Joanna Schroeder has some questions about how the apparent lack of discipline against the U.S. Military members involved in the Colombian sex scandal reflects America’s view of prostitution.
A Reuters story from Sunday centered around the case of the U.S. Secret Service members who hired Colombian prostitutes while on a presidential visit to the country, but it also pointed out that U.S. Military personnel were involved in the scandal as well, though they’re getting less media attention. And while the Secret Service members were immediately sent home and disciplined with a speed we Americans aren’t used to seeing from our government, officials from the military are reacting differently:
[T]he involvement of U.S. military personnel and Secret Service agents in a raucous April outing with prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, has underscored the gaps between the written policies and real-life experiences at military assignments around the world.
While the Secret Service has acted promptly and openly, even announcing Friday new ethics training and policies for traveling agents, the military has stayed mostly mum about how it is addressing possible violations of its prostitution rules.
Reuters goes on to explain that it’s not as if the U.S. Military takes no stance on prostitution or the hiring of prostitutes. For personnel violating the policies against engaging in prostitution (even in countries where paying for sex is legal), penalties include a year in jail and dishonorable discharge. Reuters continues,
They also face country-specific instructions at bases like the U.S. installation in South Korea, where the policy describes prostitution as “cruel and demeaning.”
Senator John McCain criticized the Pentagon for not being more open about the proceedings in the case of these officers, and another U.S. Senator, Lindsay Graham (R), who serves on the Armed Services Committee admitted that he believes the military does not strictly enforce the seven year-old Department of Defense policy.
When asked, Senator McCain insisted that paying for sex is not an innate part of being in the military and cited his quarter-century of being a member of our armed forces as an example of an exception.
All of this cannot help but raise a few questions, and they are similar to the questions raised domestically for civilians in regards to sex work. First, what is the point of an anti-prostitution law or policy if nobody upholds them or enforces them? Is it simply to save face?
Second, do anti-prostitution laws actually protect prostitutes or put them in greater danger?
Third, is paying for sex something so innate to humanity that even when faced with the possibility of dishonorable discharge and a year in jail, members of the military still engage in it?
Fourth, would we feel differently about this scandal were the prostitutes American women?
Finally, is prostitution, as the U.S. Forces of South Korea puts it, “cruel and demeaning”? And if so—or even if not—who are we non-sex-workers to decide whether it is?
What do you think?
Apart from whether or not you think prostitution should be legal or allowed by the U.S. Military, given that this policy is in place, what actions should be taken against the members of the military who were involved in the Colombia prostitution scandal?