Re: Prostitution as Sex Work

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Gbdiaspora (
Thu, 14 May 1998 20:10:06 EDT

While I would not presume to speak for any of the organizations to which I
belong or their other leaders and members, it is my personal opinion that a
woman owns her own body and can choose to do with it whatever her conscience
allows and her own health concerns permit. I believe prostitution, like
smoking marijuana, should be decriminalized, but that any form of forced
sexual practice is a heinous crime. I hope you receive many similar
viewpoints in your email research. GBDiaspora.
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Subject: RE: News articles : Cosmopolitian and Marie Clare
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From: (Heidi Doezema)

Hello all,

 Since I wrote my comments on the above message, an article on
'trafficking' appeared in Fridays "Guardian", a moderatly left-wing
'quality' UK newspaper. It highlighted again many of the issues referred to
in John's letter. The piece was prompted by La Strada's (the Polish
anti-trafficking organisation) new video about the dangers of
'trafficking'. According to the piece, the video shows the plight of a
young Polish woman who answers an advertisement for waitressing, then
encounters the now-familiar round of rape, abuse, and forced prostitution.
The video is a composite based on true stories and is designed to inform
and protect young women. It has recieved wide media coverage in Poland, and
has been shown on national television.

The Guardian report was not especially salacious. Nonetheless, reading it,
one got the impression, once again, that trafficking was largely a matter
of innocent women being coerced. The article gave three major means of
trafficking-women being lured by false promises of jobs, being kidnapped,
or being deluded about the glamour and money of the sex industry. Even in
this last intance, the women are portrayed as unkowing, innocent, and
stupid-victims, in short, not women actively determining their future. The
article even stated that sometimes the women are asked to pay a fee to make
it seem more legitimate! This seems to me an attempt to fit the facts into
an already decided on template-no matter what the distortion of reality
involved. Sure, often sex workers have to pay middlemen to cross borders-
this is one of the biggest areas of exploitation! In this article it is
mentioned only as another way to trick hapless women.

I know that La strada recognises the right to work in the sex industry, and
supports decriminalisation and sex worker's rights. Yet there is not a word
of this in the article, nor does it seem to be in the video. As it will
not, of course, feature in any government statements or policies in the
wake of this latest anti-trafficking frenzy whipped up by La Strada. The
inevitable result of this type of 'victimizition' of 'trafficking victims'
is legislation that aims to 'get tough' with traffickers by imposing higher
sentences, restriction of immigration for women from either so called
'sending' or 'recieving' countries, yet more definitions of illegal third
party activities around prostitution that will be used against sex workers,
and maybe, if they are lucky, a tiny provision allowing the victim to stay
in the country long enough to testify. Of course, this will only extend to
those 'trafficking victims' who correspond to the very limited picture of a
'victim' painted by La Strada in their video! 'Victims' lose all
credibility if they were not 'lured' tricked' or 'forced' into sex work- a
woman with convictions for prostitution in her home country stands little
chance of being treated as a 'victim', even if she were caught in an
exploitative debt- bondage situation. Once again, La Strada has simply
confirmed the image of the 'good' or 'innocent' trafficking victim -one the
whole country can identify with- not only at the expence of reality, but at
the expense of all those 'bad' women who in the eyes of the public, deserve
whatever treatment they get for whoring in the first place!

Not only will the video and campaign further entrench ideas about 'forced
prostitutes' as hapless victims and 'voluntary prostitutes' as dirty sluts
who deserve what they get, I doubt it will do any good at all in stopping
women from deciding to migrate. An anecdote- the Netherlands made a
similiar video for women from the Dominican Republic. I talked to a sex
worker project worker about prostitutes' reaction to the film. He told me
that they determined that if things were that bad, they better be
prepared-make sure they had knives at the ready. It didn't change their
determination to migrate one bit.

In short, this video could have been made by any anti-prostitution
organisation. If groups like La Strada want to distinguish themselves from
abolitionist orgainisations, they must stop this victimizing. Is it any
wonder that sex workers are suspiciuos of anti-trafficking organisations
that claim to support their goals?

Jo Doezema

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