Statement of Support for the Equality Model
U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) is a collaborative, faith-based national network that offers education, supports access to survivor services, and engages in advocacy to eradicate modern-day slavery. We work to inform the public, prevent this assault on human dignity, and assist survivors to live fulfilling lives.
Our anti-trafficking efforts reflect the core values of our faith: belief in the inherent dignity of every human person; commitment to those who are poor and vulnerable; establishment of right relationships to promote the common good; defense of the basic rights of workers; and solidarity with one another. In all of our work, we seek to center and prioritize the experiences of survivors, listening carefully to their recommendations for what will be most helpful in truly ending human trafficking and providing the needed resources for survivors to thrive.
When it comes to the issue of prostitution and how to best prevent human trafficking, there are a variety of opinions and strategies. After careful reflection and discernment on the various approaches available, including listening to the recommendations of survivors of human trafficking, the USCSAHT Board of Directors has decided to take a public stance in favor of the Equality Model (partial decriminalization) and against full criminalization, full decriminalization and legalization of prostitution.
What is the Equality Model
The Equality Model, also known as the Nordic Model or partial decriminalization model, is a multi-pronged legal approach that holistically addresses prostitution. The components of the Equality Model include:
1) Decriminalize those who are prostituted/trafficked
Prostituted persons are not criminals; they are in an inherently vulnerable situation and the victims of violence and exploitation. The majority experience physical, verbal, and emotional abuse by sex buyers, traffickers, and pimps.
2) Provide support to those who seek to exit the sex trade
Prostituted persons deserve support in exiting the sex trade, healing from the trauma they have experienced, and rebuilding their lives. Many prostituted individuals live in vulnerable situations and feel they do not have any other options. Proponents of this model support provision of resources and funding to address the underlying root causes that lead to prostitution, trafficking, and exploitation.
3) Prosecute pimps, brothel owners, and buyers
Traffickers, pimps, buyers, and brothel owners must be held responsible for their actions and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the harm they cause. USCSAHT supports a restorative justice approach to working with those who have been arrested and charged with these crimes. We believe in promoting rehabilitation over incarceration whenever possible in order to address the root causes of the harm being perpetuated and prevent this behavior from continuing.
Why Do We Support the Equality Model
First and foremost, we support the Equality Model’s approach to prostitution and human trafficking because it reflects the values of our faith and our deeply held belief in the inherent dignity of every human person.
The Equality Model has the support of many survivor-advocates. It is based on a recognition that prostitution is inherently harmful and violent, and therefore a violation of human rights. No human being should be treated like a commodity and forced to endure repeated violence and trauma. More than 25 reliable research studies document the violence done to women in street prostitution in the United States, which can include being burned, beaten, stabbed, strangled, shot, and raped. This approach promotes a socio-economic system that prioritizes gender equality, aspires to economic equity, and recognizes the government’s responsibility to provide comprehensive services to victims.
We believe that full decriminalization and/or legalization of commercial sex acts normalizes the practice and leads to increased demand. Research shows that wherever the sex trade has been fully decriminalized, the demand for commercial sex acts increased and so did human trafficking in order to meet the increased demand. On average, countries and cities where prostitution is currently legal experience larger reported human trafficking inflows. Our commitment and accountability is to survivors of human trafficking, and any position that increases the likelihood of human trafficking must be opposed.
We believe the Equality Model is key because it honors the inherent worth and dignity of survivors and prioritizes their needs. Partial decriminalization minimizes the opportunity for traffickers to target the vulnerable and prioritizes community programs designed to prevent exploitation from happening.
By taking this public position we commit our organization to:
- Support policy proposals and legislation that reflect the principles of the Equality Model;
- Oppose policy proposals or legislation which fully decriminalize or legalize prostitution;
- Follow the lead of survivor-advocates as they develop solutions to prevent human trafficking and provide resources survivors need to thrive;
- Hold buyers, traffickers, and brothel owners accountable for their harmful actions and promote policies and programs that favor restorative justice and rehabilitation;
- Partner with other organizations and coalitions that support the Equality Model.