Your Excellency, Ms Grauziniere,
Abolish Prostitution Now! is a global campaign which aims to eliminate the harms of prostitution by eliminating the practice itself. The work of this campaign is deeply informed by survivors who have lived to recover from the harms and violations that being bought by men for prostitution has inflicted on them. We seek to change state and global policy to reflect that prostitution is a violation of human rights and like all human rights violations, consent does not lessen the violation.
There have been reports that Lithuania is considering a change in its current laws on prostitution. While we fully support the decriminalization of women in prostitution, we are deeply concerned about any moves that legalize pimping, or brothels or that do not criminalize sex-buyers as a reflection of the violence done to women in prostitution.
From the press, we have learned that you hope to raise money for prevention and for the healthcare for women in prostitution in this way. This is absurd – for a number of reasons:
1. While prostitution has indeed advanced to the status of “big business” in countries like Germany and is generating turnover and tax revenues both at the local and at the national level, it’s costs tremendously exceed any possible inland revenue. This is definitely true of the effects on the women in this “business”, and on the relationship between women and men, where the damage cannot be calculated in figures or in money. It is also true of the costs in violence, sickness, STDs, HIV and the trauma-related illnesses the women in prostitution are exposed to.
2. A large number of international studies show that most prostituted women enter the industry at the average age of 14 years old, not by choice, but as victims of trafficking and between 80 to 90% do so as a result of childhood abuse or trauma. Abuse that they never found adequate help or treatment for. Resubjecting these women to trauma and to the violence that is inherent in prostitution is disregarding their humanity. Even the very small number of women who go into prostitution “voluntarily” are confronted with violence and sexual violence so that they cannot leave this industry without damage done to their souls and bodies. This alone should be reason enough to oppose such measures, but the effects of prostitution will exceed any state profits that are feasible. And would you like for Lithuania to be seen like Germany – a state turned pimp?
3. A legalization of prostitution will lead to a massive increase in prostitution, both in the legal and illegal industry. Germany and the Netherlands have seen this, as has the state of Victoria in Australia, where illegal brothels have tripled since the introduction of a legalised system (Sullivan 2007). This also means a massive increase in crime, in trafficking, in abuse and violence, and in STDs. And in prostitution, STDs are violence done to women: The pressure on women in prostitution in Germany is so strong that very many feel compelled to undergo sexual acts without any protection. Prostitution by its very nature cannot be made “safe”. It cannot be made “profitable” enough for a state to offset its costs in money – even if that were considered an ethical approach. It cannot be turned or changed or modified or regulated into anything but an abusive practice, hurtful to the women (and men) in prostitution and to every woman in a society that deems prostitution acceptable.
We ask you to listen to survivors and to hold men who prostitute women accountable. We also ask you to look at the situation in Germany and by comparison in Sweden. Do not expose Lithuanian women to prostitution by turning it into a state-accepted method of generating acceptable revenue.
Amber Aprilchild (USA)
Kathleen Barry, Ph.D. Sociologist and Professor Emerita of Penn State University
Autumn Burris, Survivors for Solutions (USA)
Kat Pinder (UK/Australia)
Inge Reed (Germany)
Agnete Strøm, Women’s Front of Norway (Norway)