorities, from the lowest castes, from rural communities, but also the poorest women and girls, the youngest, the homeless, victims of prior sexual violence are both the first victims of economic and sexual exploitation and the first victims of the current crisis.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, these women and children, often without residency statutes, housing, income and very often without access to minimum social rights, were surviving in prostitution. They did not live off it, they survived it. As all the investigative police forces in the world have shown, the income of people exploited in prostitution is indeed almost or entirely confiscated by pimps, traffickers, smugglers, landlords and many other predators.

Today, many of these women and children do not even have enough money to survive. This is why our grassroots associations are on the front line to offer the minimum necessities of life to as many people as possible: access to information about the virus, food and shelter.

Apne Aap distributing food in India

In every country of our coalition, our members are on the field providing support to victims of prostitution during the pandemic :

➡️ In Colombia, Iniciativa ProEquidad offered recommendations to local authorities before lockdown started, and its members distribute food, and provide emergency rent money to at least 600 women and families in 4 cities. A survivor led NGO even set up a shelter during the pandemia.

➡️In India our member Apne Aap distributes cooked meals to more than 2500 families living in the red-light areas of Kolkata, Delhi & Bihar during lockdown.

➡️In the USA our member Breaking Free provides hot meals & basic necessities for women & girls in prostitution and their families. Their shelters serve 55 families during the crisis.

➡️In Spain Comisión para la Investigación de Malos Tratos a Mujeres provides psychological and legal support by phone to the most vulnerable women & girls in several languages. They continue their outreach activities and meet with victims of sexual exploitation.

➡️In Belgium Isala asbl has launched a fundraising campaign to assist vulnerable women and girls. isala has been assisting more than 50 women by phone during the lockdown. The money from the solidarity fund has been distributed to several families in the form of food stamps.

➡️In Lebanon KAFA (enough) Violence & Exploitation provides socio-legal advice to women in prostitution through their helpline. It is also providing financial assistance, emergency shelter, and medical support to victims of prostitution and ensure the most vulnerable among them have access to Covid19 tests.

➡️In France Mouvement du Nid France is continuing its ground work and provides phone assistance to women and girls in prostitution in addition to providing financial help and psychological support. It advocates for 3 rights & dignity guarantees at the national level : regular stay, resources & accommodation to leave no one below the poverty line.

➡️In Ireland Ruhama distributes emergency packs (with vouchers, food, hygiene products and sexual health and safety supplies) in all of Ireland for women & girls in prostitution who are particularly vulnerable during the crisis.

➡️In Palestine Sawa Organization مؤسسة سوا مؤسسة سوا ‘s free helpline operating through health professionals, counselors and lawyers to provide support for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and others for women & girls has received more than 1064 phone calls in the first 4 weeks of the sanitary crisis.

➡️In Canada CLES – Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle assists victims of prostitution by phone to assess their specific needs during these times. The organisation distributes food vouchers, prepaid sim cards to vulnerable women & also organise virtual support groups online!

➡️In Iceland Stígamót is supporting women and girls in prostitution and victims of violence by phone during the lockdown. They have been able to financially support women in need for them to be able to manage their rent, have access to food and medicine.

➡️In Latvia MARTA‘s social workers are operating by phone and messages to bring support to victims of sexual exploitation during the sanitary crisis. They have published a video with useful resources for women victims of violence in their country

Embrace Dignity distributing food parcels in South Africa

Follow more of our actions on our Facebook Page & Twitter with the hashtag #LastGirlFirst



EXIT campaign in Portugal: training for young abolitionists in Portugal

From the 4th to the 6th of July, CAP international has been invited to participate in a training for Young Abolitionists hold in Setubal, Portugal. The training was organised by our strategic partner Plataforma Portuguesa para os Direitos das Mulheres, in cooperation with the movement Generation Abolition.

Our Portuguese member organisation O’ Ninho also participated in the training session. More than 50 young abolitionists from Portugal, Brazil and Sao Tome and Principe attended the training.

In September 2018, CAP international had already participated in the EXIT conference, organised in Lisbon by the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights in cooperation with the European Women’s Lobby.

This conference gathered 30 speakers and aimed at presenting and debating best policies and legal frameworks to eliminate the exploitation of women and girls in the system of prostitution.

More information here: https://exitprostitution.org/en/conference


France and Sweden launch a historic joint diplomatic abolitionist initiative

On International Women’s Day, France and Sweden have announced the launch of a joint diplomatic initiative aimed at eliminating trafficking for sexual exploitation and the exploitation of prostitution of women and girls.

In their joint declaration, Ministers Le Drian and Wallström explain how their States intend to promote the abolitionist model as the best response to trafficking for sexual exploitation: “The main focus of our common strategy will be the need to reduce the demand for girls and women in prostitution, in Europe and globally. The reason for this is the clear nexus between trafficking for sexual exploitation and prostitution. A nexus that is well described in numerous studies and also highlighted by the European Parliament in resolution (2013/2103(INI)) on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality. Trafficking for sexual exploitation will continue as long as there is a demand for girls and women in prostitution. Therefore, focusing on reducing demand will be an important measure for combating trafficking for sexual exploitation, for combating violence against women and children and for enhanced gender equality”.

CAP international has worked for a long time with these two countries and welcomes this historic step towards a global abolitionist movement against the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

You can find the joint statement here.

#MeToo and Prostitution: Survivors of the Sex Trade Break Silence!

Survivors of the Sex Trade Break Silence

Friday 23 November
7pm to 9.30pm

Room Jean Dame, Paris 2ème arrondissement
EN-FR interpretation

CAP intl, SPACE intl, Mouvement du Nid and Osez le Féminisme ! organise in Paris a world première event dedicated to “#MeToo and prostitution”, where survivors of the sex trade will break the silence on the daily and inherent violence of the prostitution system.

The event will help to understand that prostitution is part of a continuum of sexual violence and abuse and cannot be dissociated from other forms of sexual abuses which are growingly being exposed and denounced in the context of #MeToo.

Together with Ashley Judd, co-host and keynote speaker of the event, the organizers will moderate an outstanding panel of speakers and will provide a space for new survivors to speak out for the first time.

Co-host, keynote speaker and moderator

Ashley Judd:  Feminist social justice humanitarian, activist, actress, author. Me Too key figure and founding member of Time’s Up.


Rachel Moran: Feminist and abolitionist activist, Founder of SPACE intl (Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightment), and author of best seller “Paid For – My Journey Through prostitution”.

Mickey Meji: Abolitionist leader and founder of KWANELE, the first sex trade survivors movement in South Africa, advocacy director for Embrace Dignity.

Rosen Hicher: Abolitionist activist. Initiated and walked 800 kms’  for the Marche de Rosen pour l’abolition de la prostitution. Co-founder of the Mouvement français des Survivantes de la prostitution. Trainer in French « John schools ».

Anne Darbes: Author of the autobiographical novel, « Le visage de l’autre », Anne Darbes has been affected by prostitution as a man, and later on, as a woman.

Ruchira Gupta: Awarded journalist and leading feminist and abolitionist activist, founder and president of the Indian abolitionist movement Apne Aap. Board member of CAP international.

Co-organizers and moderators

Grégoire Théry, co-founder and director of CAP intl

Claire Quidet, Board member and spokesperson of Mouvement du Nid

Celine Piques and Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu, spokespersons of Osez le Féminisme !



Click here to registration

Only registered participants will have access to the conference room. IDs and press cards will be checked at the entrance.

Lisbon: participation in Exit Prostitution conference

On the 21st of September, CAP international will participate in the EXIT conference, organised in Lisbon by the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights in cooperation with the European Women’s Lobby.

This conference will gather 30 speakers and aims at presenting and debating best policies and legal frameworks to eliminate the exploitation of women and girls in the system of prostitution.

More information and registration here: https://exitprostitution.org/en/conference


Geneva: UN Human Rights Council participation and co-sponsorship of side event

On 22 June, CAP International co-sponsored and participated in a Human Rights Council (38th session) side event held at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Organised by Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII (APG23), the event covered “The Nordic (Equality) Model – a good practice to counter sexual exploitation and human trafficking”.

Letter from 85 NGOs calling on ILO Standard Setting Committee to refrain from using language of “sex work” or “sex workers” in the ILC Conclusions on ending violence and harassment in the world of work

The International Labour Conference took place in early June in Geneva, Switzerland. Within this context, there were developments in the ongoing negotiations on developing standard setting tools to combat violence and sexual harassment in the workplace. Below is a closed letter that 85 NGOs co-signed relating to the proposed conclusions of the Standard Setting Committee.


Re: NGOs working for women’s rights and against gender-based violence call on ILO Standard Setting Committee to refrain from using language of “sex work” or “sex workers” in the ILC Conclusions on ending violence and harassment in the world of work.

30 May 2018

Dear Delegates of the Standard Setting Committee,

We welcome the standard setting process on violence and harassment, and your work as members of the committee currently negotiating this standard at the International Labour Congress in Geneva.

In particular, we welcome all efforts to strengthen the fight against gender-based violence and sexual harassment in the workplace. This protective convention on ending violence in the workplace will provide a key contribution toward global and collective efforts to combat gender-based violence in our societies.

We support and welcome the wording of the proposed conclusions as they stand so far, as listed in Ending violence and harassment in the world of work: Report V (2) (hereafter “Report V(2)”) submitted to the Conference.

We are, however, concerned about an attempt by a few organisations and 2 trade unions to instrumentalise and dismantle this progressive and powerful standard-setting process, through an attempt to trivialise a severe form of economic and sexual exploitation: namely, the exploitation of the prostitution of women.

Our concerns stem from the following responses given to Questions 34 and 49, as echoed in Report V(2), which show that there is an attempt to include terminology on “sex work” or “sex workers”, in particular as an item in point 10(b) of the proposed conclusions:

  • Question 34, Office commentary: “A few governments and workers’ organizations propose the inclusion of additional sectors, such as agricultural work, hotel and catering, mining, sex work, construction, and sectors where women make up the majority of the workforce.” (pp.73)
  • Question 49, comments and Office commentary: “CTC (Colombia), CUT (Colombia): Protection against violence and harassment arising from unionized activity; inclusion of informal economy workers and sex workers” (pg. 95, Report V2) “Two workers’ organizations suggest the express inclusion of sex workers”. “In addition, the Office clarifies that sex workers are included under the definition of “worker” provided in point 3(d) of the proposed Conclusions” (pg. 96, ReportV2).

We, the undersigned, affirm that prostitution is neither sex, nor work, but a form of sexual and economic exploitation. We urge all parties to maintain the current proposed conclusions, and reject the inclusion of an explicit reference to “sex work” or “sex workers” in this progressive standard-setting instrument.

In the annex below you will find our analysis of (i) why the prostitution of others is a system of economic and sexual exploitation of the most discriminated groups; (ii) why it is a significant obstacle to the right to physical integrity and health, (iii) how paying for sex is an abuse of power, (iv) how the concept of “sex work” fosters a culture of sexual exploitation and is incompatible with labour law and the prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace; (v) how it is a violation of human rights and a fundamental obstacle to decent work and (vi) how legalising “sex work” through the decriminalisation of pimps, procurers and buyers increases the harms of prostitution and the profits of exploiters.

We remain at your disposal for any further information required.


CAP International and its members:

CAP International

Apne Aap, India

Breaking Free, USA

Embrace Dignity, South Africa

EVA Center, USA

EXIT Finland

Fondation Scelles, France

Iniciativa Pro Equidad de Genero, Colombia

KAFA, Lebanon

KFUKs Sociale Arbejde, Denmark

La CLES, Canada

Maiti Nepal

Malos Tratos, Spain

Marta Center, Latvia

Medicos del Mundo, Spain

Mouvement du Nid, France

People Serving Girls at Risk, Malawi

SOLWODI, Germany

South Kolkata Hamari Muskan, India

Reden, Denmark

Ruhama, Ireland

Talita, Sweden

Unidos vs Trata, Mexico

Women@thewell, UK


International networks:

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Latin America and the Caribbean (CATW-LAC)

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (Global)

Equality Now

European Network of Migrant Women

European Women’s Lobby


Domestic NGOs:

1000 Möjligheter, Sweden

Abolition 2014, Germany

Associazione Iroko Onlus, Italy

Awaken, USA

Belgian Women’s Council, Belgium

Build a Girl Project, UK

Bulgarian Platform of the European Women’s Lobby, Bulgaria

Caritas Social Action Network, UK

Central Arizona National Lawyers Guild

Conseil international des femmes – International Council of Women

Conseil national des femmes françaises (CNFF), France

Conseil National des Femmes du Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Equipes d’Action contre le Proxénétisme, France

For a world without prostitution, Germany

Fundación Camino a Casa, Mexico

Fundación Karla de la Cuesta, Mexico

The Greek Coordination, Greece

Hungarian Women’s Lobby, Hungary

Immigrant Council of Ireland, Ireland

Initiative Féministe Euromed IFE-EFI

Institute of Our Lady of Mercy, UK

Institute for Gender, Law and Development, Argentina

isala asbl, Belgium

Judith Trust, UK

Klaipeda Social and psychological support center, Lithuania

Kofra (Kommunikationszentrum für Frauen), Germany

Kwanele Survivor Movement, South Africa

L’Amicale du Nid, France

Libres Mariannes, France

Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisation (MCWO), Malta

Mémoire Traumatique et Victimologie, France

Monde selon les femmes, Belgium

National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, UK

National Board of Catholic Women, UK

Network of East West Women, Poland

nia, United Kingdom

O Ninho, Portugal

Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights, Portugal

Realstars, Sweden

Regards de femmes, France

Romanian Women’s Lobby, Romania

Scientists for a World Without Prostitution, Germany

Slovak Women’s Lobby, Slovakia

Space Allies, Japan

Stockholm UN Association, Sweden

Survivors for Solutions, USA

Swedish Women’s Lobby, Sweden

Terre des Femmes, Germany

Unizon, Sweden

Women’s Association “IZVOR”, Croatia

Women’s Democratic Movement, Portugal

Women’s Front, Norway

Women’s Network Croatia

World Without Exploitation, USA

Contact person: Gregoire Thery, gregoire@cap-international.org

Annex: Prostitution of others: neither sex, nor work, but a lucrative system of sexual exploitation and abuse that jeopardise efforts toward achieving gender equality and social justice.


I- A system of economic and sexual exploitation of the most discriminated groups

All over the world, and throughout history, the most systemically disadvantaged groups have been overrepresented in sexual exploitation and prostitution. Prostitution is a highly gendered and patriarchal system that disproportionately impacts the poorest women and young children.

Victims of incest and sexual violence, indigenous women and children, low caste communities, migrant women and children, and women and girls from ethnic minorities are still the primary victims of sexual exploitation by pimps, traffickers and sex buyers.

In Canada, First Nations women are disproportionately affected by prostitution. Research carried out in Vancouver found that 52% of interviewed prostituted persons were indigenous people, despite representing less than 7% of the population of Vancouver.

In India, women and girls from low castes, indigenous communities, or from the poorest communities of Nepal, represent the vast majority of prostituted persons and victims of sex trafficking. The International Dalit Solidarity Network estimates that “most girls and women in India’s urban brothels come from Dalit, lower-caste, tribal, or minority communities”. In 2007, Anti-Slavery International found that “93% of Devadasi (religiously backed prostituted persons) were from Scheduled Castes (Dalits) and 7% from Scheduled Tribes (indigenous) in India”.

In Western Europe, an overwhelming majority of prostituted persons are migrant women coming from poorer EU (Romania, Bulgaria) or non EU (Albania, Nigeria, China) countries.

The profits from the prostitution of others are concentrated in the hands of a very small minority of individuals and businesses directly involved in, or related to, organized crime. Prostitution is a very lucrative market, based on exploitation of some of the most socially and economically vulnerable people and the enrichment of exploiters. In 2015, the French research Prostcost, showed that prostitution in France costs at least 1.6 billion euros to French society and that the lion’s share of the 3.2 billion euros’ profit from prostitution falls into the hands of exploiters. Prostitution is thus an activity that maximizes the private profits of pimps and traffickers while imposing a direct harm on prostituted persons and a serious social and economic cost on communities and States.

II- A significant obstacle to the right to physical integrity and health

Prostitution is a direct and significant obstacle to the right to integrity and health. Indeed, prostitution is the antithesis of the World Health Organisation’s definition of “sexual health”: a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality”, which requires “a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

Historically, the sexual health focus within prostitution has been limited to minimizing the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). However, we also know that the harm of prostitution extends far beyond the risk of STDs, to intrinsic physical and psychological damage related to:

  • The sexual violence of prostitution in itself: repetitive (often long term), anonymous bodily invasion;
  • Recourse to psychological or chemical (with drugs or alcohol) dissociation in order to cope with this bodily invasion;
  • The over-exposure to other physical and psychological violence (murder, beatings, rape, assault), primarily perpetrated by sex buyers and pimps;
  • The extreme levels of stress caused by the activity itself and by the permanent fear of being raped or attacked, contracting an STD, or being denounced to the police etc.

Studies of sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder in the US rate the severity of condition in those involved in prostitution as “enormously high”. To put that into context, this is even higher than among Vietnam veterans seeking treatment for the condition. Further, two thirds of women in prostitution report suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (compared with 5% of the general population).

In March 2013, the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS) published the results of its research on the “health, access to healthcare and access to rights of the people in a situation of prostitution met within social and medical structures”, which showed that prostituted persons:

  • Suffer rape at incidence rates that are at least 6 times greater than for the general population;
  • have 7 times more suicidal thoughts than the general population;
  • take 4.5 times more anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication than the general population.

III- Paying for sex is an abuse of power

In a world of growing economic inequalities, paying for sex means exploiting the precariousness and vulnerabilities of another person, using money to purchase consent from someone who is in – often desperate – financial need.

In his 2003 Special Bulletin on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuses, the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, rightly highlighted the notion of “differential power” and consequently prohibited the purchase of sex by UN personnel. “The term “sexual exploitation” means any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. Similarly, the term “sexual abuse” means the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour, is prohibited.”

IV- The concept of “sex work” fosters a culture of sexual exploitation and is incompatible with labour law and the prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace

Profiting from another’s prostitution and paying for sex take place in the broader context of continuing gender inequality. Prostitution cannot be segregated from the patriarchal continuum of sexual violence, nor from the historic male privilege of accessing and controlling women’s bodies (droit du seigneur, rape, marital rape, sexual harassment and incest, as well as prostitution). The right to safety and physical integrity cannot not be guaranteed to women and girls when men are permitted to impose sex acts by force, psychological pressure, or financial constraint.

A strong labour rights position which, for example, prohibits employers from seeking sexual favours from employees in exchange for promotions or bonuses is not compatible with the concept of “sex work”, which endorses the notion that men can pay women in exchange for sex. The prohibition of sexual harassment does not hold if it becomes possible under labour law to buy the consent of another person for sex.

More generally, if physical contacts with a sexual intention or connotation in the workplace are unambiguously defined as “sexual harassment”, it is absurd and dangerous to advocate that the systematic penetration of another person could be organized in a working environment. Accepting prostitution as ‘conventional work’ for some, repudiates the need to protect all workers from sexual harassment.

V- A violation of human rights and a fundamental obstacle to decent work

Prostitution is recognized in universal human rights law as an inherent violation of human dignity: “Whereas 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 and endanger the welfare of the individual, the family and the community”. (UN Convention for the suppression of the traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949)

The qualification of prostitution as a violation of human dignity is crucial since the protection of the dignity and worth of the human person is a cornerstone of the entire international human rights system and law.

The United Nations System, including the International Labour Organisation, are bound by constituent treaties that place respect and the promotion of human dignity at the heart of their mandates. Thus, the ILO is explicitly not authorised to promote the concept of “sex work”. Prostitution is incompatible with human dignity and cannot be categorised as “work”, and even less a form of “decent work”.

VI- Legalising “sex work” through the decriminalisation of pimps, procurers and buyers increases the harms of prostitution and the profits of exploiters

Ignoring the inherent harms of prostitution, and being well aware of the huge potential tax income from the commercial sex trade, several countries have tried to introduce a theoretical distinction between legitimate “sex work” and illegal “trafficking in human beings”. In doing so, they argued that they would improve the working conditions of prostitution through legalisation and thus control over its exploitation.

In October 2000, the Netherlands decided to legalise “sex work”, and lifted the 1911 ban on brothels. Since then, several studies from the Scientific Research and Documentation Centre of the Ministry of Justice (WODC) and from the national police force (KLPD) have studied the impact of the decriminalization of procuring in the Netherlands. They show that “legalisation of sex work” has not improved the situation of prostituted persons. On the contrary:

  • The overall situation of persons in prostitution has, in fact, worsened;
  • “The prostitutes’ emotional well-being is now lower than in 2001 on all measured aspects”;
  • “The use of sedatives has increased”;
  • 50% to 90% of the women working in licensed brothels do so “involuntarily”;
  • Organised crime has taken control of the legal sector of the sex industry;
  • Decriminalising procuring and legalising the sex industry has not prevented an increase in ‘hidden’ or ‘illegal’ prostitution”.

In May 2013, Der Spiegel released a 30-page dossier called “Brothel Germany: how the State promotes trafficking in women and prostitution”. The newspaper’s analysis is explicit: When Germany legalized prostitution just over a decade ago, politicians hoped that it would create better conditions and more autonomy for sex workers. It hasn’t worked out that way, though.” On the contrary, the research concludes that the well-meaning law is in fact little more than a subsidy program for pimps and makes the market more attractive to human traffickers.”

Colloque Mouvement du Nid/CAP International à l’Assemblée nationale

Le 24 mai, CAP international et le Mouvement du Nid ont organisé à l’Assemblée nationale (salle Colbert) un colloque consacré à la prostitution, intitulé : “Prostitution et traite des êtres humains en France et en Europe : état des lieux et perspectives comparées pour mettre fin à ces formes de violence et d’exploitation sexuelles”.

Le colloque se a dérouleré en Salle Colbert de 9h à 13h30, et a réuni de nombreu·s·e·s expert·e·s de l’application des politiques publiques en matière de prostitution, en Europe et en France. Salle Colbert, Assemblée nationale Le colloque est complet.

Programme et intervenant.e.s

  • 9h-09h45 : Accueil et ouverture Marlène Schiappa, Secrétaire d’Etat à l’Egalité entre les Femmes et les Hommes (sous réserve)

Danielle Bousquet, présidente du Haut Conseil à l’Egalité entre les Femmes et les Hommes

Pierre Cabaré, député, Vice-président de la délégation aux Droits des Femmes de l’Assemblée nationale

  • 10h-11h : Table-ronde 1 – Prostitution et traites des êtres humains : réalité de la situation en France

Claire Quidet, porte-parole du Mouvement du Nid Une violence sexuelle et un obstacle à l’égalité

Marie-France Casalis, porte-parole du Collectif féministe contre le viol La prostitution dans le continuum des violences faites aux femmes

Grégoire Théry, directeur de la Coalition pour l’Abolition de la Prostitution (CAP international) Une exploitation des groupes les plus vulnérables

  • 11h15-12h : Table-ronde 2 – Etat des lieux et bilan comparé des politiques publiques à l’échelle européenne
  • Per-Anders Sunesson, Ambassadeur suédois en charge de la lutte contre la traite des êtres humains

Les enjeux actuels de la lutte contre l’exploitation sexuelle à l’échelle européenne

Ingeborg Kraus, psychothérapeute allemande Situation en Allemagne, 17 ans après la dépénalisation du proxénétisme

  • 12h-13h30 : Table-ronde 3 – Mise en œuvre de la loi française du 13 avril 2016

Stéphanie Caradec, directrice du Mouvement du Nid Point sur la mise en œuvre des 4 piliers de la loi du 13 avril 2016

Guillaume Lescaux, procureur de la République du TGI de Fontainebleau Mise en œuvre de l’interdiction d’achat d’actes sexuels et des stages de responsabilisation Laurence Noëlle, co-fondatrice des Survivantes de la prostitution, formatrice en milieu pénal et carcéral, intervenante dans les stages « clients » Retour sur la mise en œuvre des stages de responsabilisation des clients de la prostitution

Marie-Pierre Rixain, députée, Présidente de la délégation aux droits des femmes de l’Assemblée nationale L’action de la délégation aux droits des femmes pour la mise en œuvre de la loi Le colloque sera suivi d’une conférence de presse