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Prostitution is commercial rape, says Gloria Steinem

Press Trust of India  |  Kolkata 

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem today described prostitution as "commercial rape" and said it was wrong to term prostitutes as sex workers.

"Prostitution involves body invasion and so it is not like any other work. So how can you call it sex work? Prostitution is the only word you should use," Steinem told reporters here.

It is the circumstances and exploitation which force a woman to take up prostitution, and hence it should be decriminalised. The traffickers instead should be punished.

"It is the equivalent of commercial rape and so instead of the prostitutes, the traffickers should be punished and the customers should be educated," the feminist activist-author said while pointing out that in Sweden and France it has worked.

"When a girl is put into prostitution at the age of 12 or 14, does she have a choice after all?" she said while remarking that prostitution was not a profession but oppression.

Based out of New York, Steinem is widely recognised in the United States and abroad as a major catalyst of the global women's liberation movement.

To a question, she said, religion has become a political tool to control the lives of people.

"God is everywhere, but it is politics which puts God only in a few places," she said, adding that religion also nurtures patriarchal notions.

Steinem is also actively involved with the work of anti-trafficking organisation "Apne Aap Women Worldwide".

By advocating policies that deter men from purchasing sex, their approach tackles both the supply side and the demand side of the sex trafficking industry.

Steinem credits her two early years in India with the understanding of the linkage between gender and race, caste and class, and between gender and violence.

"I got influenced by the Gandhian movement and it changed my life," she said.

During the day she visited the red-light areas in Khidirpore area.

"It was a girl-led journey where a girl took me to her home and showed how she lives," Steinem said.

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First Published: Wed, January 29 2014. 19:19 IST