Protect street women, punish clients: Vatican

Nations should protect women from the violence and "modern slavery" of prostitution and punish the men who are their clients, the Vatican says in a document on pastoral care for "street women" released yesterday.

The Khaleej Times reports that the new document says the exploitation of women stemmed from activities including human trafficking and sex tourism and the problem should be tackled in a comprehensive way.

"The victims of prostitution are human beings, who in many cases cry out for help, to be freed from slavery," the document by the Vatican's department on migrant issues said.

"The customers too are people with deeply rooted problems, and in a certain sense are also slaves," the document said.

"An effective measure towards cultural change with respect to prostitution could derive from associating criminal law with social condemnation."

Asked to explain the passage, Monsignor Agostino Marchetto, said: "We think that there should be not only protection of women but also a punishment for the clients."

He said the Vatican would push for legislation along the Swedish model, which penalises customers with jail sentences and fines based on their salaries.

The section of the document that dealt with prostitution, called "Pastoral Ministry for the Liberation of Street Women", said men who frequent prostitutes should be aware of the Church's "clear condemnation of their sins and the injustice they commit".

Clients of prostitutes are not punished in many countries, including Italy. Italian law effectively turns a blind eye to prostitution, punishing only "exploiters of prostitution", meaning pimps.

"Prostitution is a form of modern slavery", the document said, noting that the number of prostitutes in the world has risen dramatically due to complex social, economic and cultural reasons.

"It is important to recognise that sexual exploitation and prostitution linked to people trafficking are acts of violence, which constitute an offence to human dignity and a serious violation of fundamental rights," it said.

The document said the Church wanted "application of laws that protect women from the evil of prostitution and people trafficking" but also effective measures against humiliating portrayals of women in advertising.

Punish clients of prostitutes: Vatican (Khaleej Times, 19/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto (Catholic Hierarchy)

20 Jun 2007