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Prostitution: a job like any other?

This is an article written by Valentina Pazé, a professor in political philosophy at the University of Turin, and translated by Ruby Till for Associazione Iroko. It was originally published on 26-05-2020 in Volere La Luna. You can find the original Italian version here.

Prostitution: a job like any other?

The sex industry is among the sectors of the economy that have been hit hardest by the recent lockdown. Shendi Veli reminded us of this in her article on 12th March in Il Manifesto, talking about the fact that so-called sex workers had been abandoned during this pandemic. She presented the classic demands made by proponents of “decriminalisation”: from the recognition of prostitution as a legitimate form of work, to the legalisation of practices linked to prostitution, its aiding and abetting (favoreggiamento), currently illegal in Italy, and even at times cited in cases against those who rent houses to women in prostitution or live with them (according to an incorrect interpretation of the Merlin Law, criticised by Silvia Niccolai in Né sesso né lavoro. Politiche sulla prostituzione, Milano 2019, pp. 70-117).

In her contribution to 27esima ora on 22nd May, Luciana Tavernini showed us the other side of the coin: “Calling prostitution work is a way to convince people that everything, even going as far as access to internal parts of the body, can and should be sold, and at best we can fight to increase the price. This is an old trick that aims to hide exploitation by disguising it as work.” And so, rather than supporting the legalisation of those who profit from the prostitution of others, we should look to the section of the Merlin Law that provides for training and work placements for women who wish to change their lives. Who wish to get out of a ‘business’ that the overwhelming majority of them have ended up in out of necessity, and in some cases even force and duress (victims of trafficking), certainly not out of choice.

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Nefarious: Merchant of Souls Documentary on Human Trafficking

This documentary is a particularly challenging watch, but it’s a necessary one. Try not to fall into the trap of dismissing the phenomenon of trafficking as something that happens ‘somewhere else’, but recognise the clear theme among all women trafficked and prostituted around the world: women and girls don’t choose prostitution. Prostitution chooses them. As Lauran Bethell puts it, “trafficking is the exploitation of vulnerability”, something which is ever-present in prostitution, whether on the streets of Bangkok, in a posh hotel room in Las Vegas, or in a brothel in Amsterdam. 

“Even the people who promote prostitution will put out helpful fact sheets on how to avoid getting killed. They don’t say it exactly that way, but they put out a fact sheet that says: 

-When you go into a hotel room when you’re servicing a john, drop something on the floor and kick it under the bed, so you can look under the bed to see if there’s a gun or handcuffs there
-Don’t wear a scarf because that can be used to strangle you
-Don’t wear super high heels to an escort out-call because you can’t run fast enough

This is information coming from people that are promoting prostitution as a good job.”

Can you think of any job or profession where these kinds of tactics are necessary to avoid physical violence and even death? 

Why does prostitution continue, even thrive, in our modern ‘enlightened’ societies where we claim to protect human rights above all else? Money. It’s as simple as that. By legalising, or even just turning a blind eye, to prostitution, we are not protecting a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. We are protecting a man’s right to buy a woman. And as long as there are men willing and able to pay money for women and girls, there will be organised crime networks trafficking and selling them.

That leads us to the solution. Block the business model. By criminalising both the pimps and the everyday buyers in prostitution, while offering support and exit services to the prostituted women, the abolitionist model essentially creates a very, very bad business environment for pimps and johns. Traffickers and pimps see Sweden, where this model is implemented, as a bad market. It also has a social implication in the way that people view and value women, creating “an atmosphere of safety, an atmosphere of dignity in the country.”

Sweden has the lowest rate of trafficking in the European Union. 

IF YOU WANT TO STOP TRAFFICKING YOU MUST STOP PROSTITUTION

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Brussels’ Call: Celebrating 5 years since the Honeyball Resolution!

Those of us who work or have worked in the third sector, among victims of violence and their oppressors, will understand the highs and lows that come with the experience. When we come into daily contact with the injustices our society continues to permit – all too often disproportionately against women – the lows are inevitable.That is why we have to embrace the highs! For our colleague, Ruby, the opportunity to attend the Brussels’ Call Conference on 16th October was one such occasion. There is something extremely moving and powerful about being in a room full of feminists and abolitionists, about being surrounded by successful, determined and compassionate women, of all ages and from all walks of life. 

The conference, part of the Brussels’ Call campaign for a Europe free from prostitution, was held at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the EP’s ‘Resolution on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality’ (also known as the Honeyball resolution), which represented a turning point in the fight against the sex industry and its inherent violence. This resolution was the recognition that prostitution is a form of violence against women and called for measures to end the demand for sexual exploitation. The conference explored the reality of prostitution across Europe and included contributions from some of those most directly affected and those still fighting for change.

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Sign the Manifesto ‘My Body, My Rights!’

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.

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Human Rights: focus on human trafficking

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.

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Convention on the sex industry and human trafficking 28th May

IROKO Association, Resistenza Femminista, Unione Donne Italiane di Napoli , Salute Donna and Differenza Donna are holding a day of talks and reflection on the sex industry and human trafficking on 28th May 2018 from 15:00 to 19:00. It will be held in the “Aldo Moro” room in the Chamber of Deputies in Rome. Taking part in these talks will be the honourable Fabiana Dadone (from the 5 Star Movement) and Senator Edoardo Patriarca (from the Democratic Party).

Julie Bindel, writer and journalist (The Guardian, New Statesman, Sunday Telegraph, Standpoint), co-founder of Justice For Women and author of the book entitled The Pimping of Prostitution – an investigation into the global sex trade, drawing on interviews with 250 women from 40 countries – will be among international speakers at the event. Alongside her; Ingeborg Kraus, a German psychologist and trauma expert, who has held conferences around the world on the failure of the German Model (legalising prostitution), and the links between trauma and prostitution; Rachel Moran, an Irish survivor of prostitution, author of the book Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution and co-founder of SPACE International, an association of women who have escaped from prostitution; Blessing Okoedion, activist, author of the book Il coraggio della libertà (The Courage of Freedom), who has lived through the experience of being trafficked to Italy; Giovani Conzo, the anti-mafia prosecutor, who has been involved in significant trials of trafficked Nigerian women in Italy.

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