Working Paper Controversies Wade into WCW

“World Conference on Women.” Words displayed on the screen in front of Room Back Bay A triggered my curiosity as I strolled my way through the busy, crowded hallway on the Second Floor last night. Carefully, I pushed open the wooden doors ahead of me and tiptoed in, only to find myself in the middle of a heated discussion on Topic Area A of the World Conference on Women: The Legality of the Commercial Sex Industry.

The delegation of the United States argued for the importance of working paper 1.5, a working paper that would be accessible to the varying policies of different governments. Describing other working papers as being “only specific to one policy and one aspect of the problem, such as criminalization, legalization, etc,” U.S. called attention to working paper 1.5 again, urging for its significance on resolving the existing problems prevalent in the sex industry. In agreement with the U.S., the delegation of Belgium was in strong support of working paper 1.5, which would undertake existing problems of the legalization of the sex industry, particularly the protection of sex workers, the enforcement of laws in countries, availability of contraceptives, and the issues of sexually transmitted diseases.

The delegation of Iran, on the other hand, disagreed. Suggesting working paper 1.1 would be the only paper that “suggests effective solutions to the key problem, sexual trafficking,” Iran emphasized on the necessity of establishing organizations to support victims who suffer from STDs, as well as a close-knit collaboration between nations on an international level to combat the issue of sex trafficking.

Following Iran’s strong support of working paper 1.1, the delegation of Myanmar introduced working paper 1.2 after its successful merge with working paper 1.3. The delegation of Myanmar claimed “it is hard for find jobs for prostitutes,” urging the importance of implementing a rewarding system between nations.

Throughout this committee session, the World Conference on Women had an array of underlying dissents within nations on the issue of the legality of the commercial sexual industry. The passing of working-paper seemed difficult in a short time with five different working-papers on the table and delegates’ inclination to focus on one aspect of the issue that concern them the most. Nevertheless, the merging of several working papers shed light on potential consensus and a faster dynamic within the committee in the future.

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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.

Sex is Power

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.

Welcome to HMUN 2017!

The Press Corps Staff welcomes you to HMUN 2017.