In recent weeks alone, women around the world have exerted their political power. The inauguration of Donald Trump, a known misogynist, as the President of the United States sparked over 650 rallies across the globe, with an estimated 3.2 million people participating in Women’s Marches. Along with this movement, came a wave of vagina-centric feminism that largely surrounded the Pussyhat Project, now a symbol of the global protests and the reclamation of cis women’s bodies. What remains hidden, however, is the international sex industry and the consequences that may occur.
It is estimated that 10% of men have purchased a prostitute within their lifetimes. With a murder rate 20 times higher than the national average and an estimated 12 beatings per year, women in this global industry suffer from an extreme amount of violence. Of the 80,000 Americans arrested for soliciting sex, an estimated 75-95% were abused as children. The most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children, and in parts of Africa and the Mekong region, this number increases exponentially. Approximately 27 million girls are enslaved across the world.
Delegates in the World Conference on Women are looking to solve all of this.
Committee meetings have been reported as somewhat tense and hostile. “The topics are very controversial because they are prevalent everywhere so everyone inherently has something different to say about it and everyone has different beliefs about it,” the delegate of Belarus noted. She continued to say that there were many “cultural influences” as more religious countries seemed to disregard the notion of the industry while nations with booming commercial sex businesses looked favorably on legalizing prostitution in order to regulate it.
The Italian delegate stated that “The focus of our bloc is legalization of all forms of sex work. We’re including clauses that speak to human trafficking and other forms of sex work that have been deemed more immoral and as violations of humans rights. Italy believes that it is about recognizing that making prostitution and other forms of sex work illegal or a criminal offense ostracizes the women who are already involved in the industry even further and makes them outcasts of society; this is not something we want to promote.”
The delegation of Belarus, a member of the same bloc, added that they were “…working to protect the rights of women within the sex industry rather than worry about its legality, leaving that up to the countries on their own. We’re looking to ensure that there are contraceptives, healthcare, and all sorts of methods to ensure that women in the industry are treated as equals and can be respected.”
It is evident that the representatives in this committee have much more to face. While the regulations or statements the delegates develop may be empowering and enriching for some, others fear that this could increase the enslavement of others and the cruel practices that are already so widespread around the world. Sex is powerful, and this committee can be too.