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Law Enforcement Approach to Sex Work Falls Short (SUMMARY)

IPS,
Apr 2, 2010, SUVA Fiji - In February 2010, Fiji passed a new anti-prostitution degree that creates harsher penalties for ‘crimes’ associated with prostitution. Two months later, and article by the Inter Press Service highlights the criticism leveled against the new decree.

There are less young women taking to the streets to disturb the gaze of a taxi driver interviewed in the article. He believes that the decree is a good law as he hopes no longer to witness a trend that disturbed him. However, his view is not shared by all. The article sites, Sunil Kumar, a university professor who understands prostitution as a mechanism for social redistribution and that to forcefully stop it will result in dire consequences for those affected.

The decree not only increases the penalties for sex workers but also aims to penalise clients, brothel owners and pimps. Even those living with a sex worker could be subject to prosecution.

The government justification for the degree leaves Kumar and many others unimpressed. The Attorney-General and Justice minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, believes that: 1) the law will modernise Fiji’s criminal justice system and bring it into compliance with the Rome Statute on sexual enslavement, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child; 2) this decree brings gender equality to the justice system by equally criminalising men and women tangentially or directly involved in sex work.

The article rebuts this governmental claim by citing increased violence against sex workers, harassment and exploitation as some unintended consequences of the increased criminalisation of sex work. It also states that the decree will force sex work and sex workers deeper underground, increasing the dangers posed by unintended consequences, which also include greater exposure to STIs.

Finally, the article ends with the salient point that the decree disregards the fact that sex work is a choice and that sex workers want to enjoy the same employment conditions enjoyed by other workers. The harsh moral judgement reflected in the law does nothing to help sex workers, as they do not want to be ‘rehabilitated’ or saved.

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50894
More info at: http://www.fijitimes.com.fj/story.aspx?id=138711
http://solomontimes.com/news.aspx?nwID=4887

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