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Why we stand up for the Abolition of prostitution?

CAP International and its members act in support of all prostituted persons (women, men and children), in opposition to the prostitution system that exploits their precariousness and vulnerability.

Prostitution is a form of violence

The vast majority of prostituted persons have suffered from violence, often sexual, before entering prostitution. Most of them are also victims of many forms of violence while in prostitution (physical, verbal, sexual, psychological).

The repetition of sexual acts without physical desire, but instead experienced as the consequence of financial need, inequality or as an exploitation of vulnerability, constitutes sexual violence in and of itself.

 

Prostitution is the exploitation of inequalities

Prostitution is a part of a long patriarchal tradition of making women’s bodies available for men’s benefit (droit du seigneur, rape, sexual harassment, “conjugal duties”, etc.). It exploits multiple forms of inequality: men’s domination over women, rich over poor, North over South, majority groups over minorities. Minority, oppressed and migrant groups are over-represented in prostitution all over the world.

 

Prostitution is a violation of Human Dignity

By placing the human body and sex into the realm of the marketplace, the system of prostitution reinforces the objectification of all women and their bodies. It is a direct violation of the physical and moral integrity of prostituted persons. Prostitution further emphasises the domination of men over women, and particularly the patriarchal attitude of male entitlement to women's bodies, which is present in other forms of violence against women such as rape, sexual harassment and intimate-partner violence. The system of prostitution fuels and perpetuates trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation. Prostitution is a societal obstacle to establishing truly free, respectful and egalitarian sexuality. 

 

Prostitution is a violation of Human Rights

International human recognises prostitution as a violation of human rights and specifically prohibits exploitation of the prostitution of others, including pimping, procuring and the running of a brothel. States and United Nations agencies have a direct, binding obligation to oppose any trivialisation of prostitution and to work towards the elimination of its exploitation.

Why should the CAP International congress be held in North America?

Holding the fourth CAP International congress in Montreal makes perfect sense considering that in the Americas, the misconception that prostitution has always existed and will always exist is probably even more disprovable than elsewhere. From Chile to Colombia, from the Hawaiian Islands to Northern Canada, native women testify that prostitution is alien to their culture and traditions; before the arrival of the colonizers, there was not even a word for it in their ancestral languages. So it was in part with a view to giving a voice to Indigenous survivors that the CLES, Breaking Free, the EVA Center and Vancouver Rape Relief decided to join forces with CAP International to organize this unprecedented event.

 

Because prostitution is part of wars of conquest and slavery

Prostitution has its roots in colonization, wars of conquest, and slavery. In the 15th-century Caribbean, on the island that is today known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic, lived Anacaona, defender of the Taino people. After leading the popular revolt against the invading colonists, she was captured and hanged for refusing to be a sex slave to the Spanish conquistadores. Later, even after the abolition of the American slave system, networks of pimps lured young African-American women from the South to the North, where they were sexually exploited. In 1897, the journalist and social worker Victoria Earle Matthews founded the first shelter and service center for victims of sexual exploitation in New York in 1897, to help them and to fight for their rights.

Ending the prostitution of women and girls is fighting for equality

In Montreal, the CLES is inspired by the historic struggles waged by all those before us who dared to fight for an end to the sexual exploitation of women and girls. As feminists, we have a duty to honor the memory of women like Anacaona, who died four centuries ago for refusing to perform sexual acts. It is our duty, too, to remember that even today, women suffer the same fate. Indeed, more recently, women like Edmonton Cree Cindy Gladue and Marylène Lévesque in Quebec City were murdered after “accepting” male buyers’ sexual demands. Whether "chosen" or not, prostitution kills.

 

Since 2006, Quebec has had a gender equality policy: So legal equality becomes equality in practice. This policy recognizes that prostitution is a form of violence against women and a form of sexual exploitation. 2024 will mark ten years since Canada passed legislation criminalizing the purchase of sexual acts, while decriminalizing those who sell them. The consensus around this law shows that we are on the right track in the fight for equality, but there is still a long way to go. The CAP International congress will be an opportunity to present, on the one hand, what we and our allies have achieved in recent years in the fight for the abolition of prostitution and, on the other, what our societies must still put in place to guarantee the right not to be prostituted in order to live.

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