UN expert calls for prostitution to be recognized as a form of systemic violence against women

Эксперт ООН призывает признать проституцию формой системного насилия против женщин

Prostitution reduces women and girls to commodities and perpetuates systems of discrimination and violence, UN Special Rapporteur says. UN expert calls for recognition of prostitution as systemic violence against women Human Rights

Prostitution leads to egregious human rights violations and multiple forms of violence against women and girls, UN independent expert Reem Alsalem said in presenting her report on the topic to the Human Rights Council.


“Prostitution reduces women and girls to mere commodities and perpetuates a system of discrimination and violence that prevents full equality,” said UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls Reem Alsalem.

In her talk, she explores how patriarchal norms, economic inequality and globalization contribute to the spread of prostitution. “Prostitution sexualizes and discriminates against poverty, and it is women from vulnerable groups who suffer the most,” Alsalem emphasized, calling for a fight against structural inequalities.

Form of violence 

She said prostitution is also a form of torture. Physical forms of violence—mostly at the hands of “sex buyers”—include sexual abuse, rape and gang rape, as well as severe beatings, including for the victim’s refusal to comply with the “buyer’s” whims or lack of “enthusiasm.” ” 

Women and girls are mutilated, have foreign objects inserted into their bodies, are urinated on, defecated and ejaculated on, and may be forced to have unprotected sex, it says report. 

“The more cruel and violent the sexual act is (for example, forced sex with animals), the more users feel that the money was not well spent in vain,” says the Special Rapporteur. “Pregnant women are not spared.” 

Women and girls are often held in sexual slavery when they are captured by members of armed groups.

“Market relations”

Normalizing the purchase of sexual acts gives them transactional value and places sexuality within the realm of the market. So some believe that all women have a price, the report says. 

In the Republic of Korea, an estimated 42 percent of all men have purchased sexual acts. A study of British men found that 11 percent had bought sex from a brothel.

In the Netherlands, a driving instructor can now offer lessons to students in exchange for sex – this practice is known as “a ride for a ride,” the report says.

In the UK, the University of Leicester issues its students “a kit of supplies for sex workers,” but has not developed any financial support programs for its students in the most vulnerable situations, the Special Rapporteur notes. 

“The perception that men have the right to purchase sexual intercourse results in the systematic violence experienced by women through prostitution, including in pornography, being normalized by blurring the line between what is considered sex and what is , which is considered sexual violence,” warns the expert. 

The negative impact of pornography 

Alsalem draws attention to the negative impact that pornography has on the sexual expectations of men and boys. An estimated 28,258 users view pornography every second, and 35 percent of all downloads on the Internet involve pornography. 

A 2020 study by a digital marketing company noted that one pornography site was ranked as the third most influential technology company in the 21st century. 

Sexual exploitation of children

Pornography may lead to an increase in the sexual exploitation and prostitution of children, the report warns. Girls are being pulled into prostitution at increasingly younger ages, some as young as 8 years old. 

Children’s regular viewing of pornography has also been linked to a fourfold increase in the number of underage sex victims crimes over the past decade.


The report contains provisions of international instruments related to the protection of the rights of women and girls, as well as expert recommendations for improving the legal framework. In particular, she said, states should repeal laws that allow, tolerate or condone violence and exploitation in the prostitution and pornography system. 

Additionally, States have an obligation to protect victims of prostitution, provide assistance and gender-sensitive protection, and provide reparations. They must also address the root causes of gender-based violence. The full text of the report can be found here. A/HRC/56/48 (undocs.org)

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“Coloring the Silence”: stories of disabled people caught in the web of human traffickers


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