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Research report

The hidden side of prostitution

The research project was driven by two objectives: i) assess the socioeconomic, psychological, relationship, social and behavioural impacts of prostitution on girls and women and ii) identify the practices that foster the abandonment of prostitution among girls and women.

Involvement in prostitution must be interpreted as a process rooted in a broad range of vulnerability factors.

The findings are based on a review of 152 scientific studies, longitudinal data collected from young women placed in youth centres during their adolescence and interviews with 20 women who were (or had been) involved in prostitution and 21 individuals who work with women who engage in prostitution.

The results indicate that involvement in prostitution must be interpreted as a process rooted in a broad range of vulnerability factors that, in turn, give rise to a broad range of negative impacts in several areas of the women's lives. This concept of a process also applies to the abandonment of prostitution—the cessation of prostitution activities, as well as the rebuilding of self and relationships and gradual progress toward social reintegration.

The outcomes suggest a major paradigm shift in the approach to develop programs and services aimed at teenagers and women involved in prostitution. The study points to the fact that, rather than focusing on the women's deficits and risks, it would be more promising to build on the consolidation of their strengths and abilities so that they may begin to rely on safe and healthy means to meet their needs.


Main researcher: Nadine Lanctôt, Université de Sherbrooke

Original title: La face cachée de la prostitution : une étude des conséquences de la prostitution sur le développement et le bien-être des filles et des femmes

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