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Between criminality, exploitation and sexual robots: prostitution in media in 2017

2017 International Press Overview on Prostitution

The Scelles Foundation publishes its "2017 International Press Overview on prostitution", which is a compilation of almost 1.700 articles collected on a daily basis during that year. In the background of the migrant crisis, the Weinstein case and the liberated speech urged by the #MeToo movement... Which place was prostitution granted by media? Which new trends appeared? In the face of a progressive and changing phenomenon such as prostitution, analyzing the current affairs day after day is an essential tool for detecting and anticipating evolutions. 2017 Inventory of current news.


Above all, prostitution represents the most vulnerable individuals' exploitation. The "2017 International Press Overview on Prostitution" is meant to remind that, throughout the world, populations, mostly women and girls, who are caught in economic, political, climatic crises, are prostitution victims


  • Venezuela – Venezuela crisis forces women to sell sex in Colombia fuels slavery risk (Reuters)
  • Migrants trapped in web of sex slavery (New Vision)
  • Kenya - Drought pushes adolescent girls into prostitution to feed their families (Africa News)
  • Germany – Pregnant women are being legally pimped out for sex (The Independent)
  • Malaysia - Young Rohingyas girls sold for marriage(


Explosion of Nigerian criminality

Taking advantage of multiplied migrant trafficking, Nigerian networks significantly developed their activities in a few months: The Nigerian daily paper, the Guardian, ran as a title: "36,000 Nigerians crossed to Italy via Mediterranean Sea in 2016"; Pimps send 7 times more young women to Europe via local mafias and Pentecostal churches (« Du Nigéria aux trottoirs de l'Europe »,, March 26th, 2017).

Most European countries are affected and worry about the increasing number of Nigerian victims:

  • Ireland - Nigerian women are main victims of sex trade (Irish Examiner)
  • France - Between Nimes, Lyon, and Le Havre, more than 50 Nigerian women, prisoners of a prostitution network (France Info)


Minors ever more exposed to sexual exploitation risks

Among vulnerable populations, both sex minors and young majors have a special place. More and more articles warn about the prostitution risks met by youth. It reveals a new real awareness of a phenomenon public Authorities don't always realize:

  • Film exposes underworld of U.S. children sold online for sex (Reuters)
  • In Paris and Brussels, an advertising campaign invites young female students to "sell their services" (sexual).
  • Canada – One in three runaway girls is a victim of sexual exploitation (TVA Nouvelles)
  • India – 15% commercial sex establishments provide minors for sex trade in Mumbai (Indian Express)
  • Burkina Faso – "Prostitutes" aged 10 to 15 arrested in a brothel (Benin Web TV)


Victims are younger and younger and so are the torturers. In France, several cases effectively presented both sex young procurers exploiting young runaway French minor girls, city delinquents' girl-friends or victims, who had turned to procuring:

2 pimps aged 19 arrested (Lyon Capitale)

They prostituted their girlfriends aged 15 and 16: three years in prison, (LCI)


Attempts to respond are made by society in order to protect minors and young majors from prostitution risks. In 2017, for the first time, Japan dealt with the problem: a decree intended to stop the developing procuring against minors was enacted. Besides, Tokyo took measures in order to limit hiring youth under 18 by certain service companies, including meetings agencies: Tokyo fights child pornography (Le Monde). Similarly, India penalized sexual relationships with minor girls, which are, from now on, considered as a rape (BFMTV). In Malaysia, some ministries and government agencies join forces to fight child sex crimes (Star Online). And since October 2017, France has been considering the introduction of a minimum age of consent, thereby filling a gap in French law (Le Monde). But, even if these measures are of paramount importance, they remain insufficient in the face of this expansive phenomenon.


New technologies at the service of exploitation


The web and, more generally new technologies, are playing an ever more central part in the development of all these forms of exploitation so as to facilitate sexual exchanges. Innovations to that effect are not rare:

  • In France, a geolocation site for prostitutes worries the police (Le Parisien)
  • In Canada, a new app allows you to find rooms usable by the hour (Ici Radio Canada)


Social networks role, particularly Facebook (Tahiti Infos) is highlighted. Free ads sites are directly implicated such as Vivastreet in France (Le Parisien) which is targeted by an inquiry in relation with aggravated procuring, Backpage in the USA which has been forced by the government to close its "adults" section (Reuters). Community platforms like AirBnb are diverted from their origin use with prostitution purposes:

  •  AirBnb rentals go wrong: when prostitution comes into your apartment (Journal de Québec)


Prostitution in debate


Arguments about the juridical system of prostitution, and even about its definition, are going on everywhere.


Some people say decriminalization could protect prostituted persons:

  • Taiwan – Sex workers' rights group urges city government ot legalize sex trade (Taiwan News)
  • Australia – Parliamentary committee recommends decriminalizing prostitution (
  • United Kingdom– Unions oppose decriminalization of prostitution (The Independent)


While others fight for an abolitionist view:

  • Israel - Ministers passed two bills criminalizing prostitutes' clients (Times of Israel)
  • France – Media monitors progress in implementing April 2016 abolitionist law


These tense arguments can lead to real changes concerning prostitution juridical system or, more globally, women's rights. Thus, Tunisia passed a law punishing all forms of abuses towards women, the first one on this theme in this country (Le Monde). Pakistan published a law against forced marriages for children and women from minorities (Forbes). Ireland forbids sexual services purchases (The Journal).



As usual, media prefer what is picturesque and strange to debate analyzing…The increase in sexual puppets and robots thus became the favorite theme within a few months:

  • China - An engineer marries the sex robot he built himself (Slate) ; Japan - A scientist falls in love with his sex doll (The Sun)


Beyond picturesque, one can wonder about the increased use of these silicone partners. Will it have beneficial effects? Some are looking forward to the possible positive consequences of this phenomenon: reduced procuring, STD prevention, prostitution suppression… But reality seems to erase this idyllic vision:

  • In Norway and in the United Kingdom, children's sex dolls are spotted to the point that the British government officially bans all imports of these dolls
  • A doll was designed to resist her partner's demands and rape (The Independent)
  • A doll exhibited in an Artificial Intelligence exhibition in Austria has been seriously damaged by male visitors who want to palpate it. (BBC)


Something to worry about for the future… At a time when men and women relationships are called into question and rethought, the appearance of these feminine substitutes will not result in a positively-oriented debate.



The Scelles Foundation in the press

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