The United Nations must recognize that all individuals have an inherent right to be free from the sexual exploitation, objectification, and violence which are inherently found in prostitution and pornography.
The experiences of physical, mental, and verbal abuse commonly experienced in both pornography and prostitution are consistent with torture and should be addressed accordingly. This is why the National Center on Sexual Exploitation submitted two important reports to help inform the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, as he formulates a thematic report on gender perspectives on torture. These documents, The Gender-Based Torture Found in the Pornography Industry and On a Street Corner Near You: Pimps as Practitioners of Torture, addressed research and precedent in international codes that the UN ought to apply to a formal recognition of pornography and prostitution as forms of torture.
This would not be the first time that the United Nations addressed prostitution and pornography as forms of exploitation.
At the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, it was stated that, “Countries should take effective steps to address the neglect, as well as all types of exploitation and abuse, of children, adolescents and youth, such as abduction, rape and incest, pornography, trafficking, abandonment and prostitution.”(1) The United Nations must continue to build upon this history of recognizing the harms of these interrelated industries.
Due to the advent of the Internet, the problem of pornography has especially escalated to a pervasive and globe scale. An individual in Africa can watch the torture of an American woman, while someone in Germany can be downloading the digital evidence of sexual abuse that occurred in the Middle East.
One of the world’s largest pornographic websites recently released an annual review that revealed statistics on porn consumption by country. By percentage of traffic, the United States was the primary consumer of the videos, followed by the U.K., India, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Italy, Brazil, and Mexico. The violent and sexualized torture that is inherently part of the nature of pornography must be recognized on an international level.
The treatment experienced by female pornography performers and prostituted persons is often identical to the treatment of women who are recognized as torture victims. It is therefore time for the United Nations to take a stand, and to fight for the dignity of all.
*Trigger warning for descriptions of scenarios and themes in pornography
(1) International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). (1994). 5.9. Retrieved February 02, 2016