korea project

The Success of Anti-prostitution Laws Lies in People's Will and Participation

21 September 2005

It has been a year since two anti-sex trade laws, Act on the Punishment of Procuring Prostitution and Associated Acts (APPPAA) and Act on the Prevention of Prostitution and Protection of Victims Thereof (APPPVT) have gone into effect. They were conceived by KWAU in November 2001, moved by eighty-six congressmen and passed unanimously in the National Assembly in September 2002 and put into effect on Sep. 23 last year, after two fires in the brothels in Goonsan, Chola-buk-province, revealed a shocking conditions of the prostitutes in 2000 and 2002.This past year was a transition in our society during which people reached an accord that prostitution was a crime, an exploitation of women rather than a necessary evil. We should remember the laws are an achievement of many people who have worked for it before and after the legislation and an outcome of lives being lost unjustly. This, however, is only the first step. The real success of the legislation lies in its enforcement and the will of the government, the change of male-centric sex mentality and a raised consciousness in our society.We demand the entire nation participate in the process to make our country a place where human rights are valued more, and suggest the followings:

1. To build up proper authorities in the levels of central and local governments and take a general, long-term measure to help the anti- sex trade laws take effect: they are the result of social consensus and willingness that a wrong tradition should be eradicated even though it has become a custom. This, the long history of prostitution, is the reason for an extra effort. In 2004, before the laws got passed, the government introduced a general measure against prostitution, but regrettably there has been no follow-up actions. Welcoming the first anniversary of the anti-sex trade laws, we urge them to implement a sweeping measure taking into account the limitations as well as the achievements of the past year, especially through central-local cooperation, to help establish a new tradition.

2. Thorough and continued surveillance and punishment of solicitation that takes more and more varied forms: the way of solicitation is becoming ingenious every day. The deeper the sex business hides underground, the more effectual it becomes. To view this as a harmful side effect of the Anti-prostitution Act, however, is not a way to deal with it. Enhancing expertise of the police and strict enforcement of the law is the only way to reduce sex trade.

3. To stop tolerating the sex trade (especially trafficking in women) and educate the offenders to prevent the second offence: over the last twenty years, Korean society achieved a lot in the fight against sexual crimes adopting such laws as Prevention of Domestic Violence & Victims, Act on the Punishment of Sexual Crimes & Protection, Act on Juveniles Protection and reforming other related laws and institutions. The new anti- sex trade laws are contributing to raising awareness that sex is not a commodity to sell or buy. However, we need a further assertion of non-tolerance as many people are still in the habit of 'buying women'. Such measures as harsher punishment and education for sex offenders to prevent the second crime will help increase public awareness.

4. To set up a proper support system or shelters so that the prostituted women can leave prostitution: since APPPAA and APPPVT there has been a lot of activities to assist prostituted women. Existing NGOs are getting strengthened and legal/medical/psychological aid, job training, shelter assistance, etc. are being delivered all over the country shaping an infrastructure of support. Right to prostitute or legalization of prostitution some of the prostituted women are demanding, however, should be understood as a sign that the progress that's been made so far isn't enough, that the women still can not recover faith in the authorities and the government. Thus, it will be only when these women are on their own having left prostitution for good that we can say the laws are a success. That is why we demand protection rather than punishment for them and continued effort to protect their rights.

5. All nation's participate in the effort: last year was just a beginning of understanding what APPPAA and APPPVT stand for. Many people, even the prostituted women themselves have yet to grasp the laws, and those who do still have reservations about them. What is for certain, however, is that with APPPAA and APPPVT Korea now is in a more elevated position in the international community. It is up to us that a real model case can come out of it.It tells us a lot that Sweden, which adopted a law against sex purchase early in 1996, still request people's patience and cooperation. It takes time for any laws to take effect. Changes come from every one of us trying to make a difference.