All Women Are Created Equal

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By Parmita Protik Das, CNN

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(CNN)—On approaching the Dais, CNN received rave reviews from the delegates in the Commission on the Status of Women. The Dais said that the delegates were performing astoundingly well and were on their fifth working paper. The Dais members informed me that the delegates were vacillating between criminalization of prostitutes, legalization of prostitutes or a combination of both. The Dias mentioned the wide range of issues the delegates covered including stigma, access to contraceptives and the social implications of prostitution.

The working papers had similar foundations such as provision of oral contraceptives and sex education classes. Some delegates believed in targeted efforts to help women facing economic troubles and advocated strongly for providing rehabilitation to women who were forced into prostitution or who wish to exit the trade. They believe women have the fundamental right to choice and establishing that right is the goal of the CSW. Regulations on mega-brothels were proposed for countries such as Germany and a particularly innovative solution was training law enforcement to identify signs of duress in prostitutes which could indicate sex trafficking. The reference to the success of the Polaris Project in the USA helped ground the delegates’ arguments in reality and they expressed their aim to establish similar projects worldwide.

Delegates in one bloc recognized that the legalization of prostitution would aim to protect the rights of sex workers, particularly in terms of rights to dignity and choice, freedom from stigma and respect for their privacy. They believed these objectives fell under the jurisdiction of the CSW. They believed that there should be a partnership between private and public institutions to increase the standard of life these prostitutes have. The underlying rhetoric in their arguments was that prostitution did not cause any third party harms and so should not be criminalized in and of itself. In fact, they said, prosecution would exacerbate the outlying problems.

Another bloc decided to take a more realistic approach. A delegate said, “We will allow nations to follow their own legislation regarding the legality of prostitution so that we do not breach any nation’s sovereignty which would be against the mandate of the UN”. They emphasized rehabilitation and the establishment of role models for the prostitutes. They proposed training (to reintegrate former prostitutes into the legal workforce), health classes, and provisions for testing for STDs. They recognized that prostitutes were particularly vulnerable to abuse- rape, violence, drugs- so they needed protection. Furthermore, these delegates believed that countries could work together and coordinate their efforts to stop sex trafficking through sharing “tips and tricks” and suspected sex traffickers should be monitored heavily.

Delegates emphasized that increased access to education would prevent prostitutes from being exploited and falling into the cycle of poverty. They encouraged incentivizing families to educate their children and thereby prevent families from opting into prostitution purely out of financial need.

On a broader level, they proposed a UN Trust Fund made of NGOs, willing countries and UN bodies to provide money to create schools for children of prostitutes. They suggested a three tier plan- Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation. The plan included the proposal to mobilize citizens to detect and report trafficking, initiating government programs to stem the online recruitment of children and utilization of mass media to raise awareness. The delegates hence demonstrated that they understood how cultural differences between countries affect this hot-button issue.

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