In 2014, in the framework of its campaign ‘Together for a Europe free from prostitution’, and at the eve of the vote of the EP resolution on gender equality and prostitution (Honeyball resolution), the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) developed a leaflet responding to the most frequent assumptions on prostitution. 18 myths are therefore looked at from a gender equality and women’s rights perspective. From “It is the oldest profession in the world” to “We must combat trafficking, but prostitution has nothing to do with it”, EWL’s leaflet wants to provide human rights evidence-based answers to the reality of prostitution and trafficking in women in Europe and in the world.
The leaflet also comprises a comparison of the Swedish and Dutch policies, after ten years of implementation, based on official reports and studies. The last page summarises the demands of the Brussels’ Call, which has been signed by more than 200 organisations from all over Europe and beyond, including IROKO. In 2014, 54 MEPs had already signed it, from different countries and political groups.
Read the full leaflet here.
The Italian law no. 75 from 1958, which carries the name of Senator Lina Merlin, has turned 61. This law, as we know, abolished brothels – 560 of them when it was approved -, the embodiment of State regulation of prostitution. It abolished the keeping of records of prostituted women, freeing them from the heavy stigma and providing an opportunity for them to escape from prostitution. Essentially, this law aimed to avoid any woman being forced, coerced or encouraged to get into or to remain in prostitution.
The Merlin Law can be seen as a pioneer for recent abolitionist laws, approved in various countries around the world and it serves as our point of reference to reflect both culturally and politically on prostitution itself.
In early February Iroko’s Executive Director, Esohe Aghatise, and two members of the team went to Madrid to attend CATW and the Commission for the Investigation of Harms Against Women’s (Comisión Para La Investigación De Malos Tratos A Mujeres, CIMTM) global conference entitled Centering Women and Girls in Ending Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation: The Architecture of the 5.2 Global Partnership. Not only did the conference give invaluable insights into the challenges facing this movement to end trafficking and sexual exploitation and some of the tools and projects in place to tackle them, but it provided an opportunity to come together with an inspiring group of women and men who work every day to protect the rights of women and girls around the world.
The conference consisted of 8 panels of experts, journalists, survivors, activists and many more, across two days, including speakers from all over the world. Among them were CATW’s Board of Directors, who began the conference talking about the successes and challenges they’ve seen over the organisation’s 30 years. Aurora Javate-de Dios highlighted the hypocrisy that many self-proclaimed feminist organisations demonstrate today, citing the example of the scandal surrounding Oxfam staff in Haiti in 2010, where representatives of a global organisation promoting human rights and equality were supporting earthquake victims one day and buying women’s bodies for sexual services the next. Janice Raymond recognised the huge contribution and strength that survivors have brought to this movement over the years. Ruchira Gupta brought forward a theme that continued throughout the conference: the question of language and the powerful role it plays. When asked what she would change given a magic wand, she proposed the removal of the concept of ‘consensual sex’ from our collective vocabulary, and its replacement with ‘welcome sex’. Read More
The ddl 840/2018, better known as Salvini’s decree on immigration and security, has become law after approval by the Chamber of Deputies. One of the biggest changes and challenges that has come out of this decree is the removal of humanitarian protection, a lower level of asylum status provided for by Italian rather than international law – given to 25 percent of Italy’s asylum seekers last year, according to the AFP. It will also make it harder to obtain Italian citizenship and provides for the revocation of ‘acquired’ citizenship, as well as changing the rules around hosting asylum seekers in reception centres.
As an organisation that works with socially and economically disadvantaged people, female victims of violence, and also provides accommodation – at the ‘third level’, i.e. for people who have already lived in Italy for some time and whose long-term integration we support -, we feel compelled to investigate and fully understand the implications of this legislation. As such, we held a public meeting on 30th November, in collaboration with the social enterprise Xenia who have been hosting asylum seekers for two years and with whom we share our work space. We were joined by Barbara Cattelan and Enrica Origlia, lawyers with ASGI (an association that studies migration legislation), who sought to analyse and interpret how the new laws will work in practice, and Monica Cerutti, the representative for Equal Opportunities in Piemonte.
So, what has changed for asylum seekers?
For anyone submitting an application now, the chances of receiving protection are greatly reduced. There is no direct long-term replacement for humanitarian protection, but some much more limited forms of protection have been introduced.
It took Rachel Moran 10 years to write her book Paid For: My Journey through Prostitution, where she recounts not only the seven years she spent in prostitution, but also offers an extremely thought-provoking and profound analysis of the phenomenon of prostitution itself, where various forms of social discrimination overlap. Discrimination based on gender and race is rife and disproportionately affects women, often the most vulnerable and marginalised in society. Having made this observation and reflection, the idea for her book was born, and the book itself, along with Moran’s activism, has become a political tool in the fight against prostitution.
“I’ve never heard a statistic as as the Canadian situation,” Moran tells us, “where 56% of prostituted women are indigenous Canadian, but only 6% of the nation is indigenous Canadian, as so of course only 3% of the nation is indigenous female Canadian. So we’re talking about more than half of the prostituted population drawn from just 3% of society. You can’t look at stats like that and not see that racism is running right through prostitution in multi-racial societies. A friend of mine who runs a facility in Minnesota, year on year deals with around 70% young African American girls, but this is in a state whose population is only 10% African American.”
343 women from 28 countries throughout Europe decided to stand up together for women’s rights in the European Union and throughout the world. Feminist activists, politicians, or simple citizens, they launch today a common manifesto, paying tribute to the Manifesto 343 which was released in France in 1971. With this call, they refuse to give up while confronting regressive policies in the continent, they refuse inequalities between European women, they call for extension of the right to safe and legal abortion in the EU.
The right to a safe and legal abortion has been fought for and ultimately obtained in many European countries, yet some women still do not have the choice over their own bodies. The rise of nationalism and conservatism in the European Union has put this right under threat, and we are increasingly seeing steps being taken to erode it throughout the region. This is unacceptable. This right is neither a whim, nor an option, but a necessity for a Europe of freedom, equality and democracy.
The right to a safe and legal abortion should be universal. It should be available for any woman. If the European Union claims to defend human rights, it should be willing to enforce this right throughout the EU and to promote it throughout the world.
We know that in some countries taking a stand and defending this right is difficult, that sometimes even freedom of expression is threatened. This is why this Manifesto has been written, paying tribute to the first 343 Manifesto sent out at a time when defending this right was almost impossible.
We have signed this manifesto as Associazione Iroko and as individuals because we believe every woman in the EU and around the world should have access to safe and legal abortions. We urge all of our friends, supporters and partners to do the same.
Visit 343manifesto.eu to sign.
“We all want to find ways for the women to be safe. But we know that the women and the men, the boys and the girls can never be safe in prostitution. We can only reduce the harm. That’s not good enough. We don’t talk about reducing the harm for sexually abused children or women who are raped. We talk about ending it. And yet, when you talk about ending the sex trade, many people laugh at you and say ‘we can’t stop prostitution’. I say ‘really? Do you not think that we can end poverty?’ and they’ll say yes. ‘Do you think that we can end child sexual abuse?’ ‘Well, yes.’ ‘Do you think we can end racism?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well why can’t you imagine ending prostitution? Men are not born with this innate desire to have sex with a woman who isn’t consenting. We call that socialisation and patriarchy. Of course there is no innate need for men to have one-sided consensual sex with a woman who doesn’t want to be there. The propagandists that spin the mythology that leads people to say legalisation is the only way, know very well that, if they say prostitution is inevitable, it’s always been here and it always will be here, people somehow absorb this and believe it. If I hear the phrase ‘the oldest profession’ one more time, I might have to do some damage. Of course it’s not a profession. Of course that isn’t the case. Children have been sexually abused forever. Does that make it natural and inevitable? Of course it doesn’t.”
Julie Bindel, Convention on the Sex Industry and Human Trafficking, Rome, May 2018.
To read Julie Bindel’s speech in full, as well as others from the convention, click here.
The 30th May 2018 the Council of Ministers in Somalia unanimously adopted the Sexual Offences Bill, “the most comprehensive Bill on sexual crimes, seen anywhere”, as Judge Vagn Joensen (President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) said.
If successfully implemented, this bill will effectively criminalise a wide range of sexual offences, provide vital support to survivors, and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of those investigating and prosecuting sexual violence.
The bill has been drafted thanks to the support of LAW (Legal Action Worldwide), a unique non-profit network of human rights lawyers who provide creative legal assistance to individuals and communities who have suffered from human rights violations and abuses in fragile and conflict-affected areas. LAW worked from the start in close collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development.
You can find more information about it here.
We at Associazione Iroko were thrilled to welcome guests including Rachel Moran, Ingeborg Kraus, Blessing Okoedion and Julie Bindel to Rome on 27th and 28th May for the International Conference on the sex industry and human trafficking, which we organised alongside Resistenza Femminista, UDI Napoli, Salute Donna and Differenza Donna.
We are not newcomers to this conversation, but the ability of these speakers to ignite passion and inspire us to action never fails to amaze us. We cannot underestimate the power of a knowledgeable, empathetic and eloquent speaker. We were lucky to have various different perspectives represented among our guests – from survivors of prostitution and human trafficking, to professional trauma counsellors and international authors – which offer a rounded picture of this damaging industry.
Iroko Association will take part in a meeting organised by the Human Rights subcommittee of the European Parliament on the 11th and 12th July 2018 in Brussels. Iroko’s director, Esohe Aghatise, will speak about the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, which will be celebrated on 30th July.
Aghatise will exchange views with Myria Vassiliadou, the EU anti-trafficking coordinator, followed by a conversation between the governor of Edo State, Nigeria, Godwin Obaseki, and Yinka Omorogbe, the president of the Task Force, created by the Edo State government to combat trafficking, of which Esohe Aghatise is also an active member.
The full programme of the event is available here.