The highest court in the land has handed down a history making decision in the case of United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International. Today the United States Supreme Court told government lawmakers they couldn’t force private health organizations to denounce prostitution as a condition of granting funding with taxpayers money to combat AIDS and the global spread of the deadly HIV virus.
Writing for the court, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts said the anti-prostitution pledge, included in 1 2003 AIDS fund law inappropriately infringes on these organizations First Amendment rights.
Organizations working in South America, Asia and Africa challenged the prostitution denouncement provision of the 2003 law based on their statement that their organizations had nothing to do with prostitution. In a story published June 20, 2013, The Washington Post reports, “The Obama administration countered that it is reasonable for the government to give money only to groups that oppose prostitution and sex trafficking because they contribute to the spread of HIV and AIDS. It said that if groups were not held to a pledge to oppose prostitution and sex trafficking, they could spend private funds in a way that might undermine the government’s mission.”
Chief Justice Roberts commented that Congress has provided billions of dollars for private organizations to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS through the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act enacted in 2003.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented in the decision. Justice Scalia stated the pledge “is nothing more than a means of selecting suitable agents to implement the government’s chosen strategy to eradicate HIV/AIDS.” “That is perfectly permissible under the Constitution,” Scalia wrote. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case. Justice Kagan is presently serving in the Justice Department as the Obama administration’s Supreme Court lawyer.
WP reports, “Two groups — Alliance for Open Society International Inc., which runs a program in Central Asia to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS by reducing drug use, and Pathfinder International, which provides family planning and reproductive health services in more than 20 countries — went to the courts after they adopted policy statements opposing prostitution in order to keep their eligibility for funding intact. The other two groups are Global Health Council and Interaction.”
These organizations “fear that adopting a policy explicitly opposing prostitution may alienate certain host governments, and may diminish the effectiveness of some of their programs by making it more difficult to work with prostitutes in the fight against HIV/AIDS”, said Roberts.
In court papers the organizations claimed that the World Health Organization and several other international groups receive U.S. aid to fight HIV and Aids while not having to comply with the contested anti-prostitution pledge. Further arguing that many of these international agencies support reduced penalties for prostitution as an integral element in their HIV/AIDS fighting strategy.
“Prostitution is the supreme triumph of capitalism. Worst of all, prostitution reinforces all the old dumb cliches about women’s sexuality; that they are not built to enjoy sex and are little more than walking masturbation aids, things to be DONE TO, things so sensually null and void that they have to be paid to indulge in fornication, that women can be had, bought, as often as not sold from one man to another. When the sex war is won prostitutes should be shot as collaborators for their terrible betrayal of all women, for the moral tarring and feathering they give indigenous women who have had the bad luck to live in what they make their humping ground.” – Julie Burchill
Although there is no end to the loud voices ready to tell you how very wrong prostitution is for a diverse array of reasons, for many women world-wide, it is a means of survival. Jean Vandepitte, MD, et. al., in the June 2006 Sexually Transmitted Infections article “Estimates of the Number of Female Sex Workers in Different Regions of the World,” writes, “In sub-Saharan Africa, the FSW [Female Sex Workers] prevalence [percent equals estimated number of FSW in an area multiplied by 100 and divided by the size of an area’s female population between the ages of 15-49] in the capitals ranged between 0.7% and 4.3% and in other urban areas between 0.4% and 4.3%. Population surveys from this same region yielded even higher proportions of women involved in transactional sex. The national FSW prevalence in Asia ranged between 0.2% and 2.6%; in the ex-Russian Federation between 0.1% and 1.5%; in East Europe between 0.4% and 1.4%; in West Europe between 0.1% and 1.4%; and in Latin America between 0.2% and 7.4%.”
Pro Con provides interesting statistics regarding prostitution.
“Did You Know?
Little Known Facts in the Prostitution Debate
- Prostitution dates back to at least 2400 B.C. when it appeared on an ancient Sumerian list of professions along with doctor, scribe, barber and cook. Although very old, prostitution is not literally considered to be the “world’s oldest profession.”
- Prostitution is illegal in the United States except in 11 rural counties in Nevada.
- Indoor prostitution became legal in Rhode Island in 1980 due to an unintentional legal loophole created by legislators. The state enacted new legislation nearly thirty years later to close the loophole on Nov. 3, 2009.
- On Nov. 2, 2004 two prostitution referendums went to the voters in the United States with 63.51% of voters in Berkeley, California wanting to keep prostitution a crime and 62.78% of voters in Churchill County, Nevada wanting to keep prostitution legal.
- The same brothel in Nevada could cost an owner a $200 fee in Lander County, a $150,000 fee in Nye County, and up to 6 months in jail and/or $1,000 fine in Las Vegas.
- In 1751, Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa banned short dresses and replaced waitresses with waiters to suppress prostitution.
- Researchers have identified at least 25 types of prostitution by location (street, brothel, etc.), solicitation (CB radio, newspaper ad, etc.) and and/or sexual practice (bondage, lap dance, etc.).
- In Sweden, Norway, and Iceland selling sex is legal, but buying sex is illegal.
- In Japan prostitution is illegal, but selling non-coital sex acts is legal.
- Prostitution is criminalized, legalized, and decriminalized in Australia depending on the state.
- In 2004 the number of US prostitution-related arrests ranged from California’s 14,506 to Vermont’s three.
- Proponents of legal prostitution have included Ann Landers, the ACLU, and The Economist while opponents have included Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Susan B. Anthony.
- Medieval canon lawyer Johannes Teutonicus, when defining prostitution, suggested that a woman who had sex with more than 23,000 men should be classified as a prostitute, although 40 to 60 would also do.
- An estimated 1% of American women, or over one million people in the United States, have worked as prostitutes.
- A sex laws chart from 1996 lists, for example, nine states and the District of Columbia as prohibiting fornication (sex outside of marriage), and fourteen states as prohibiting hetero oral sex.
The 2003 law had been touted as a victory in the lengthy campaign waged by right-wing politician to stigmatize, isolate and shame prostitutes and sex workers by cutting off aid to some of the most effective groups waging war in the battle to suppress HIV infection.
In an article published today in Reality Check, RC reports, “PEPFAR was established to prevent the spread of HIV and treat AIDS-related illnesses, but from the start became mired in conservative politics and policies. One of these was the “anti-prostitution pledge,” originally sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a staunch opponent of women’s rights.
The APLO required organizations to adopt a policy stating they did not “promote” or “advocate” “the legalization or practice of prostitution,” and required them to explicitly oppose prostitution and sex trafficking. The pledge is similar in some sense to the global gag rule in that the pledge requirement limits what recipients can do with all funding, not just PEPFAR funding.
But unlike the global gag rule, PEPFAR recipients were not simply “gagged” from discussing prostitution; they were compelled to take a specific stance against prostitution, and it’s a specific stance dictated by the U.S. government.”
Today’s ruling, as the Court struck down the anti-prostitution pledge, is a victory scored: the right thing to do.
Supreme Court Strikes Anti-Prostitution Pledge for American Organizations Fighting HIV/AIDS
Prostitution Pro Con