SEATTLE, Washington — The Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution (CAP International) is a global advocacy network that works towards protecting and supporting victims of sexual exploitation and prostitution. Prostitution and poverty often go hand-in-hand, particularly for women and children. However, CAP International empowers its 33 member NGOs to educate their domestic communities on the realities of sexual exploitation and solicitation in order to stop the long-time connection of prostitution in poverty.
Prostitution in Poverty
Without access to education or work in the formal economic sectors, some people living in poverty around the globe may turn to prostitution as a way to earn an income, particularly vulnerable women and children. One study estimated that at least half of all female sex workers (FSWs) around the globe are raped and/or experience physical violence while working. However, most FSWs do not report incidents of violence to the police, particularly in countries or regions where sexual solicitation is illegal.
A 2006 study performed in Vancouver found that 57% of FSWs in the study had experienced gender-based violence on the job over a two year period. Similarly, a 2014 study estimated that 10-50% of FSWs in India had experienced physical violence during their time as a prostitute.
CAP International is currently working on four strategic campaigns to advocate for survivors of sexual exploitation. These include Human-Rights Based Approach, Parliamentarians for Abolition, Last Girl First and Access to Decent Work. Each of these campaigns works towards educating youth in communities around the world about sex work and what sexual exploitation looks like. By training professionals and educating youth on the facts of sexual violence, CAP International hopes to create a global support system for victims and eliminate sexual violence occurrences.
“Victims of incest and sexual violence, indigenous women and children, low caste communities, migrant women and children and women and girls from ethnic minorities are still the primary victims of sexual exploitation.” the organization said in a statement on its website.
The organization’s Access to Decent Work coalition has mobilized several trade unions, representing more than 10 million workers worldwide, to promote non-exploitative work and stop the need for prostitution in poverty. The organization also works closely with the United Nations and its member countries’ legislatures to promote domestic legislation that both holds sexual abusers accountable and supports victims of sexual exploitation. By creating these domestic laws and bringing this conversation into diplomatic forums like the UN, CAP International hopes to create an international standard to support survivors and condemn sexual exploiters.
“Prostitution is a part of a long patriarchal tradition of making women’s bodies available for men’s benefit,” CAP International President Sarah Benson said in the organization’s 2018 Annual Report. “It exploits multiple forms of inequality: men’s domination over women, rich over poor, North over South, majority groups over minorities.”
Surviving Sexual Exploitation
For people who have escaped prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, it can be extremely difficult to recover from the emotional and physical trauma they experienced. Additionally, it can be difficult for survivors to receive the proper healthcare needed to treat sexually transmitted diseases they may have acquired when they are still living in poverty. CAP International recognized these difficulties during the organization’s establishment. It produces weekly newsletters on its website that offer domestic resources from member NGOs on recovering from sexual exploitation.
By connecting survivors with NGOs in their communities, survivors can receive a number of local resources to re-acclimate to life outside of prostitution or trafficking. For example, Embrace Dignity is a member NGO from South Africa that provides exit resources for survivors of prostitution, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. Exit resources include access to safe housing, child care, psychological support and more.
CAP Internation has intervened in 20 different countries. It has supported more than 15,000 people exploited by prostitution and spread awareness to almost 430,000 people. Millions of people are victim to prostitution in poverty every day, but CAP International is working to connect NGOs around the world in order to bring attention to this global issue.
– Myranda Campanella