The World’s Oldest Form of Oppression

I have always believed that women play a significant role in development. They are instruments for progressive movements and leaders at the forefront of nation building. They nurture and help create a society that is just and free, but more importantly they bring new life into this world.

But what happens if women are deprived of economic opportunities or are being physically abused, enslaved and constantly oppressed? Today, women all over the world are being trafficked and seen as commodities for the sex industry. It is a reality that the rights of these women are continuously violated and at some point they have become helpless and have lost hope. Each one of us now is being challenged to help others recognize the dignity that these women possess and more importantly bring back healthy living conditions for them. As a first step, we must educate ourselves about these women’s issues.

As an intern here in World Youth Alliance, together with my fellow intern Casey and Becky our Director of Advocacy, we were given a chance to attend a talk on “Trafficking in Women.” Several speakers presented cases and points that gave me a background on this pressing issue- one of which is that there is a “demand” for sex, a problem that is present in both developed and developing nations. Commercial prepaid rape/prostitution is the world’s oldest form of oppression where people are made to no longer feel, and the victims are then stigmatized by society.

I learned that in Germany, where prostitution is legal, about two to four hundred thousand women are employed in prostitution and twenty to fifty thousand of them are migrant women forced into prostitution and who have come from similar situations in their home countries. There is also the question of sex tourism. Twenty-five percent of sex tourists come from the US and Canada to places where prostitution is legal because the “pimps” have developed their image, making prostitution appear as a social business. Traffic victims also experience similar abuses from their customers and pimps as would happen in a domestic violence situation between intimate partners.
Still, some law makers have not seen the negative effects of legalizing prostitution. For one, it still causes the increased pressure for unsafe sex. When legalizing prostitution “government becomes a pimp”. It becomes a highly political matter and people have to be careful with the language they use. I agree with the belief that any legalization stands in opposition to equality and you cannot have democracy when there is social injustice. Because of legalizing prostitution, police have more difficulty in checking on brothels and doing raids because standards and legal qualifications become hazy. In some countries children younger than eighteen who are subject to prostitution are not seen as exploited but are treated the same as adults.

Exploitation and selling is not acceptable at any level. All these oppressive acts and unhealthy living conditions must stop. One of the most important ways of combatting the problem would be for men to build their own movement pushing for change in the political world just as much as women do so today. Government and civil society must work together in providing economic opportunities for women especially at their home countries.

Empowering women is very important. They have to be reminded that there is hope and that change is possible. They have to be seen as people worthy of living and not commodities that are simply used for pleasure. Living a life of wonderful purpose, fulfilling dreams, and bringing new life to this world is what they deserve. But to be deprived of this freedom to live is unjust and destructive to any woman’s health and psychological being. Do not let this oppression move to the next generation of young women. Take a stand on this issue and educate yourself. This fight of oppression isn’t over. Make women’s lives and dignity count!

Christine Jeanne G. Violago – World Youth Alliance