Bare your faces first
On Sept. 23, 2004, the Special Law on the Sex Trade was created to protect sex workers from forced prostitution. As such, I thought sex workers would welcome the legislation. But they were the ones who demanded it be abolished and often staged protests against it, demanding that their right to conduct their business be respected.
A few days ago, a sex worker who was caught engaging in prostitution filed a constitutional complaint against the law, claiming that it’s against the constitutional principle that as few limits as possible should be put on a person’s freedom. She claimed that as most sex workers are not forced into their jobs, but chose them voluntarily, punishing them for practicing the profession violates their right to sexual choice. She argued that as the sex trade is largely based on mutual agreement, criminal punishment is not fair.
So can she be legally prevented from selling sex? When money is involved, sex becomes a product. As such, the act of prostitution may not be that different from selling a kidney. The organ trade is obviously illegal, which would also put the sex trade on the wrong side of the law. Also, the act itself disturbs the social order and is unethical, so it’s not a personal choice but a social matter. Even if there’s mutual agreement, it should be punished under criminal law to maintain social order.
Most sex workers claim that they’re just trying to make a living. We all need to support ourselves, but is prostitution really their only option? It’s not easy to find a job these days, but a woman who is young and healthy enough to sell sex can surely find an alternative. Jobs as a maid or a server in a restaurant are labor intensive yet easy to find. But they avoid such tough jobs that don’t pay well.
They demand that their profession be recognized and advocate the legalization of prostitution. But if they’re so proud, they should protest openly. The sex workers who participate in rallies or give interviews always cover their faces with a hat, sunglasses and a mask.
If prostitution is to be recognized as a profession, you should be able to write it in your resume and tell your family about your job. By concealing their identities and requesting that their voices be changed in interviews, they’re effectively admitting that prostitution is a shameful activity that shouldn’t be legalized. If they think what they’re doing is honorable, they should be open about it.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Eom Eul-soon