Sex Workers Seek Repeal of Prostitution Law

      April 10, 2015 11:39

      Some 900 sex workers on Thursday submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court to repeal the prostitution law, which they say infringes on their rights.

      The law was introduced in 2004 and entails a one-year prison term or W3 million (US$=W1,093) fine for both purchasing and selling sex.

      In December of 2012, the Seoul Northern District Court asked the Constitutional Court for a constitutional review of the law after a prostitute who was charged made the request.

      The crux of the issue is whether prostitution is a profession and cracking down on it violates sex workers' rights or whether the practice is a public hazard and exposes minors to danger.

      A sex workers' representative hands a petition against the prostitution law to a staffer at the Constitutional Court in Seoul on Thursday.

      Chung Kwan-young, a lawyer representing prostitutes, said the law goes against the "principle of minimal intervention" as it punishes a voluntary choice made by adults. Critics of the law also point out that crackdowns have failed to eradicate prostitution.

      Kim Kang-ja, a former chief at the Jongam Police Station who spearheaded crackdowns in the 2000s, said her operations only exacerbated the situation of sex workers who were undereducated and unable to find other work.

      "The current system pushes sex workers to places where their rights are largely abused by pimps or buyers," she added. Kim said crackdowns also drove the sex trade further underground where it is more difficult to regulate, and called for the legalization of prostitution.

      However, proponents of the law argue that prostitution must be banned since it humiliates women and damages public morals.

      Choi Hyun-hee, a lawyer, said, "Women in the sex trade claim their freedom to choose is being violated, but does that mean we should recognize drug dealers and thieves as professionals?" Choi added that the issue must be carefully considered, since it may end up failing to protect the rights of prostitutes and boost the sex trade.

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