Carregando ...
Desculpe, ocorreu um erro ao carregar o conteúdo.

Prostitution : Rights of Women or right to women ?

Expandir mensagens
  • jan_grrrl
    octobre 2003 par Elaine Audet Stella, a Montreal group created in 1995 that advocates for the rights of prostitutes, has demanded that prostitution be
    Mensagem 1 de 1 , 30 de jan de 2007
      octobre 2003
      par Elaine Audet

      Stella, a Montreal group created in 1995 that advocates for the
      rights of prostitutes, has demanded that prostitution be completely
      decriminalised and that there be recognition of " sex workers. " This
      position is not accepted unanimously. In fact, for most feminists,
      prostitution is seen as a consequence of the sexual exploitation of
      women and constitutes a violation of human rights. From this
      perspective, it is necessary to abolish prostitution and criminalise
      customers (johns) and pimps.

      In this necessarily short article, I will focus on prostitution by
      adult women, touching only incidentally men's and children's
      prostitution and transnational traffic in women.

      Since the seventies, there has been a trend towards recognition of
      the concept of " sex workers " in Quebec, Europe and the United
      States. Viewing prostitutes as "sex workers" suggests that they are
      merely labourers providing a "social" service and should be given,
      therefore, the same rights as other exploited workers who are crushed
      by the forces of globalisation, and turned into marketable objects.

      In Quebec, members of Stella have spoken the loudest in favour of the
      liberalisation of prostitution. They reject the idea that prostitutes
      should be treated as victims and say that most prostitutes have
      freely chosen this role, finding in their work a source of
      empowerment. No doubt, prostitutes have great courage. Testimonies
      from these women, such as that in Jeanne Cordelier's memoirs of
      prostitution, highlight this : " When the door of the room bangs,
      there's no escape... Dead end, no emergency exit (1). " But despite
      this courage, and the claims of Stella, there is room for scepticism,
      especially when data from an international study show that 92% of the
      prostitutes would leave prostitution if they could (2).

      A gradual slide toward dehumanisation

      In debates about prostitution, all words are loaded, in particular
      the concepts of rights, free choice, sexual workers. Concerning the
      latter, for example, the French ex-prostitute, Agnès Laury, believes
      that seeing these women as " merchandise sold by men to men " (3)
      would be closer to their reality.

      We live in a consumerist/consuming society where priority goes to
      individualism and to the unrestrained consumption of people and
      things, the ne plus ultra becoming for us to consume one another. In
      such a context, viewing prostitutes as sex workers erases feminist
      opposition to the marketing of women on a global scale. It allows the
      johns to assert that women do this by "choice," even by "taste,"
      thereby hiding what all studies demonstrate : that women prostitute
      themselves out of necessity.

      Patriarchal culture rests on the principle that the unique duty, and
      source of power, of women is to satisfy men sexually in marriage or
      by prostitution. The existence of prostitution, and viewing it
      as "sex work," hides the extent of this sexual slavery and reinforces
      the notion that women are simply interchangeable objects that must be
      accessible and ready for all men at all time and everywhere.

      The interests at stake

      When we consider who would profit from the liberalisation of
      prostitution, it becomes clear that it would NOT be prostitutes or
      women in general. Rather, the beneficiaries will be pimps, dealers,
      organised crime, customers, and all those who view sexuality as but a
      mechanical act, deprived of reciprocity and of any responsibility.
      Liberalisation will only benefit those, whatever their social status,
      who want to be able to purchase power over a woman.

      Of course, it is impossible to speak about prostitutes as a whole ;
      their situations will differ considerably according to whether they
      are call girls, escorts, or nude dancers ; whether they work on the
      streets or in massage salons ; whether they are autonomous, or must
      give most of the money they earn to a pimp.

      Girls are often recruited for prostitution at about age thirteen when
      many of them have been made vulnerable by violence, poverty,
      unemployment, and drugs in the environments where they live. The
      majority have experienced forced dressage by pimps or members of
      street gangs who seek to depersonalise a woman until she loses the
      ability to act on her own initiative or even to think for herself.
      Many girls have spent time in shelters, reform houses or prisons ;
      more than half are drug addicts. Living in and experiencing such
      circumstances, how can one talk about a girl's/woman's free choice to
      prostitute ?

      On an international scale, revenues from prostitution are about $72
      billion a year, now more lucrative than the traffic in weapons and
      drugs. This translates into millions of dollars in Canada, where a
      pimp collects on average $144,000 a year from each of his prostitutes
      (4). Although, 5,000 to 10,000 persons in Montreal make their living
      in the prostitution business, many others have some interest in the
      expansion of such a profitable market. And given their connections,
      these potential prostitution-profiteers have the financial and media
      resources to deflect legitimate critique of prostitution and to
      exaggerate the importance of division within the feminist movement by
      adopting the position of a "free choice" minority who pretends to
      speak for all prostitutes. In so doing, they mostly only support
      liberalisation to retain their own control.

      The merchandised body

      The present movement for the liberalisation of prostitution is rooted
      in the general movement to liberalise trade, and serves this neo-
      liberal approach by framing prostitution as "good" for the economy.
      Thus, in the media and at the UN, there is an increasing tendency to
      present the sex industry as a solution to economic problems or, even
      more, as a road toward development.

      In this regard, it is of interest that the UN-based International
      Labor Organization (ILO) promoted a 1998 report that supported the
      legalisation of prostitution because : " the possibility of an
      official recognition would be extremely useful for extending the
      taxation net to cover many of the lucrative activities connected with
      it (5). " This position is clearly an admission that sex is an
      industry and that it can contribute directly and indirectly, and in
      extensive ways, to employment, national income, and economic growth.

      Prostitution constitutes one of the most violent forms of collective
      oppression of women and, with but a few exceptions, it is always
      under the coercive control of pimps (6). Therefore, how can we invoke
      the free use of one's own body as a human right when the conditions
      in which prostitution is practised are such as to violate explicitly
      the respect and dignity of the person recognised by the Convention
      for the "Repression of traffic in human beings and the exploitation
      of someone else's prostitution," adopted December 2nd 1949 by the
      United Nations ?

      Many prostitutes, breaking the general "law of silence" enveloping
      them, have spoken out about their constant exposure to all kinds of
      humiliations, physical and sexual aggression, and theft, as well as
      to the "Russian roulette" of forced sexual relations without condoms
      or other protections. And even if not all men are violent, those
      seeking sex with a prostitute necessarily buy the power to be violent
      with impunity. " I was afraid, conscious that the situation could
      become uncontrollable at any moment ", says a prostitute from Quebec
      (7). Moreover, " The beaten girls who do not lodge a complaint have
      integrated the message society is sending back to them that
      prostitution is a package deal...that one must accept even the
      unacceptable (8). " For how long will the right of men continue to be
      systematically confused with the Human Rights ?

      Many arguing for the total liberalisation of prostitution try to
      discredit feminists who are opposed to this position by saying the
      latter are moralising, their discourses, thereby, victimising and
      stigmatising prostitutes. Nevertheless, the neo-abolitionists are not
      responsible for prostitutes' working conditions or for the hostility
      of those who see their neighbourhood transformed in an open market
      for women and drugs. Because we have not been able to extirpate a
      problem's causes, must we legitimate its consequences ?

      Trails for action

      No individual can remain indifferent to a problem which, in the end,
      concerns and touches us all. It is clear that whatever else it does,
      the liberalisation of prostitution (and of pimps and customers) as
      demanded by Stella, will not provide a real alternative to the
      growing misery of prostitutes and might, instead, only make things

      Similarly, with the Bloc Quebecois's proposition for a return to
      brothels. This "solution" would have the state become the principle
      pimp, a parallel to how the state has replaced the Mafia in
      provincial casinos. The example of the Netherlands shows that
      legalisation institutionalises and legitimates the sex " industry ",
      lets pimps masquerade as "foremen" and legal "entrepreneurs," and
      rationalises the marketing of prostitutes locally or transnationally.

      The only hope for improving the lot of prostitutes and ending the
      marketing of women resides in the example provided by Sweden which,
      in 1999, passed legislation that criminalised pimps and customers,
      but not the prostitutes. This policy led to a reduction by half in
      the number of prostitutes, even if it did not succeed in completely
      eradicating underground prostitution. However, the Swedish government
      continues to pursue its efforts by constantly injecting new funds for
      detoxification programs, for the reinsertion of prostitutes, and for
      educating customers. Of interest, and encouraging, is that the
      European Lobby of Women, comprising around 3500 groups, has urged the
      adoption by other governments of a position similar to that of Sweden

      In Quebec, there is a consensus that governments at all levels should
      cease acting toward prostitutes as if they were criminals and,
      instead, give them access to the health, social, legal, and police
      services they are requesting. Debates arise between groups on the
      subject of criminalising the customers, the pimps being already
      subject to Canadian laws, even if these have so far been applied only
      in very limited ways.

      In establishing policy here, Quebec can find inspiration in the
      Swedish experience and in the approaches of cities such as Toronto
      and Vancouver where there are efforts to give prostitutes the help
      and protection they need, to put in place means of resistance to
      pimps and dealers (often the same), and to dissuade and sensitise
      customers. The abolition of prostitution can only be a long term
      objective, but we need now to question all social, economic, and
      sexual relations of domination, and take immediate steps to fight
      poverty and violence against women.

      " To come out of it," says ex-prostitute Agnes Laury, "one needs an
      unshakeable will not to go back on the sidewalk, to be helped and
      mostly to be totally cut off from the milieu " (10). In short,
      to "come out of it" is to pass from the status of victim to that of "
      survivor ", of a woman who fights. It is time for us all to break the
      silence about the buying of sexual services and to ask if it is not
      really the discretionary power of men to sexual violence that
      underlies prostitution, not women's choice. Analysing prostitution
      this way is not a matter of puritanism, but of asking fundamental
      ethical questions about the marketing of humans. Instead of invoking
      a "free choice" to sell one's body to justify prostitution, couldn't
      we call for the humanity principle, to a freely accepted limit on
      using humans as merchandise, such as was done in the face of slavery,
      to abolish the marketing of both sexuality and reproduction ?


      1 Françoise Guénette, entrevue avec Gunilla Ekberg, « Le modèle
      suédois », Gazette des femmes, mars-avril 2002, Vol. 23, no 6.
      2 Jeanne Cordelier, La dérobade, Paris, Hachette, 1976.
      3 Agnès Laury, Le cri du corps, Paris, Pauvert, 1981.
      4 Conseil du statut de la femme, La prostitution : profession ou
      exploitation ? Une réflexion à poursuivre, juin 2002. Gazette des
      femmes . Ce document est disponible en version intégrale (pdf) ou en
      version synthèse (pdf).
      5 Lin Lean Lim, The Sex Sector : The Economic and Social Bases of
      Prostitution in Southeast Asia, Genève, Organisation internationale
      du travail (OIT), 1998.
      Janice Raymond, Legitimating prostitution as sex work : UN Labor
      Organization (ILO) calls for recognition of the sex industry, 1998
      6 Delphine Saubaber, « Paroles d'anciennes », L'Express, 22.08.02.
      7 La parole aux prostituées
      8 Ibid.
      9 Françoise Guénette, entrevue avec Gunilla Ekberg, « Le modèle
      suédois », Gazette des femmes, mars-avril 2002, Vol. 23, no 6.
      10 Les survivantes
    Sua mensagem foi enviada com êxito e será entregue aos destinatários em breve.