Authors: Felicity Gerry QC and Catarina Sjölin
Exploitation of some individuals and groups by others is a depressingly familiar aspect of human society which enables one individual or group to succeed at the expense of another. Whilst not seeking to downplay abuse of men and male children, this paper focuses on sexual exploitation of women and girls, whether through direct violence, the imposition of fear or coercion, and whether or not for financial motivation. We have chosen sexual exploitation because, as we shall see, it is predominantly directed at women and girls and has uniquely traumatic effect. Sexual exploitation may occur within territorial boundaries but it has become increasingly transnational through travelling abusers (often serial intimate partners), human trafficking and online sexual exploitation (which has a particular effect on the progress of female children ). Law and policy have both developed separate approaches in relation to sexual exploitation within relationships as opposed to where it occurs for profit. In our view, any policy or legislative distinction between domestic and organised sexual crime is artificial, unnecessary and counter-productive. The common manipulation of the intimate partner relationship for commercial sexual exploitation is an obvious example of the failure of this approach. Tackling this as purely commercial or purely domestic ignores vital causes and consequences. Although the causes of sexual exploitation may differ depending on the relationship between victim and exploiter, the result is the same: an exploited victim. Importantly, the longer term consequences for the victims are often the same whether the exploitation takes place in a purely domestic or commercial context.Health consequences from sexual exploitation are well researched. Women and girls are inhibited by the lack of empowerment this brings in reaching their full potential. This has a knock on effect in the workforce of any state, with a consequent effect on economic prosperity. In November 2014, the G20 countries committed to a “goal of reducing the gap in participation rates between men and women [in the G20 countries] by 25% by 2025, taking into account national circumstances, to bring more than 100 million women into the labour force in order to significantly increase global growth and reduce poverty and inequality". It has been said that there are three key levers to achieve female workforce participation – social change in the sense of changing norms and stereotypes about work undertaken, policy change in relation to incentives and child care and workplace change closing gaps in wages and increasing the number of women in leadership positions . This paper seeks to add a fourth dimension in the context of empowering women by tackling sexual exploitation. We suggest the need to focus on legal uniformity, extra territoriality and corporate responsibility. We argue that there is a link between legal and policy approaches to sexual exploitation and the successful empowerment of women through employment. If equality is a genuine goal then the policy on sexual exploitation needs to be addressed at global level in the context of law and economic progress.
Keywords: Gender Equality, Sexual Exploitation, Uniformity of Law, Extra Territoriality,