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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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‘Rosso Indelebile’: art to combat gender-based violence

“Art is a way to look at the world”. This is the motto that drove the organisers of the event entitled Rosso Indelebile’ (indelible red), a mobile artistic line-up in Turin from 23rd November to 7th December 2019, from local organisations Artemixia and Eikòn. It celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is on 25th November every year. Rosso Indelebile, brainchild of the artist and curator Rosalba Castelli, is an art project made up of educational conferences, a collection of contemporary art, meetings in schools, sessions on the prevention of gender-based violence and live performances of music, dance, theatre, reading, photography and video making. Its aim was to expose gender-based violence, tell stories of the damage it causes, give voice to those who have experienced and witnessed such violence, from children to women to trans persons, encouraging victims to speak out and believe in their power to overcome the perceived shame and indignity of what they have suffered. Multiple forms of violence exist and nobody is truly exempt from it during the course of their lifetime and nobody, therefore, should feel alone in their search for a way out. 

Iroko was invited to take part in the opening night of this two-week-long event, on 23rd November, an evening entitled #25novembresceglitu (which translates as ‘on 25th November you choose’), organised in collaboration with M.A.I.S.

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Women seeking refuge: a crisis within a crisis

The media often speak about the refugees and asylum seekers crisis. But they rarely deal with what the female refugees endure during their journey towards the “promised land: Fortress Europe”. They are simply invisible. 

Janice G. Raymond, professor emerita of women’s studies and medical ethics, feminist, activist and former CATW Co-Director, was part of the last refugee mission in Catania with ABL, AML and Iroko to investigate the situation of women in the migration process.
The Mineo Centre – a camp for refugees, which is located outside of the town, bearing the same name – accomodates more people than its usual capacity and succeeding in providing needed assistance to the migrants and refugees, is an uphill task for the Italian Government. Many of those accomodated at the centre are female and most, if not all, are victims of violence, which they suffered during their journey towards Europe. They all live together with the other refugees and migrants waiting for their papers. Europe, however, continues to invest money on the border security, and does not give much attention to these women and their experiences.
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