It takes a village

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It takes a village

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the article in our Special Law on Sex Trade, which punishes even those who spontaneously sells sex, is not unconstitutional. After the ruling, people who sell or buy sex services have to serve less than a year in jail or pay fines as before. But some issues the judges raised in the course of the ruling send significant messages beyond the constitutional ruling.

In a 6-3 decision by nine-member justices, the court on Thursday ruled constitutional the Article 1 of Clause 21, which outlaws the act of providing or cajoling prostitution. The majority view approached sex trafficking from the perspectives of sexual violence and exploitation. Those judges said that sex trade cannot be regarded as a free trade between equal parties. That’s why the law, which aims to establish healthy sex culture and morality in our society by punishing both sellers and buyers, is justifiable, the justices said.

Considering our prospering brothels, endlessly evolving new types of prostitution, mushrooming sex trade on the Internet and smartphones — not to mentions traveling overseas for sex — lay bare the shameful portrait of our society, particularly Korean male adults.
At the same time, however, we can hardly ignore the minority view which took note of a “structural need” for sex trafficking in socio-economic terms. Justices like Kim Yi-soo and Kang Il-won argued that its is desirable for our society to support and protect our prostitutes so that they can engage in vibrant economic activities other than selling sex. Another justice Cho Yong-ho underscored that if the state only levies criminal punishment on prostitutes who have to sell their sex to survive — without first fulfilling its obligation as the government to protect the people — that constitutes another form of social violence.

The government must listen to his call for the expansion of welfare services and social security for those who have to sell their sex for their livelihoods in the blind spots of human rights.

Justice Cho also pointed out problems with the police’s crackdowns on red districts. “Their raids focused on brothels triggers a balloon effect with no substantial effect and that lead to corruptions between law enforcement agencies and pimps,” he said. That calls for strong discipline from the police. Over the past 12 years since the enactment of the Special Act on Sex Trade in 2004, we have seen that a war on sex trafficking cannot be won by crackdowns and punishment alone. As the Constitutional Court’s rule suggests, it takes a village to fight the world’s oldest profession.

JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 1, Page 30

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