Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Minor's Prostitution in Switzerland Banned in 2013

In Europe, there is still a debate regarding whether prostitution should be legalized or not. I also have some difficulty to decide between the two principal arguments. On one side, legalization allows a better protection of sex workers, which is more than necessary regarding the danger of this occupation and the abuses that are committed. On the other side, I can’t see it otherwise than an exploitation of human beings that should be banned. Whereas the discussion is complex, it appears much easier to decide when we are talking about minors’ prostitution. The answer seems clear: children should be legally protected from prostitution. If someone would have asked me five years ago if the prostitution of minors was legal, I would have sworn that it was not possible in Switzerland … And I would have been wrong. Indeed, until 2013, the prostitution of minors aged between 16 and 18 was legal.

How that could be possible in 2010 in a western, supposedly developed nation? That seems crazy, but it was possible due to two factors combined together. First, prostitution is legal, contrary to the US, and only the forced prostitution is illegal. Second, the age of consent, which is the age at which a person is deemed legally competent to consent to have sexual intercourses, is fixed at 16 years old, as it is in most of US states.

Fortunately, in 2010, The Swiss Federal Council, approved the 2007 Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (or “Lanzarote Convention”), which took effect on July 1st, 2010. The modification of the Swiss Penal Code necessary to respect the terms of the convention was adopted in September 2013 and took effect on July 4th, 2014, which means legislators took 4 years to produce a law stating that requiring the services of minor prostitutes is a crime.

This situation was qualified as “ gap in the law” when it came to the attention of the public through the media, but I can’t prevent myself from thinking we did not legislate on that earlier because it was mostly a feminine problem. As often, these questions take years to solve and don’t seem to be taken seriously as a real problem.


Heather said...

I was shocked to read this post. I had no idea prostitution was legal anywhere in the world for persons under18 year olds. I too struggle with the idea of prostitution. It just seems like an inherently degrading and misogynist idea that men pay women for sex. To me, sex should be something two people consent to engage in because they each want to have sex, for whatever reason. It doesn’t have to involve love or passion, I’m not romanticizing sex. But the idea of money being involved seems like an unequal power distribution that makes me uncomfortable. Yet, I am somewhat swayed by the argument that women should be allowed to sell their body for profit, just as we allow “workers” to exploit their minds for profit and in the case of some jobs, their physical labor for profit. For some women, selling sex may be the best option for efficiently providing a living for their family. I often think about whether I would be more accepting of prostitution is there was an equally robust system of male prostitutes and women were paying for the sex. However, as you point out, children are another matter and the line must be draw there. Children deserve special protection and I’m glad to hear the Swiss Federal Council made the right choice in banning the practice.

Jenna said...

I love the show The West Wing. This may seem incredibly irrelevant to this post but I was re-watching it this past week (thank you Netflix) and one of the storylines in the "The Women of Qumar" was about the United States signing onto a treaty which banned "forced prostitution" as opposed to all other kinds of prostitution. Once of the male characters (Josh) asks his female assistant about how legalizing prostitution might actually help protect prostitutes by allowing them to "unionize and get access to social services and health care benefits and create some control over the industry." She responds: "You think if you make prostitution legal then prostitutes are going to suddenly want everyone to know they're prostitutes?"

Like the author of this blog post, I am unsure whether legalizing prostitution is actually the way to protect these men and women. On one hand, yes legalizing prostitution may potentially help to keep sex workers safe. They may feel safer calling the police and yes they may even unionize. However, legalizing prostitution seems more likely to help protect the pimps and johns then the prostitutes themselves. I believe therefore, if this was possible, that it might be a better system to continue to criminalize prostitution but to only make it illegal to buy, not to sell, sex. Though I am sure such a system would still be woefully ineffective against this worldwide problem.