[FOUNTAIN]Cleaning up the sex trade is no easy task

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[FOUNTAIN]Cleaning up the sex trade is no easy task

“Every woman who is a native of the country must once in her life go and sit in the temple of Aphrodite and there give herself to a strange man.” It was an ancient Babylonian custom. A man would pick a woman and throw a silver coin, and the woman had to follow the man. After she had “lain” with him, she would make her wish to the goddess and go home.
There are records that dancers and priestesses would get paid for having sex with visitors to the temples in ancient India and Egypt. Temples and shrines were used as brothels in a sense.
Sex workers operate in the red-light district, and while some brothels are public, others are private and illegal. The history of private prostitution goes back so far it is hard to tell the exact period when it began. But public brothels began in ancient Greece, where the government acknowledged the business and imposed a tax on them.
Until the late 19th century, most European countries banned private prostitution, but the licensed public quarters were protected by law. In Japan, licensed public brothels first appeared in 1585. The culture came to Korea during the Japanese occupation era, and until the U.S. military administration banned the practice of prostitution in 1947, public brothels were operated all over the country.
While most countries are working to eradicate prostitution, hardly any country has eliminated the practice. Some governments acknowledge public brothels in order to discourage private prostitution and human trafficking. A few years ago, Germany passed legislation giving social security and labor rights to prostitutes. The Netherlands and Belgium permit prostitution in designated regions.
Recently, the government announced that it would gradually clean up the private brothels around the country. While brothel owners and prostitutes demand the legalization of the sex industry, the government is not likely to accept the demand.
But citizens are skeptical. We might no longer see visible signs of prostitution, but as long as androgenic society has a materialistic perspective toward sex, the supply and demand for prostitutes will not change.
Nickie Roberts, a former prostitute and prostitutes’ rights advocate, laments in her 1992 book “Whores in History” that not only men, but even women’s rights activists, see sex workers as objects to be eliminated from society.


by Lee Kyu-youn

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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