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
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