Colombia: Punishing people that pay for sex

Similar laws are operating in other continents such as Asia, Europe, Africa and North America

Colombia: Punishing people that pay for sex

Last week, the congresswoman Clara Rojas recommended approving a law that seeks to sanction people who pay for sex with fees up to US$7.500. According to Rojas, most of the individuals who partake in the business of prostitution are vulnerable and need the law to protect them. During a radio interview for Blu Radio, a well-known Colombian radio station, the congresswoman assured that between 60-70 per cent of them are poor folks, immigrants or displaced.

Rojas, who had been kidnapped for nearly 6 years by the FARC guerrilla, explained that with the money the Government collects from this fee, the Health Ministry could create a fund to support programs for sexual exploitation victims.

The idea is not new. In 1999, Sweden became the first country to approve this kind of law (with jail time for the buyer). Then Iceland and Norway took similar actions. Right now, Singapore, South Korea, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and France adopted the "Nordic Model".

Swedish authorities consider the law was a complete success. Prostitution decreased in 5.6 per cent; nearly 6,000 people who abused of the workers, most of them men, have been captured and a decrease in human trafficking has also been evident.

However, this kind of initiatives had some detractors. The prostitutes’ associations in said countries assure that there is a lack of reporting of the extortions and that prostitution continues. They schedule appointments with their clients through the Internet or by phone. They also argue that this new measure makes their job more dangerous, violent, discriminated against, and marginalized.

Amnesty International, released a report that warns about the dangers of sanctioning any kind of sex related activity (prostitution, penalize the demand, etc.). According to the NGO, this moves makes sex workers more vulnerable than before.

On the other hand, AI suggests decriminalizing prostitution; said approach could be the most efficient way to assure prostitutes their rights. It also encourages the workers to report to the authorities any kind of abuse. Even in Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, sex workers possess health care and even pay taxes.

The law was just drafted on Friday and it will be debated in Congress; it needs the majority of the Camera’s and Senate’s approval to become a law. If it is accepted, Colombia will become the first country in Latin America to criminalize paying for sex.

 

Latin American Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández 

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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