DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 November) – Women’s groups have dismissed a recommendation by the United Nations to legalize prostitution and pushed instead for its decriminalization.
The UN recently released a report titled: “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific.” The report said that “the legal recognition of sex work as an occupation enables workers to claim benefits, to form or join unions and to access work related banking, insurance, transport and pension schemes.”
But Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said she does not agree with the UN proposal.
“Prostitution is a human rights violation. It is among the recognized forms of violence committed against women and children. It is not work or occupation that women undertake by choice,” she said in a statement.
She added: “Viewed in the Philippine setting, it is a situation, most often characterized by physical abuse, exploitation and discrimination which women and children endure when they are forced by circumstances to become prostituted.”
Ilagan cited that “through the years, prostitution and sex trafficking in the Philippines have flourished without decline. Billions of pesos are circulated annually among highly organized syndicates and operators, some of whom enjoy a certain level of tolerance and protection from local police and government officials.”
“The legalization of prostitution is tantamount to the legalization of exploitation and of the violence that commonly exist within the system,” she said.
Ilagan cited Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines that prohibits prostitution, saying this provision has been repeatedly used to arrest women, children as well as men forced by poverty into the flesh trade.
“The law treats them as criminals rather than victims, conducting humiliating arrests while often failing to apprehend and prosecute pimps, club and sex den operators, recruiters and sex traffickers,” she added.
“Contrary to what the UN report claims, the legalization of prostitution will not in any way ensure the protection of women, children and men forced to engage in the flesh trade,” she said.
The Gabriela Women’s Party has proposed instead a legislation that will remedy the situation where women engaged in prostitution are penalized, Ilagan said.
She said they will also introduce amendments to the Revised Penal Code that will decriminalize the prostituted women and children and penalize instead the pimps, operators and customers.
“The elimination of the dire economic conditions that allow prostitution to flourish is the step forward to women’s emancipation. It is not legalization,” she stressed.
Speaking at the Kapehan sa Dabaw, Lory Pabunag of Lawig Bubai, a group protecting the rights of prostituted women in the city, also said legalization is not the answer to the problem.
Carina Sajonia, program officer of Talikala Inc., a nongovernment organization for the welfare of prostituted women, said the government has the responsibility to provide opportunities for women and children who are victims of prostitution. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)