Does prostitution violate human dignity?

Shepherd, Benjamin J. (2015) Does prostitution violate human dignity? Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

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Traditionally, the law has largely ‘understood’ and regulated prostitution on the basis of some form of moral reflection on the sale of sex. Such a reflection is evident in recent policy efforts to criminalise the sale and/or purchase of sex, as outlined in inter alia the so-called ‘Honeyball Report’. The report suggests that prostitution is a violation of human dignity, which leads to a call to action to criminalise the purchase of sex. This study engages with this proposition, and poses the question: ‘Does prostitution violate human dignity? There are three core themes of dignity identified across the literature, in human rights theory and in international human rights law, as well as in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), grounded in an understanding that human dignity is inherent and inalienable in all persons. As the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and its associated international conventions recognize, this concept of inherent human dignity is the bedrock upon which human rights are founded. Modern conceptualisations of human dignity constructed by US scholars are appraised and three key descriptive elements of dignity; Inherence, Personal Inviolability and Autonomy are drawn together to form a model, called ‘IPA’ dignity. Thereafter, the idea of dignity violation is explored and examined using the jurisprudence of Article 3 ECHR to demonstrate judicial recognition of the idea of violation. This ‘violation’ of dignity as expounded examines various ways in which dignity may be violated. The model is critiqued, and it is established that in order to answer the hypothesis question, a descriptive model of dignity requires some normative framework in order that it be utilised to assess the dignity violation of sex workers in prostitution. The model is considered in a normative usage, according to the natural law theory of John Finnis in Natural Law and Natural Rights, in which Finnis sets out a normative call to action for the promotion of certain objective goods, the collective of which amounts to a life ‘worth pursuing’. To provide a sociological context for the study, the subject of prostitution is introduced as it is understood in the academic discipline of sociology, and relevant literature therein is reviewed around the central issue of what is termed here ‘the prostitution encounter’; that is, the sale/purchase of sexual services. A sociological explanatory model called the Gender and Male Violence Model (GMV) is justified as most appropriate for the study. Narratives taken from the seminal literature in the sociology of prostitution are analysed using a phenomenological method to consider the experiences of the sex worker of the prostitution encounter, and an evaluation is made as to potential modes of dignity violation within the prostitution encounter. This leads to an indication that the human dignity, modelled as IPA dignity and framed with the normative call to action of Finnis which directs that human agents should promote human flourishing and, a fortiori dignity, may be violated. Using these methods, the study concludes by indicating that prostitution may indeed violate human dignity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: John Finnis, model of dignity, Honeyball, sex work and human rights, trafficking for sexual exploitation
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Melissa Campey
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2016 10:37
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 19:01

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