Millions of women worldwide trapped in prostitution

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

The charity Fondation Scelles based in France, has released its latest report on sexual exploitation in which it links the oldest profession in the world directly to organised crime.

According to the charity there are currently between 40 and 42 million people caught in prostitution, many of them children. The Fondation Scelles was established in 1993 to fight for human dignity through public awareness campaigns, government lobbying, and prosecution of  those who traffic women for prostitution.

The report states that today, prostitution is synonymous with sexual exploitation, human trafficking, dangerous organised crime, generating huge profits for those who use and abuse women and girls. It is "dominated by an unparalleled violence, physical, sexual, psychological, social ..." and is nothing less than a "violation of the integrity of human beings and the exploitation of a scandalous state of our moral treatise".

The study answers those who defend the right to prostitute themselves as part of their freedom as human beings to do what they want with their own bodies, claiming that this position hides a darker and deeper reality, namely "the oppression of women, the trafficking of human beings", and "sexual abuse, insecurity, drugs, social exclusion". It has to do more with the destruction of a human being than with the openness and freedom of a person to do what (s)he wants.

In terms of facts and figures, the report states that there are between 40 and 42 million people working in prostitution worldwide, the vast majority of these being women; 75 per cent of these are aged between 13 and 25 years of age, 90 per cent of them controlled by agencies or pimps.

In Europe, the report reveals that there are between one and two million prostitutes, most of these being immigrants, "the victims of human trafficking". To give an idea of the dimension of the criminal activity surrounding prostitution, there are 30 criminal trafficking networks dismantled every year in France alone.

As the world gears up for the next Olympic Games, in London, the report warns that the Games and the football World Cup are two of "the great planetary stages of sexual exploitation".

In 2010, the Vancouver Olympics and the football World Cup in South Africa allowed the networks, as in many international competitions, "to step up their offerings."

At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the installation of "sex centres" near stadiums, authorised by the authorities, had caused controversy, says the report. In South Africa, a billion condoms were ordered to deal with health risks. The authorities estimated that there were 40,000 extra prostitutes, with a workforce of 100,000.

The Foundation Scelles is chaired by magistrate Yves Charpenel

*Rapport mondial sur l'exploitation sexuelle : La prostitution au cœur du crime organisé (World report on sexual exploitation : Prostitution at the heart of organised crime).