What is the legality of prostitution in Vanuatu?

Is Prostitution Legal in Vanuatu?

Prostitution in Vanuatu is illegal under the Penal Code Act of 1981. The laws governing prostitution in Vanuatu are relatively strict, with both the buying and selling of sex considered criminal offenses. The Penal Code Act criminalizes various activities related to prostitution, including soliciting, brothel-keeping, and living off the earnings of prostitution. However, enforcement of these laws is generally considered to be weak, and prostitution remains a significant issue in the country.

What Are the Penalties and Enforcement for Prostitution in Vanuatu?

Penalties for prostitution-related offenses in Vanuatu vary depending on the specific offense. Some of the penalties include:

  • Soliciting: A fine of up to 50,000 vatu (approximately US$450) or imprisonment for up to one year, or both.
  • Brothel-keeping: Imprisonment for up to two years.
  • Living off the earnings of prostitution: Imprisonment for up to five years.

Despite the existence of these penalties, enforcement of prostitution laws in Vanuatu is generally considered to be weak. This is due to a combination of factors, including limited police resources, corruption, and cultural attitudes towards prostitution. As a result, prostitution remains a significant issue in the country, particularly in urban areas and among vulnerable populations.

What is Prostitution Called Locally in Vanuatu?

In Vanuatu, prostitution is often referred to as selling body or kastom wife. These terms reflect the cultural context in which prostitution occurs in the country, where it is often seen as a way for women to support themselves and their families financially. However, the use of these terms can also contribute to the normalization and acceptance of prostitution, making it more difficult to address the issue effectively.

What is the History of Prostitution in Vanuatu?

Prostitution has been present in Vanuatu for centuries, with evidence of its existence dating back to the pre-colonial period. However, the introduction of European settlers and traders in the 19th century led to an increase in prostitution, as local women were often forced or coerced into providing sexual services in exchange for goods or protection. During the colonial period, prostitution became more organized and commercialized, with brothels and other establishments catering to the needs of foreign men.

Following Vanuatu’s independence in 1980, prostitution remained a significant issue, with many women turning to sex work as a means of survival due to limited economic opportunities. The growth of tourism in Vanuatu has also contributed to the persistence of prostitution, as the demand for sexual services has increased with the influx of foreign visitors.

What Government Laws and Resources Address Prostitution in Vanuatu?

In addition to the Penal Code Act of 1981, which criminalizes various activities related to prostitution, the Vanuatu government has implemented several other laws and policies aimed at addressing the issue. These include:

  • Combating Human Trafficking Act of 2014: This legislation aims to prevent and combat human trafficking, including sex trafficking, by criminalizing trafficking-related offenses and providing support and protection for victims.
  • Child Protection Act of 2010: This act is designed to protect children from abuse and exploitation, including sexual exploitation and trafficking. It also establishes a child protection system, which includes services for child victims of exploitation.
  • National Gender Policy: This policy, developed in 2015, seeks to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in Vanuatu. It includes specific provisions related to the prevention and response to gender-based violence and exploitation, including prostitution.

Despite these legal frameworks and policies, the effectiveness of the government’s efforts to address prostitution in Vanuatu remains limited. This is due to a range of factors, including inadequate enforcement of laws, limited resources, and the persistence of cultural attitudes that normalize and accept prostitution.

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