Tag Archives: sex work

Please support Dutch sex workers

Sex workers in Groningen and PROUD, the Dutch union for sex workers, are concerned about the illegal registration of personal data of sex workers. This is happening through the mandatory intake and distribution of a registration card in the city of Groningen. Both the intake procedure as the registration of personal data are serious violations of human rights and a breach of privacy laws.  Please support Dutch sex workers and sign the petition.

groningenThe mandatory intake is illegal, stigmatizing and humiliating. It has serious consequences, including profiling by the police and discrimination by the authorities. In addition, the mandatory intake can also be potentially dangerous for foreign sex workers and/or sex workers that still live abroad, as sex work is not legal everywhere.

Police in the Netherlands have informed families of sex workers about their profession, they enter homes without a proper warrant, they take money from sex workers without their consent and ask prostitutes invasive and humiliating questions. Sex workers need to be protected from human rights violations and state and police violence.

Sex workers will leave Groningen, have done this already or will choose to work illegally. Illegal working sex workers have no acces to the legal system, thereby being at greater risk of experiencing violence.

The sex workers of Groningen and PROUD want the city of Groningen to reconsider its policy and stop the mandatory intake and illegal registration. Please support Dutch sex workers by signing their petition.

The Worth of Whores

Don’t measure a woman’s worth by her clothes, it says. With bad words describing the kind of judgement you might get when you wear clothes that are too revealing. Worse than “slut”, worse than “asking for it” is the word “whore” all the way on the bottom. It’s quite correct, I fear. In our minds, sluts and cockteasers are bad enough. But whores are most certainly the lowest of the low. I was watching an episode of American Horror Story the other day. One of the characters cried to her lover “I’m not a whore, I matter! I matter!”.

Dutch media usually depict sex workers as victims, innocent girls forced into a life of prostitution. Never because they thought it was their best option, but always coerced by pimps or poverty. But tv shows and movies usually seem to take it a step further. Sex workers become completely dehumanised. A dead hooker is just a thing, not really a person. Their death isn’t even worth reporting. Their murderer gets away with it, or is chased by police after he makes the mistake of killing a real woman. Suddenly, all those dead hookers become an interesting trail. This happens so often and so completely that it becomes in a sense almost invisible. Unless you are a sex worker or love a sex worker, and then it starts to hurt.

When you work in an industry as stigmatised as the sex trade, jokes which dehumanise workers and normalise violence have a considerable impact. As long as the viewing public continues to get a kick out of tropes such as “dead hookers in the boot of a car”, the violence some of us encounter at work will be seen as inevitable, and, worse still, unchangeable.

Ireland: Protect your whores from the nuns!

The Magdalene Laundries might have closed, but sex workers are not safe from Irish Sisters at all. The nuns simply regrouped, renamed themselves and are still harming prostitutes. A little background information:

FMagdalen-asylumrom 1765 all the way to 1996, ‘fallen women‘ in Ireland were taken from their homes and incarcerated in so-called ‘Magdalene Laundries‘.  A fallen woman could be an unmarried pregnant woman, a girl who was considered too promiscuous or a prostitute who needed to be ‘saved’. In these prostitute-prisons they were horribly abused and had to perform forced labour.

“the institutions had little impact on prostitution over the period”, and yet they were continuing to multiply, expand and, most importantly, profit from the free labor. Since they were not paid, Raftery asserted, “it seems clear that these girls were used as a ready source of free labour for these laundry businesses”. Wikipedia

The 1993 discovery of a mass grave in Dublin opened up the conversation about the exploitation of prostitutes and led to a government inquiry. A formal state apology was issued in 2013, and a €60 million compensation scheme was set up. The four religious institutes that ran the Irish asylums have not as yet contributed to compensate the survivors of abuse. This is despite demands from the Irish government, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee Against Torture.

You think the exposure of all their crimes would have at least stopped the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, and Sisters of Charity from abusing sex workers, right? They refuse to acknowledge what they did or compensate their victims, but maybe they would be out of the whore-hurting business, right? Surely they’re not making money, right now, doing the exact same thing, right?

Yeah, right.

The Sisters continue their abuse

ruhamaRuhama, the largest anti-sex work organisation in Ireland, was founded as a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters“both of which had a long history of involvement with marginalised women, including those involved in prostitution“. They’re even funded by the Department of Health Department of Justice. They received over 14 million between 2006 and 2011.

We know that Ruhama is led in part by Magdalene Laundry nuns” said Kate McGrew, member of the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland. Sex workers in Ireland have been fighting for human rights, labour rights and protection from (state) violence. But they have found a persistent and aggressive enemy in the Catholic sisters. Ruhama has not just been bothering prostitutes again, they also actively campaign against sex workers’ rights. They opposed Amnesty International’s proposal in favour of human rights for sex workers and are fighting against everything sex workers demand.

But still, the Irish government is allowing Ruhama , those same people who abused and exploited prostitutes, to advise them on laws that directly impact sex workers, while excluding sex workers themselves. Not only is the Irish government funding the same people that abused sex workers for all those years, they even consult them as ‘experts’ on prostitution.

How many more skeletons need to be found in closets or cesspools before the public wakes up to the evil of prohibitionism? How many more lies until the self-appointed saviors lose their credibility for good? And how many more women have to die? – Maggie McNeill

itssomethingRuhama does not offer any actual help to sex workers who need help. Rescue organisations and anti-prostitution NGO’s rarely do, they mostly make money by ‘raising awareness’, abusing prostitutes, receiving money from governments and providing ‘education’ to health professionals and policy makers. But it seems they haven’t killed any babies. yet. So, you know, that’s something…

You can read more about human rights for Irish sex workers here. You can read more about abuses in the anti-trafficking rescue industry here.

The Dutch Sex Work Downfall

Sex work in the Netherlands is heavily regulated. Although sex workers themselves want full decriminalisation, just like all other sex workers all over the world, the reality is that prostitution here is legalised. It’s subject to many prostitution-specific laws, restricted by all sorts of regulations and anything but fully decriminalised. The leader of our Christian Party is now pushing new laws that would further criminalise sex work: he wants to make it illegal to pay for the services of a sex worker when you should have been able to know she’s a victim of exploitation. “For example, when she’s working from a cellar somewhere, bruised, with two big Bulgarian guys at the door” says a member of the ‘Green Left’ party.

At first glance, this would make sense. Politicians often paint this picture of the perfect victim: from an Eastern European country, very young, doesn’t speak much Dutch or English, thought she was going to the Netherlands to work as a model or waitress, only to find herself in some dark and dirty little room, raped by up to 40 men a day. Some politicians keep it somewhat civil, but many fall into a semi-pornographic style when describing their fantasies.

corinneBut the National Reporter on Human Trafficking, Corinne Dettmeijer, who is in favour of this new law, actually gave the perfect argument against it: she’s hoping clients will go to legally working prostitutes instead of women who work from basements.

In the last couple of years, over half of legal working places for prostitutes have been closed. Brothels are shut down, windows are closed, and no new licences to work are given to anyone, certainly not to sex workers themselves. Those who still work from a licenced location are harassed by police, their workplaces broken into, their homes smashed up and their belongings taken. They are subject to random semi-arrests, where they’re put into police vans and taken to the station for questioning because they’re suspected of being a victim. Eventually police will find something, maybe drugs in someone’s locker of a bruise that can’t be explained and the licence is revoked and another work place shuts down.

Hotels are pressured into reporting any ‘suspicious’ activity, and although escort is not illegal, police do stalk and harass escorting sex workers. Many hotels no longer accept escorts or try to keep them out. Renting an appartement to work from is all but impossible, and working from home means your landlord can kick you out.

So voluntary workers are pushed into basements and sheds and caravans.

Regular security companies will not work with prostitutes. Just like banks and other organisations they stay far away from sex work. So if you’re working from a shed somewhere and you want some big guys to keep you safe, you’re forced to work with people who will do it. you know, off the record. Two big Bulgarian guys, perhaps.

And there you have it: the girl working from a shed with two big guys at the door.

As Corinne Dettmeijer says: clients need to be able to go to legally working prostitutes. The only people who benefit from this increasing criminalisation are traffickers, just look at all the work this brings them, security gigs, finding hidden workplaces, and oh the vulnerable position the government has placed these prostitutes in, I’m sure traffickers are deeply grateful.

I propose a radical new approach.

  • Make it illegal for cities to not provide plenty of legal workplaces for prostitutes. If there is just one sex worker that wishes to work but can’t find a legal place, the city needs to pay a huge fine to the sex worker. Zero tolerance for any city that requires their prostitutes to work in the shadows. Zero.
  • Reward organisations that will work with sex workers. Whether it’s a bank or a security company, we need to do the exact opposite of what we’re doing now. Instead of being suspicious, and discouraging companies from working with prostitutes, we need to reward it. Not sure how yet. Maybe give prostitution-friendly companies an advantage when giving out government-related jobs?
  • Remove all laws that are specifically about prostitution. It shouldn’t matter if you paid her, if you’re having sex with someone and you really know she doesn’t want it, that’s rape. It already is by the way, it’s not like the law says “rape is bad unless it’s a whore then you’re fine”. Exploitation is always bad, rape is always bad, trafficking is always bad, regardless of her profession.

When all these things are done and sex workers are working happily and without stigma or discrimination, and traffickers are pretty much out of a job because the market is already full of voluntary workers and they don’t need traffickers for security or housing or anything else anymore, and you still have this fantasy of women who are raped in basements with two Bulgarian guys at the door, perhaps come to me so we can work on you accepting your kink and not forcing it on other people, ok? There’s consensual ways you can explore this stuff without involving unwilling prostitutes who are only harmed by your hero-fetish.

Also, check out the new president of Proud, Yvette Luhrs, in the video! She’s amazing!yvette

End Demand for Traffickers: Decriminalise Prostitution

There’s only one group of people that would be harmed by full decriminalisation of sex work: human traffickers. Traffickers benefit from (partial) criminalisation because it creates opportunities for work for them. Take the Netherlands, for example. Helping people from outside the country find work in the Dutch sex industry is illegal, it’s in the law that you cannot do that. Women (and men) wishing to work here are allowed to do so, but anyone helping them in any way is breaking the law so no regular companies provide that service. This is amazing for traffickers and criminal organisations, who are making a lot of money assisting sex workers who need help getting started in the Netherlands. Because prostitutes are so dependent on these criminals this often leads to situations of exploitation.julie

It’s actually the biggest cause of trafficking in this country..

Imagine we decriminalise helping people from abroad work in the Dutch sex industry. Human traffickers would hate that, because it would open up the market place for good and reliable organisations to provide that service, it would decriminalise sex workers who help each other out, it would make it easier to sort things out yourself because it would no longer be illegal for friends or future employees to help find housing, get a ticket, get information. The opportunities for traffickers would decrease dramatically, and they’d hate it.

The tweet above is by a Dutch anti-prostitution activist and says “prostitution and human trafficking are not the same, but there are so many whorewalkers that there are not enough ‘free’ prostitutes for them”. Whorewalker is a derogatory term used by anti’s for clients of sex workers. But she’s right: the absolute best thing for human traffickers is if the market is cleared of voluntary prostitutes. The fewer independent workers, the more room for women in compromised situations that they can exploit!

Seriously though, complete decriminalisation and de-stigmatisation would be any trafficker’s nightmare. Clients of sex workers strongly prefer happy workers, the demand for bruised crying malnourished women is super-duper small, an increase of voluntary sex workers would pretty much wipe away their business. And if those sex workers would be able to pay for the services of regular accountants, regular workplaces, regular housing, regular security, well… traffickers don’t even want to think about that scenario.

Sometimes I wonder if the Dutch government is infiltrated by traffickers, they’re working so hard to maximise traffickers’ profits. They’re closing legal work places, decreasing licenced locations, increasing police brutality, disprespecting sex workers’ human rights, they’re doing everything to discourage women who have other choices and clearing the sector of ‘free’ prostitutes.  It’s any trafficker’s dream.

But it’s probably not an infiltration of traffickers though. We already know from research that (partial) criminalisation is bad for prostitutes and increases exploitation. We already know criminalising clients makes life more dangerous for sex workers. We already know that trafficking thrives when prostitution is criminalised. I honestly believe that people who are criminalising sex work already know this: they support it because they think prostitutes should be punished and women should be stopped from having sex for money.

safeSo please, if you think criminalising sex work would be a good idea, think hard who it would be helping. Would women with limited choices really be better off if another choice was taken away from them, or their safety compromised for other people’s moral battle? Would women who are being exploited truly benefit if the criminals exploiting them would be given the whole sex industry on a silver platter? Would clients who wish to pay for the services of a woman selling sex be better off if those women would be forced to leave the industry and hand it all over to traffickers? And who would be harmed if women who wish to sell sex would be free to do so without fear of police violence or discrimination by the state?

Let’s end demand for trafficking and fuck those criminals over big time: let’s fully decriminalise sex work!

(thanks to Raven_AB for helping me find the video)

Male-Dominated Culture or Oppression?

Headscarfs still cause a lot of debate in the Netherlands, some feel it’s a form of oppression and we shouldn’t allow it. I’ve always felt forcing women to undress themselves when they don’t want to would be far worse. Covering female breasts is a sexist cultural norm as well, but we don’t change that by stripping women naked against their consent. It is my body, and i have the right to show or cover it as I wish. And honestly, the tone of the debate makes me so angry sometimes I just want to cover my hair to make a point – I am not an object, I am not an idea or ideology, my body as a woman is not a political battle ground. This is my head, my hair, my breasts, and if I don’t want to show them to you, you have no right to see them.

I really can’t see this issue separate from sex workers’ rights and reproductive rights and women’s rights in general. The idea that as women we decide what we want to do with our own bodies seems so radical sometimes. Instead of allowing others to decide for us, as if we are children, we get to use our bodies as we please. Whether I want to cover my body, have sex for my own reasons including money, show my breasts in public or stay a virgin is my business and mine alone.

(Cartoon by Malcolm Evans)oppression

Damaged Goods

andreadworkinProstitution in and of itself is an abuse of a woman’s body. Those of us who say this are accused of being simple-minded. But prostitution is very simple. (…) In prostitution, no woman stays whole. It is impossible to use a human body in the way women’s bodies are used in prostitution and to have a whole human being at the end of it, or in the middle of it, or close to the beginning of it. It’s impossible. And no woman gets whole again later, after.”  — Andrea Dworkin

Butts, butts, butts

I’m not a fan of Anita Sarkeesian. I mean, obviously I was on her side when her discussion of sexist stereotypes in computer games resulted in people sending her rape threats. It’s crazy that even talking about feminist issues can still be so dangerous, and in the grand scheme of things I’m on her team. But she calls sex workers ‘prostituted women’, a degrading term used by radical feminists to deny their agency. And as far as I know she has not yet responded to the many sex workers who have let her know that term is offensive and hurtful, which is such a crappy but typical thing to do for radfems.. Talk about sex workers, claim you want to help them, but do everything you can to ignore them and not give a damn about their wishes. Meh.

Anyway, her latest video is about butts. I thought it was good.

It’s ‘SEX WORKER’, Anita! Get with the program so I can be your fangirl!

Revolting Rescue Industry: StopLoverboysNu

It’s no news that people who say they want to help victims of forced prostitution often treat those they claim to help horribly, and actually often exploit victims for their own financial gain. The situation is most serious in countries where sex work is criminalised. In Cambodia sex workers are beaten to death after being abducted from brothels. In the United States prostitutes are manipulated into religious brainwashing camps and are threatened with incarceration. In Thailand the rescue industry poses a greater threat to the safety of sex workers than traffickers do.

AnitaLoverboys470_910505qThe Netherlands provides some protection from the rescue industry, but one of the more well-known anti-trafficking ‘rescue’ organisations StopLoverboysNu (‘stop loverboys now’) has been active for years despite clear signs of trouble. Loverboy is a racist Dutch term for a black boy who pretends to love a white girl and then lures her into the dark world of prostitution. StopLoverboysNu, like Somaly Mam, loves to parade those victims around and show them off in the media. It’s lucrative, there’s a book and donations and Anita de Wit loves her role as celebrity.

Like most rescue organisations it’s quite unclear where the money goes, and because they’re not an actual health care organisation they’re not under supervision to see if their care is any good. So as long as they’re not committing literal crimes, they can go on exploiting women for profit.