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Respect and don’t judge prostitutes, says Vatican


The Vatican has called for an attitude of respect, understanding, compassion, and abstaining from judgement – "in the right sense" – towards women who have become caught up in prostitution, which the Holy See described as a form of modern slavery.

"Many prostitutes in the so-called developed world come from poor countries, and in Europe, as elsewhere, many have fallen victim to people traffickers to meet a growing demand from sex ‘consumers’," stated Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino in a document – "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road" – issued by the Vatican on 19 June.

"It should also be taken into account that, in many cases, the women involved in prostitution have experienced violence and sexual abuse since childhood," said Martino, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which is the body behind the document.

In Rome, as in other big cities, prostitution takes place openly in certain sections of the city; the women involved reportedly come from Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa, especially Nigeria.

The pontifical council now says Christian communities should be encouraged to work with national and local authorities "to help street women find alternative means of making a living". It added that religious congregations, especially female ones, should seek "new ways of bearing witness to the dignity of women".

At the same time, the council noted that the Church could provide a wide variety of services to the victims of prostitution. These could include housing, medical and legal assistance, education, protection from threats, and help with obtaining visas if it is not possible for the women involved to return to their country of origin.

"It is also necessary to promote respect, understanding, compassion and an attitude of abstaining from judging – in the right sense – women who have fallen into the network of prostitution," the council’s document stated.

At the same time, the Vatican said attention needed to be given to the clients of prostitutes.

"The ‘customers’ need help in solving their most intimate problems and in finding suitable ways of directing their sexual tendencies," the document explained. It continued, "’Buying sex’ does not resolve the problems that arise primarily from frustration and lack of authentic relationships, and from the loneliness that characterises so many life situations today."

The Vatican also suggested using the criminal law to punish clients, and noted, "An effective measure towards cultural change with respect to prostitution could derive from associating criminal law with social condemnation."

(c) Ecumenical News International