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[Editorial] Prostitutes Have Human Rights Too

Posted January. 07, 2002 09:16,   


The police and district officials cannot freely violate human rights of women even if they engage in prostitution which is seen as morally degenerate and illegal. Criminals worse than prostitutes can secure their rights by filing an appeal or employing a lawyer.

When street workers in Seoul, Cheonho-dong Texas Village filed a report to the national human rights commission to demand that police violation of human rights and sexual harassment of workers be stopped, police reportedly came asking "Who filed the report?" and spoke threatening words. Although the police have the right to arrest illegal businesses and activity, they cannot pursue an individual who filed a report to a governmental organization.

The police seem to believe that owners of prostitution businesses who want to stop police censure are behind the filing of the report. Whoever may be behind the scenes, the only thing that the police need to do what the law demands of them. Women guilty of prostitution could receive a sentence below a year, fined 3,000,000 won, held in detention or sent to a reform center. The punishment for owners of prostitution businesses is considerably heavier.

The laws on prostitution which is the basis for arrest states in article 3, `At the time of application of this law, there must be no unjust violation of citizen`s rights`. The `citizen` in the sentence refers to prostitutes.

The police have the obligation to protect prostitutes from the abuse of their overseers, yet the hideous rumor that they tacitly supported slave-prostitution continues to float. In the case of one city where women were locked in an iron cage, forced to have sex, and later killed, the police were found to have regularly received money from owners of prostitution rings. This recent incident of a prostitute`s human rights violation is also a result of police neglect of prostitute human rights.

In the U.S. Congress report on human slave trafficking of July 2001, Korea was judged as third-rate in making an effort to stop human trafficking. Only when the police`s consciousness about prostitute human rights changes and the rest of society changes its perspective can human trafficking and slave-prostitution come to an end and Korea escape a third-rate reputation.

If the police took naked pictures of women and sexually harassed them, as the report to the human rights commission states, this is a serious state violation of human rights and case of state violence. The national human rights commission states that it has not been able conduct an investigation because the office has yet to be fully organized. Yet, how long will an important governmental organization remain idle and incapable of taking any action?