Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world. Its implications, however, since the ancient times has been overarching and demeaning to the sex workers. In the recent years countries like Canada, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Norway and France have implemented the Swedish Model, which is termed as a progressive and strict law, to annul the culture of paying for commercial sex. There might be opponents who argue that prostitution needs to be made legal to minimize sexual crimes although statistics and reports reveal that sex workers are highly vulnerable to exploitation in all forms and subject to abuses that we can’t even imagine. Their fundamental right to live with dignity, basically, is violated by the inability to work outside to sustain them financially. The question, thus, arises as why even make prostitution illegal?
The recent law reforms that other countries have made is to make it illegal to pay for sex and at the same time criminalize any form of communication done with a sex worker. This may sound tricky to the general mass but what it does is to discourage anyone from contacting a professional or an independent escort for sexual purposes. The second thing it does is to discourage pimps, human traffickers and plays an effective role to dismantle the worldwide sex industry. But why even do it?
In most developed countries women are lured to this demeaning profession for a number of reasons. The general people have the understanding that they mostly do it for money. This is true but many times those women come from vulnerable groups and families where they have little or less of security and education. These factors play a key role in shaping the woman’s conscience and decision to sell her for few hundred bucks. If we think rationally no one would like to sell themselves off unless that person is materialistically-inclined or needs money desperately for some reason.
Scores of critics and thinkers have fervently pointed to the fact that prostitution is a form of exploitation which induces violence against women, children and contributes significantly the human-trafficking. This can be clearly seen in the context of Nepal where flesh trade has been a major crime in the country and in South Asia as a whole.
Street prostitution and open brothels in Nepal, especially in Kathmandu, has almost vanished due to the strict policing but escorts giving offers like in-calls and outcalls are still rampant. The aforementioned terms basically means that it is to either invite a sex worker to your booked hotel or private place and either go to the place where the sex worker resides. Her residence would usually be a hotel or a rented flat. Over the years, even few transgender and LGBTIs in Nepal have been found in this profession due to lack of jobs for them.
The Swedish Model confuses people as it essentially criminalizes the buying of sex but not selling it. This legality confuses a lot of people and in a sense ignites fear in those who are captivated by the appeal of having sex for money and not bearing any responsibility at all. However, when a person pays for sex they are paying to sustain prostitution and in return getting involved indirectly in the abuse of vulnerable women, teenage girls, and even children. The model also further makes pimping, procuring, and running brothels as illegal. This model was first enacted in 1999 by Sweden and followed subsequently by Norway and Iceland in 2009, Canada in 2014 and by Northern Ireland in 2015. This shows that it definitely become an effective legal to dismantle prostitution and help sex workers to leave the profession and reintegrate into the society again as a working citizen with full rights and without abuses.
The ending of prostitution is one of the foundations for gender equality and end of violence against women. With no clear laws regarding prostitution in Nepal, it has only made women a vulnerable group to this vile profession. It only becomes legal if someone is caught in the act voluntarily but those who manage to do it behind the curtains, they are practically safe. The only step that the Nepal government has taken is to make trafficking illegal according to 1986, the Traffic in Humans (Control) Act.
The existing law in Nepal doesn’t solve the problem of prostitution or human trafficking since we have seen the skyrocketing of cases where Nepali women have been trafficked abroad and now even children are the victims of it. The continuous disregard to this issue will only push women suffering from poverty to fall victim to it and also force them to face the brunt of sexual diseases and suffer from social stigmas. It is time, and I hope, the Nepal government will seriously implement the Swedish model and move ahead from merely terming voluntary prostitution as illegal, because, that act has practically failed.
While talking to a senior journalist and a well-wisher, I acknowledged the fact that prostitution cannot be solved overnight and Nepal, perhaps, needs a native solution. He argued that poor Nepali girls are forced to delve into this profession to survive in an expensive city like Kathmandu. In the end, the whole issue comes to the circle of morality and existentialism and whether we are born to survive anyhow or live our lives with dignity. Everyone should think about this.