Pope Francis on Monday likened prostitution to torture even as he branded exploitation of women for prostitution a “crime against humanity.”
The Prominent religious leader also asked for forgiveness from society for Catholic men who buy sex from women, saying men who frequent prostitutes are criminals with a “sick mentality” who think that women exist to be exploited.
“This isn’t making love. This is torturing a woman. Let’s not confuse the terms,” Francis insisted.
The pope made his frank comments in a remarkable, freewheeling question-and-answer session with young people from around the world who came to Rome to prepare for a bishops’ meeting scheduled for October at the Vatican.
Blessing Okoedion, a 32-year-old Nigerian who was once a victim of human trafficking, told the Pope she was troubled that many clients of prostitutes on the streets of Rome are Catholics.
She said: ‘I ask myself and I ask you, is it possible for a Church that is still too male chauvinist to be able to question itself truthfully about this high demand by clients?’
Francis said that in Italy it was likely that some 90% of male clients of prostitutes are baptised Catholics
He added: ‘I would like to take advantage of this moment to ask forgiveness from you (exploited women) and society for all the Catholics who carry out this criminal act. ‘I think of the disgust these girls must feel when men make them do these things.’
Prostitutes, most of them victims of human trafficking from Nigeria, other African countries and Eastern Europe, are found at night on the streets of Rome’s periphery and around parks.
At the meeting with the some 300 delegates at a university in Rome, Francis said sexual exploitation of women stemmed from a “sick mentality” embedded in many people. He added that feminism had still not be able to remove it and asked the young people to fight against it.
“(It says) women are to be exploited in one way or another. And that is what explains this … it is a sickness of humanity, a sickness of looking at society in a certain way, a crime against humanity,” he said.