QotD: “Once upon a time there was the naive belief that legalized prostitution would improve life for prostitutes, eliminate prostitution in areas where it remained illegal and remove organized crime from the business”
“Once upon a time,” wrote Carolyn Maloney (2007:xiii) founder and Co-Chair of the U.S. Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus, “there was the naive belief that legalized prostitution would improve life for prostitutes, eliminate prostitution in areas where it remained illegal and remove organized crime from the business. … Like all fairy tales, this turns out to be sheer fantasy.”
There is now a large body of evidence regarding the effects of legal and decriminalized prostitution. Some of that has been described in the foregoing paragraphs. Nonetheless several of the authors of these four articles quote inaccurate theories about legal prostitution’s relation to trafficking. Segrave for example, expresses the belief that legalization of prostitution will “combat trafficking” (p 5⁎) and Limoncelli (p 3⁎) suggests that the linkage between legal prostitution and trafficking might not in actuality exist.
Evidence supports the theory that legal prostitution is associated with increased trafficking. Traffickers and pimps can easily operate with impunity when prostitution is legal. A Nevada legal pimp told me in 2005 that a Russian trafficker offered to purchase his brothel. Wherever prostitution is legalized, trafficking to sex industry marketplaces in that region increases (for example to strip clubs, massage brothels, escort agencies, pornography stores, and bars). After prostitution was legalized in Germany and the Netherlands, the numbers of trafficked women increased dramatically. Today, 80% of all women in German and Dutch prostitution are trafficked.
Segrave cites Australia as a trafficking destination country. This is probably a consequence of the country’s legal prostitution which in effect functions as a legal welcome to pimps and traffickers (Sullivan, 2007). Supporting evidence also comes from Sweden. When men who buy sex are criminalized (this might be the opposite of legalization) then trafficking significantly decreases (Ekberg, 2004:1199).
Limoncelli suggests that forming prostitute collectives would make it possible to oversee conditions in sex industries and help to identify trafficked women. While this theory sounds reasonable, that is not the way prostitutes’ unions operate in the real world. Many such unions function as advertising agencies for sex industry pimps rather than as watchdogs.
Even though they represent only a tiny minority of all women in prostitution, the unions strongly influence public opinion, projecting what men who buy sex want to hear. When journalists, feminist theorists, or politicians want to learn about prostitution, women in prostitutes’ unions are approached because they are easier to locate than women who have exited prostitution. Yet there is extremely low membership in prostitutes’ unions in the Netherlands, Germany, and in New Zealand. Most women in prostitution avoid prostitutes’ unions because the social stigma of prostitution remains the same regardless of legal status. Furthermore, the unions don’t offer what most women want: alternatives to prostitution.
COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) in USA, the DMSC (Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee) in India and the NZPC (New Zealand Prostitutes Collective) provide examples of the damaging effects of prostitutes’ unions. All three of these unions have promoted prostitution as work, disappearing the harmful consequences of prostitution and failing to hold men who buy sex accountable for the damages they cause.
Task Force on Prostitution included pro-decriminalization advocates and members of COYOTE. Written with the purpose of decriminalizing prostitution, the Task Force’s Report (1996) flatly denied the overwhelming violence in prostitution, refusing to include the testimony of those who had escaped prostitution because of its harms. In 1994, Norma Hotaling attempted to provide testimony to the San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution, reporting brutal violence that she experienced while in prostitution. She was removed from the Task Force and went on to found SAGE, an organization run by survivors of prostitution. Six other San Francisco organizations who were Task Force members later resigned in protest against the findings of the Report. In response to the Task Force’s denial of violence, the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women authored a 1998 report,“Violence against Women in Prostitution in San Francisco.” (San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women, 1998).
The DMSC in Kolkata, a prostitutes’ and pimps’ union that controls tens of thousands of women and children in prostitution, is similar in purpose to the San Francisco prostitutes’ union. Former DMSC Director Dr. Samarjit Jana stated that since sex workers fulfill men’s needs, prostitution must be seen as a profession (Dhar, 1999). Behind the prostituting women of Kolkata’s brothel zone and out of public view are organized criminals who traffic women in prostitution, dominate the DMSC and control the money. Despite its description as a cooperative, the DMSC’s women pimps and their male handlers extort 50% of the earnings of the women and children who are trafficked for prostitution in Sonagachi (Farley, 2006). At the time of this writing, the DMSC is lobbying in favor of laws in India that recognize prostitution as work.
Like the San Francisco and Kolkata unions, the influence of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) came about as a result of public health concerns about HIV in the 1980s when researchers learned about the devastatingly high rates of HIV among prostituted women. Seizing the opportunity to promote a political agenda whilethey also did HIV prevention, the NZPC and other prostitutes’ unions have used public health monies (that became available because of the HIV epidemic) to fund the promotion of decriminalized prostitution.
One of the most persuasive myths about prostitution is that it is “the oldest profession”. Feminist abolitionists, who wish to see an end to the sex trade, call it “the oldest oppression” and resist the notion that prostitution is merely “a job like any other”.
Now it would appear that the New Zealand immigration service has added “sex work” (as prostitution is increasingly described) to the list of “employment skills” for those wishing to migrate. According to information on Immigration NZ’s (INZ) website, prostitution appears on the “skilled employment” list, but not the “skill shortage” list. My research on the sex trade has taken me to a number of countries around the world, including New Zealand. Its sex trade was decriminalised in 2003, and has since been hailed by pro-prostitution campaigners as the gold standard model in regulating prostitution.
The promises from the government – that decriminalisation would result in less violence, regular inspections of brothels and no increase of the sex trade – have not materialised. The opposite has happened. Trafficking of women into New Zealand into legal and illegal brothels is a serious problem, and for every licensed brothel there are, on average, four times the number that operate illegally. Violent attacks on women in the brothels are as common as ever. “The men feel even more entitled when the law tells them it is OK to buy us,” says Sabrinna Valisce, who was prostituted in New Zealand brothels both before and after decriminalisation. Under legalisation, women are still murdered by pimps and punters.
When prostituted women become “employees”, and part of the “labour market”, pimps become “managers” and “business entrepreneurs”, and the punters are merely clients. Services helping people to exit are irrelevant because who needs support to get out of a regular job? Effectively, governments wash their hands of women under legalisation because, according to the mantra, “It is better than working at McDonald’s.” As one sex-trade survivor told me, “At least when you work at McDonald’s you’re not the meat.”
The decision to include prostitution as an “employment skill” is a green light for pimps to populate brothels to meet the increased male demand for the prostitution of the most vulnerable women.
The practice of using human bodies as a marketplace has been normalised under the neoliberal economic system. Supporting the notion that prostitution is “labour” is not a progressive or female-friendly point of view. I have investigated the breast milk trade in Cambodia, where wealthy American businessmen recruit pregnant women and pay them a pittance for their milk. I have seen desperately hungry men outside hospital blood banks in India, offering to sell their blood in exchange for food. Girls in the Ukraine sell “virgin” blonde hair for use as extensions in western salons. It is increasingly common to “rent a womb” from women in the global south to carry a baby on behalf of privileged westerners.
In the Netherlands, which legalised its sex trade in 2000, it is perfectly legal for driving instructors to offer lessons in return for sex, as long as the learner drivers are over the age of 18.
Under legalisation in Germany, one government-funded NGO, described on its website as a “counselling centre for sex workers”, offers training for women to become “sexual assistant surrogate partnerships” when they decide to leave prostitution. The training focuses on how “sex workers” can help disabled people to explore their sexuality. Providing prostitution services, which is what it is, to men who are ill or disabled is a bit like the “meals on wheels” service, and clearly considered to be a public service. In other legalised regimes, such as Denmark and Australia, prostitution is available for men on the public health system. Perhaps an inevitable conclusion is that carers working with physically disabled couples, where there is a medium to severe level of mobility impairment, are asked to facilitate sex between them – for example, the carer may be expected to insert the penis of one into an orifice of the other.
Any government that allows the decriminalisation of pimping and sex-buying sends a message to its citizens that women are vessels for male sexual consumption. If prostitution is “work”, will states create training programmes for girls to perform the “best oral sex” for sex buyers? Instead of including prostitution as a so-called option in its immigration policies, New Zealand should investigate the harms, including sexual violence, that women in prostitution endure.
If prostitution is “sex work”, then by its own logic, rape is merely theft. The inside of a woman’s body should never be viewed as a workplace.
QotD: “What once looked like a revolutionary approach to prostitution is now clearly seen as a disaster, by all except those who seek to make a profit from prostitution”
De Wallen, the infamous red light district in Amsterdam, Holland, is under threat. Many of its window brothels, in which women are displayed like carcasses for the entertainment of sex tourists, are closing down. Most legal street prostitution zones across the country have closed, and soon they will all cease operation. A number of politicians and law enforcers are now accepting that legalised prostitution has been an unmitigated disaster. There is currently a proposed law being considered by the Dutch Senate which, if passed, would result in punters being criminalised if they pay for sex with a trafficked, pimped or otherwise coerced woman.
These changes are the result of a vibrant sex trade abolitionist movement emerging in Holland.
The Dutch legalised their brothel industry in the year 2000. The government promised that this would result in safety for the women, and an end to trafficking. It claimed that everything would be above board, safe and clean. The opposite happened. Sex tourism is now a major industry, with British men being one group of Europeans visiting the city to pay for sex. A number of punters I have interviewed told me that they wouldn’t have dreamt of using prostituted women back home, but that being in Holland gave them permission to do it.
The illegal and unlicensed sex trade has boomed under legalisation, trafficking of women has risen dramatically, demand is on the rise and the women are certainly no safer than they were when pimping was illegal.
I have been visiting Holland over the course of 15 years, researching the consequences of legalisation. I have interviewed sex buyers (including one who told me he first paid for sex when he was 12 years old), women in brothels, pimps and pro-legalisation lobbyists that make a profit off the backs of prostituted women.
Xaviera Hollander is a big part of the propaganda machine that promotes the notion that prostituted women under legalisation are having a great time. Hollander is known for her memoir, The Happy Hooker: My Own Story, which sold by the millions. I visited her at her home in Amsterdam, to ask if she thinks the women are happy under legalisation. She admits to me that trafficking is on the rise, and that legalisation is far from effective in removing criminality from the sex trade. Coming from a former pimp, this is quite something.
There are large numbers of tour guides offering tours around Amsterdam’s red light areas. I took one of these tours last year, and was told that legalisation is a perfect model, that the women are safe and happy and the public accept the window brothels as part of the architecture. I asked the guide where he got his information from, and he told me that the Prostitution Information Centre (PIC) provide, for a fee, information for all of the tour companies. The PIC is run as a business by women who claim to be “sex workers”. In fact they appear to be nothing of the kind, being a company charging for this advice and therefore profiting from prostitution.
What once looked like a revolutionary approach to prostitution is now clearly seen as a disaster, by all except those who seek to make a profit from prostitution.
Jolanda Boer is a senior public prosecutor specialising in human trafficking. Over the past decade Boer has dealt with more than 100 such cases in Amsterdam. “There have been cases where the girl has been raped by their pimps and threatened into working behind the windows. The women are not in a position to freely tell people when something is going wrong. But of course they’re smiling because if you don’t you’re not going to get a client,” says Boer.
Yet again the males on the left have let women down, while kidding themselves that they are being progressive. Jeremy Corbyn has said, during a talk at Goldsmiths University, that he is in favour of decriminalising the sex trade. “Let’s do things a bit differently and in a more civilised way,” he said.
But there is nothing civilised about legitimising one of the most exploitative industries on the planet.
It is apt that Corbyn made his admission at Goldsmiths. Any feminist in support of criminalising sex-buyers is instantly accused by members of Goldsmiths’ feminist society of hating prostituted women, or “whorephobia”, as it is known. This twist of logic is quite something considering the law that criminalises demand also decriminalises those selling sex.
I cannot believe that Corbyn is so misinformed as to see the blanket decriminalisation of the sex trade as necessary to uphold the human rights and safety of those selling sex. In Sweden, the first country to introduce the sex-buyer law in 1999, not one prostituted woman has been murdered by a pimp or sex-buyer since then. In New Zealand, where the sex trade was decriminalised in 2003, there have been five murders.
What decriminalisation actually means is that control is taken away from the criminal justice agencies and given to local authorities. Under this model, pimps become managers, and brothel owners are business entrepreneurs.
The only difference between decriminalisation and legalisation is that under legalisation the state becomes the official pimp by making certain aspects of the trade legal. This way it can collect taxes and impose compulsory health checks on prostituted women – something the great feminist abolitionist Josephine Butler campaigned against in the 19th century.
Many on the left believe any criminalisation of the industry stigmatises those who sell sex, and that the selling of sex should be regarded as a job like any other. But there is a growing body of research showing that in Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Nevada and the Netherlands, where prostitution has been legalised or decriminalised, there is an increase in demand, which in turn has led to an increase in people coerced into prostitution. Such regimes lead to an increase in the legal as well as the illegal sex trade.
In researching my forthcoming book on the international sex trade, I have spoken to a number of women currently and formerly involved in the sex trade in New Zealand, the country hailed as nirvana since the disaster of legalisation in Holland became public.
One interviewee began working in a New Zealand brothel just after she turned 18, prior to decriminalisation. I asked her what decriminalisation had changed. “I don’t think it made any difference,” she said, “because the boss still does everything really dodgy, and I think that’s how he did it when it was illegal.”
The idea that pimps and other exploiters would suddenly turn into considerate employers who pay taxes and abide by the law simply because they are no longer technically criminals is ridiculous.
The sex workers’ rights lobby that has targeted Labour with its propaganda on the benefits of decriminalisation minimises and denies harm. The only harm it is prepared to acknowledge is caused, according to this logic, by feminists and police officers.
One sex workers’ rights activist recently claimed in her blog: “No sex worker I know reports clients as being the biggest problem … It’s always the rescuers, the police and the state that do them the most harm.”
What utter rubbish. While police brutality is prevalent towards women in prostitution in a number of countries, the rapes, homicides and violence from pimps and punters is well documented. In the UK alone, there have been 153 murders of prostituted women since 1990 – none committed by feminist abolitionists or police.
Why the left supports the rights of pimps and brothel owners is a mystery. It is akin to supporting tobacco industry profiteers in order to destigmatise smokers.
Corbyn and his colleagues would do well to listen to survivors of the sex trade before taking such an uninformed line on the best way to regulate prostitution.
As Rachel Moran, sex trade survivor and author of Paid For, remarked: “Males of the left defy every principle they purport to stand for when they contort their own political values to view women’s bodies as commercial products subject to purchase in free market economics. No other social group is treated this way by the men of the left.
“It is only women who are deemed so worthless as to be denigrated with this indignity, and it is only women whose equal human status is so unthinkable as to motivate them to turn their backs on their own politics.”
As a socialist and women’s rights activist who continues to be perplexed, gob-smacked and horrified by the seemingly growing orthodoxy in left and feminist circles that Ekman entitles, “the story of the sex worker”, by which she means a sanitising of the sex industry and a justification for men buying sex, I felt a gushing sense of relief and also gratitude to the author while reading this enormously accessible, sharp and erudite book that looks at both the questions of prostitution and surrogacy.
Ekman puts both prostitution and surrogacy in the context of patriarchal capitalism; both of the hugely profitable sex and surrogacy industries commodify women’s bodies (the majority of the time it’s women in prostitution, in all cases with surrogacy) such that, as opposed to selling her labour or a service, women are forced to sell a part of themselves because there is no Cartesian dualism between the body and mind that are of course, inextricably linked. This means, Ekman contends, that the women often need to create a ‘split self’ for survival, such is the alienation this ‘reification’ causes. Kajsa Ekis Ekman is a Swedish left activist and academic who cites feminist and Marxist influences on her thinking.
In Being and Being Bought, Ekman demolishes the argument that prostitution is a job like any other, perpetuated by some lefts, feminists and academics whose pro-prostitution stance sanitises the sex industry. Ekman rails against the post-modern, abstract, theorising that views prostitution as either; (a) just a normal job (b) a sign of a powerful entrepenuer business woman (c) a form of rebellion against the status quo; all of which ignore the reality that women and girls in prostitution have a death rate forty times higher than average, and that, according to the widest ever international research done on prostitution, 89% wished to leave it.
Why is this view postmodern? It’s postmodern as it fits eerily slickly into a neo-liberal paradigm in which there are no victims of inequality, class division, sexism, racism, privatisation, the accumulation of wealth by a tiny elite, etc. There is no oppression. In the case of prosititution there are just individuals expressing themselves sexually. To question this or make a value judgement is to be an anti-sex prude. Except this is not reality. Class inequality and sexism do exist. Victims of oppression do exist.
Ekman describes Prostitution at its most basic level in this way; “Money may get the buyer ‘consent’ and even fake appreciation during the act, but it only highlights the fact that the other party has sex even though s/he does not really want to… If there were mutual desire, there wouldn’t be any payment – and we all know it. Prostitution is therefore an enemy of sexual liberation, of lust, and of free will.” Those who obscure this fact, often do so while yelling about turning those in prostitution into victims, and therefore taking away their agency. As Ekman articulates clearly, being a victim is not a character trait. It simply denotes someone who is victimised by someone or something. Workers in the public sector can be victims of austerity, and also through collective action, agents in fighting it. Women in abusive relationships are victims of their partner’s violence and abuse and can also be unionised workers, anti-austerity campaigners and/or actively seeking assistance to get out of the abusive relationship.
Ekman writes that “the neoliberal order hates victims”, that “if there are no victims, there can be no perpetrators. The unmentionables, the men, are completely exonerated…” and she sardonically declares that “It is worse than any other physical or psychological violation to speak of her as subjugated – only then does she become a victim.”.
How is this postmodern argument constructed? Firstly, by purporting to come via the mouths of prostitutes/sex workers themselves. Ekman carefully lays bare the revision of history that has been perpetrated in Sweden by those who have tried to claim that those who campaigned for the criminalising of the buyers of sex, and to decriminalise the selling of sex, did so while ignoring prostitutes. Ekman explains that the Malmo project of the 1970s, progressive research into the sex industry that was an inspiration to the later social movement against the industry, precisely listened to prostitutes, and recorded their experiences, as well as those of the ‘johns’.
Just like the reality that Ekman delineates regarding many of the so-called sex workers’ unions, the truth is that many of those claiming to be listening to sex workers, are in fact didactic ideologues who, whatever their motivation, are working in the interests of the sex industry. For example, Laura Agustin, author of Sex on the Margins, who was invited to speak at the Dublin Anarchist Bookfair organised by the WSM in Spring 2013, goes so far in the denial of victims as she listens to the sex workers, that she actually either denies or justifies sex trafficking. Ekman quotes her as follows:
“The relationship involving women who live inside sex establishments and rarely leave until they are moved to another place without being consulted receives the media’s usual attention, it being taken for granted that this represents a total loss of freedom. In many cases, however, migrant workers prefer this situation, for any number of reasons: if they don’t leave the premises they don’t spend money; if they don’t have working papers, they feel safer inside in a controlled sitution; if someone else does the work of finding new venues and making arrangements, they don’t have to do it…”
Incidentally, the talk she gave at the WSM organised event was billed as a Q&A session, and when I attended and tried to make some points in opposition to Agustin (after speaker after speaker from the floor heaped gushing praise on her) and ask a question, I was shouted down by Agustin and the chairperson as was unable to finish my point. This incredible sanitising of the sex industry sinks into other murky waters in the quest to deny the existence of victims of prostitution. Ekman also gives examples of queer theorists, who, in their neoliberal, individualistic blindness, actually claim that men from the global North who are sex tourists in the global South are rebelliously transgressing sexual norms, as opposed to engaging in a sexist, racist act as they use their relative power and wealth to use a poor woman, man or child.
Heather Montgomery, an anthopologist who researched the sex industry in Thailand, was similarly hesitant about making any value judgement about men who buy young children for sex, for fear of oppressing the children. “The children that I knew”, says Montgomery, “did have a ‘sense of decision and control’… The search for victims of child abuse sometimes obscures the acknowledgement of children’s agency.”. Montgomery even goes so far as to say, while acknowledging the bruises, the drug abuse, and the STDs that many of these children suffered, she felt that it wasn’t possible to apply Western models of psychology to these children, and therefore raised a question mark over whether this abuse affected them negatively.
This is the path that the neo-liberal denial of victims takes you, all wrapped up in a ‘we speak for sex-workers and you just want to rescue them’, bow. This is common currency. In a recent edition of Rabble, a relatively popular Irish left-wing magazine, an article entitled “Saving in the name of scrub”, penned by Katie Garrett was billed as sex-workers speaking out. Prostitution was treated with such levity that apparently “some people might personally find the notion of paying, or being paid for, the ride a wee bit icky”, and Rachel Moran, a survivor of prostitution whose book, Paid For was a bestseller at the time of writing, was unsurprisingly not asked to contribute to this serious expose of the sex industry.
Often lefts justify their sanitising of the sex industry on the grounds that if prostitutes / sex workers organise in trade unions then the worst exploitation can be diminished, and therefore that the key demand that the Left should make is for unionisation of prostitutes / sex workers. Ekman gives a whole host of examples that illustrate the problematic nature of making this a central demand, as many organisations that claim to be sex workers’ trade unions are nothing of the sort – either they have such a tiny membership that they are entirely insignificant – such as the Dutch ‘de Rode Draad’ that according to Ekman’s research has about 100 members, a fraction of those engaged in prostitution in Holland, and has never engaged itself in any industrial dispute – or else they openly have bosses / pimps either in the union or supporting it. The IUSW in Britain, claims to be a sex workers’ union. However, of its 150 members, at least one prominent one is Douglas Fox who is co-owner of one of Britain’s largest escort companies.
Incidentally the Dutch Brothel Owners’ Association has a link to ‘de Rode Draad’ on its website. Organisations that contain bosses are not unions. Ekman also gives chilling examples of the way in which some such organisations, if they fundamentally don’t oppose the sex industry, end up accepting and negotiating, instead of fighting against and opposing all the worst aspects of this vile industry. For example, she cites a South African sex worker organisation that advises prostitutes / sex workers to toss a shoe under the client’s bed in order to have an excuse to check for weapons.
Ekman is also unimpressed with large state and EU funding for a number of organisations that she deems as ‘pro-prostitution’, that sprang up in the 1990s, with the development of a HIV/AIDs epidemic. Organisations like COYOTE and TAMPEP, Ekman contends, focus almost solely on teaching prostitutes about condom use and have no facilities to aid anyone in prostitution to get out of it, if they so wish. For Ekman, it’s an example of how the so-called ‘harm reduction’ approach is often more inclined towards reducing the harm for potential clients of the industry, and therefore an assist to the sex industry moguls, more than a charitable assist for prostitutes. One Austrialian state-sponsored ‘harm reduction’ brochure advises prostitutes to “always act like you enjoy it”, and the Australian sex worker organisation, the Scarlet Alliance, similarly advises prostitutes to continue to seek to arouse a man if he is getting aggressive as the best way to avoid being attacked, because bruises “can force you into having time off work, in turn losing more money”.
For those that aren’t in the know – in Amsterdam, prostitution and the purchasing of sex is legal, and has been since 1988. Walking through the Red Light District is supposedly a fun, unique experience – countless people had reassured me that I “had to visit it”, but I found the narrow, cobbled streets of De Wallen to be passively hostile, especially to women.
Amsterdam City Council goes to great lengths to try and ensure the safety of the women working.
Police patrol the city; each room is equipped with a panic button; the women undergo regularly mandatory health checks and are encouraged to register their profession, to pay taxes.
The logic behind the legalisation of prostitution seems to be that by bringing the underworld into the light, the criminal aspect would surely dissolve.
In theory, women would be less likely to suffer abuse at the hands of pimps, less likely to be involved in human trafficking, and more likely to earn a decent wage.
And yet, the system hasn’t worked – it’s made things worse.
A prostitute in Amsterdam, a notoriously expensive city, will pay up to one hundred euro a night for the rent of a window.
She also has to pay a pimp, and pay taxes if she registers – though only 5% of prostitutes have actually registered for tax, perhaps for fear of the social stigma that comes with publicly announcing yourself as a prostitute.
Just in order to take some home for herself she’ll have to have sex with ten to fifteen people per day. The vocal union for the sex workers, De Rode Draad, went bankrupt and closed down in 2009. In addition to this, 13 sex workers have been murdered in De Wallen since 1990.
After twenty years of legalised prostitution, the council ended up cutting down the Red Light district’s brothels from 482 to 243 after bouts of criminal activity.
The problem is that the legalising of prostitutes creates a higher demand for these women. That’s where human trafficking comes in, and Amsterdam – along with much of Eastern Europe – is one of the most heavily trafficked places in the world, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In 2008, six men were convicted of the “largest case of human trafficking ever brought to trial in the Netherlands.”
According to the investigation: “some of the victims were compelled to have breast enlargement surgery, and one defendant was convicted of forcing at least one woman to have an abortion.
“Women were beaten and forced to sit in icy water to avoid bruising. They also were tattooed.”
Driver’s ed teachers in Holland can request payment in two forms. The first, as you might expect, is in the traditional form of money. The second, you might be surprised to learn, is in the form of sex. Both are equally legal, two cabinet ministers recently opined, although the latter might be considered “undesirable.”
According to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, Dutch Transport Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen and Justice Minister Ard van der Steur, in response to a request for clarification on the issue, indicated that the deal only works in one direction. That is, driving instructors can offer lessons for sex, but students can’t propose sex for driving lessons. All consenting parties must be 18 years of age. The two ministers wrote in a letter to the country’s Parliament:
It’s not about offering sexual activities for remuneration, but offering a driving lesson. It is important that the initiative lies with the driving instructor, and focuses on offering a driving lesson, with the payment provided in sexual acts. When a sexual act offered in lieu of financial payment, that is prostitution.
The practice is referred to as “a ride for a ride” in slang. The Telegraph reports that Internet searches about sex as payment for driving lessons have been steadily climbing in number.
Prostitution is legal in Holland, and the country is generally known to have fairly open attitudes about sex. USA Today cites a Dutch News article noting that the ministers’ statement “will be a shot in the arm for the small legion of (mostly male) computer technicians, handymen, and driving instructors who offer their services online in exchange for personal services.”
If things weren’t already hopping on Amsterdam’s Craigslist, they’re likely to now more than ever.
Thanks Holland now women and teenage girls have to worry about being propositioned for sex by their driving instructors.
They said porn of this topic is rising, I wonder why. This is so sad to me.
Pornography is encouraging rape. Now Dutch women have to worry that if they want to learn how to drive they’ll to take precautions so they aren’t raped by their driving instructors. Now sexually predatory driving instructors have more leverage and a legal defense.
This is so saddening. Dutch people aren’t allowed to teach each other how to drive, you must learn with a certified instructor, and you are not allowed to drive without him/her until you receive your license.
In the Netherlands it’s quite common that your middle- or high class parents will give you the gift of driving lessons on your 18th birthday (probably your 17th birthday now, the legal age to start driving recently changed). Working class children who didn’t start their lessons at their birthday (because certified instructors are very expensive), were made fun of and often treated like they were weird, poor, pathetic, etc. I’m scared that this law will push young women over the edge to accept sexual abuse to get by, especially poor students.
It also makes me think of when my mother started her driving lessons. She was too poor when she was young, so she started once she had a more stable income. I was already born and about 10 years old. Every week when the instructor picked her up, my dad and I would stand on the balcony and wave her goodbye and good luck. The instructors waved back alongside her. Yet, she had to change instructor 2 or 3 times because they were pushing her to perform sexual acts. There were no female instructors in our area. Her anxiety grew so much and it took her years before she achieved her license.
This was almost 15 years ago, but I doubt the situation has changed a lot. Now these kind of instructors are given all the tools they need.
Like how the fuck does this even make sense. What else are they gonna let rapists start pressuring poor women for sex for? Oh, you need food? Clothes? Pads? An education? Well I think I’ve got a “need” too…”
The sex industry lobbyists have been trying to normalise ‘sex work‘ for decades. They have already been trying to coerce women so they can get an education (a degree) which will be worthless if they are known to have been prostituted which leaves them with a harder chance of steady employment and will push them back into prostitution.
taking “sex” (rape) as a form of payment if a woman cannot afford to pay for things she needs is violence against women. poor women’s bodies are literally being made in to a form of currency.
Eva Marree Smith Kullander, a Swedish mother of two, was stabbed to death by her ex-husband during a supervised visit with her children on July 11, 2013.
A few years prior to her murder, Kullander (known professionally as Petite Jasmine) lost custody of her children when a family member reported her to social services for selling sex. Despite telling social services that her ex-husband was abusive, the state gave primary custody to him, and he refused to let Jasmine see their children. Jasmine fought hard to regain contact with her children, even though her ex-husband continuously threatened her with violence. After two years of court battles, social services finally began working to reunite Jasmine with her children. It was in a social worker’s office, during the first visit she’d had with her son in over a year, that Jasmine’s ex-husband stabbed her to death (the attending social worker was also stabbed, but survived).
In response to this vicious murder, the English Collective of Prostitutes, the International Committee for the Rights of Sex Workers, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) and many other sex worker rights organizations staged protests, demonstrations, and rallies in cities all over the world.
Jasmine was “stabbed to death by stigma,” they claimed. “End violence against sex workers,” they demanded. “Full decriminalization now.”
According to these sex worker rights organizations, if prostitution in Sweden were fully decriminalized, Jasmine’s ex-husband would never have killed her.
“NSWP (Global Network of Sex Work Projects) condemns the ‘Swedish Model’ that claims to protect women involved in sex work by criminalizing clients. This paternalistic approach fundamentally denies women’s agency and marks a state stamp of approval on the stigma attached to sex work, a stamp that cost Jasmine her life at the hands of her ex-partner.”
Unlike New Zealand, which is praised by sex worker rights organizations for fully decriminalizing prostitution, Sweden has adopted the Nordic Model, which decriminalizes women like Jasmine, but continues to criminalize pimps and johns.
But are prostitutes in New Zealand really safer than prostitutes in Sweden, as sex worker rights organizations claim?
Since the Nordic Model was adopted in Sweden 16 years ago, not a single prostituted woman has been murdered by a john. Not one. Jasmine is the only one to be murdered during that time, and that was a murder committed by her abusive ex-husband.
New Zealand, with only half the population of Sweden, has lost several prostituted women to gruesome murders committed by johns since full decriminalization was implemented in 2002.
And yet not one of the sex worker rights organizations that protested so vehemently against the murder of Petite Jasmine saw fit to protest the murders of these women in New Zealand. Their murders didn’t fit the pro-sex work agenda, and so their murders were erased.
Here are a few of their stories:
Ngatai Lynette Manning was 27 years old in 2008 when she was stabbed, strangled, raped, and beaten to death with a metal pole.
Manning, more commonly known as Mellory, had a difficult childhood spent mostly in foster care, and was pulled into the vicious cycle of drugs and prostitution at the age of 14. After her sister committed suicide, Mellory fought successfully to break out of that cycle, fearing she, too, would die young. Mellory was able to get clean, enroll in a polytechnic school and study art. She and her partner, Kent Gorrie, talked about getting married and having children. But when Mellory’s poverty and unemployment made her unable to afford Christmas presents, she decided to return to prostitution for “just one night.”
On December 18, 2008, Mellory was walking down Blenheim Road and was picked up at 10:35 by Mauha Huatahi Fawcett, a 21 year old man who went by the gang name, “Muck Dog.” Fawcett had not yet received entry into the Mongrel Mob gang and had been ordered to take part in the killing of Manning to gain membership. As part of his gang initiation, Fawcett was ordered to stab Manning but claims to have backed out. He testified that as loud music blared, Mellory was strangled, stabbed, raped and beaten with a metal pole while gang members “barked like dogs” and gave Nazi salutes. Mellory died from her injuries and Fawcett dumped her body into the nearby Avon river.
Catherine Healy, national coordinator for the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective, says her organization is a huge supporter of New Zealand’s decision to decriminalize sex work, which makes it easy and legal for johns to purchase sex from women working at home, on the street, or from the web.
“It’s really important to have as many options as possible and to be able to work wherever one wants — we’ve avoided a monopoly scenario and it keeps exploitation in check,” Healy claims. New Zealand’s policy of full decriminalization has “been just fantastic, really,” she said.
When Mellory was murdered, sex worker rights organizations did not call for a “sex worker uprising” as they did following Petite Jasmine’s murder. In fact, there was not a single protest, rally, or demonstration organized on Mellory’s behalf. Not one.
“Suzie Sutherland was a petite woman who is said to have hated violence,” the New Zealand Herald reports. In April 2005, Jules Patrick Burns picked her up on the street to buy sex, strangled her, and left her naked body propped awkwardly against a wooden fence in a vacant lot. Her family described Suzie as a “very beautiful young woman, well-spoken and gentle.” They said she had been a good student as a child, and could play the piano and cello. A “happy and cooperative” girl, she adored animals, was artistically talented, and loved singing and acting. Her dreams for the future included travelling the world and pursuing her education. Sadly, as a young adult, Suzie started using drugs and became addicted to morphine. At 20, she attempted to get sober and entered rehab, but left before finishing her treatment. Suzie’s family hoped she would try again to break free of her addiction, but instead she moved away to Christchurch and shut them out of her life.
The john who murdered Suzie, Jules Burns, told the jury she seemed “very professional.” At the start, he said, she was “enthusiastic and talkative”, but became irritable after a while, and angrily told him he was “taking too long”. Burns claimed the sex had been a “satisfactory experience” for him, and that when he was finished he drove Suzie back to the corner where he had picked her up. According to a police statement, Burns approached several prostitutes on the morning of the murder. He was convicted of strangling Suzie and sentenced to a minimum of 17 years in prison.
There was not a single protest, rally, demonstration, or “sex worker uprising” called for by sex worker rights organizations on Suzie’s behalf. Not a single one.
In December 2005, 24 year old Anna Louise Wilson, mother of a four year old girl, was picked up for sex by Peter Steven Waihape. He drove her to a carpark, where an argument broke out when he refused to use a condom. Waihape then partially strangled the young woman, removed her clothing, bound her hands and raped her. He then pushed her out of the car and ran her over. When Anna became trapped under the car, begging and pleading for her life, he ran her over again. Witnesses to the murder reported hearing Waihape laughing as he repeatedly ran her down. This was not the first time he’d assaulted a woman.
Justice Lester Chisholm shared damning witness testimony at Waihape’s sentencing hearing: “You were then seen to get out of your car and kick her at least twice. She managed to free herself and sat up. She pleaded for her life. Then you drove at her a number of times, smashing through a concrete wall.” Waihape then dragged the young woman back into his car, drove her to the Avon river, and threw her half-naked body into the water.
“The ultimate indignity,” Judge Chisholm said, “was that you used her as a stepping platform to get out of the river. It couldn’t get much worse, Mr Waihape.” Anna’s semi-naked body was found in the Avon River about 3pm on Thursday, lying in mud on her back with her wrists bound in front of her and her head submerged under water.
At the sentencing hearing, Anna’s father described the heartbreak he felt at his daughter’s funeral, watching his granddaughter “stand next to her mother’s coffin… rubbing her dead mother’s stomach.”
Despite the viciousness of the murder, there was not a single protest, rally, demonstration, or “sex worker uprising” called for by a single sex worker rights organizations on Anna’s behalf. Not one.
Nuttidar Vaikaew was a Thai prostitute living in New Zealand who went by the professional name, “Sky.” She was strangled to death by one of her “regulars,” Gordon Hieatt, in her own home. After murdering Sky, Hieatt continued to visit other prostituted women. His computer records showed him engaging in online chats with one prostitute in Thailand while still living in the apartment with Sky’s decomposing body. In the messages, Hieatt admitted to murdering Sky and “said he read jokes all day to cheer himself up.” When the police found Sky’s body, it was on a bed in the lounge, heavily decomposed, and holding an ace of hearts playing card. Hieatt was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
There was not a single protest, rally, demonstration, or “sex worker uprising” called for by sex worker rights organizations on Sky’s behalf. Not one.
“It’s been just fantastic, really.”
“Often sex workers are really envious that sex workers have rights in this country that are the same as anyone else in the work force,” Healy said.
New Zealand has half the population of Sweden. Half. And not one prostitute has been murdered by a john in Sweden since the Nordic model passed in 1999. Not one in 16 years.
Surely anyone who cared about the lives of prostituted women would call that “fantastic” — much more so than the gruesome realities faced by New Zealand’s prostitutes.
But let’s not just pick on New Zealand. In Germany, 55 prostitutes have been murdered since 2002 when prostitution was legalized. There have also been 29 attempted murders.
The Netherlands has almost the exact same overall murder rate as Sweden. But 28 prostituted women have been murdered in the Netherlands since the year 2000, when prostitution was legalized.
Let’s review those numbers.
Germany: 55 sex workers murdered by johns in 13 years. The Netherlands: 28 sex workers murdered by johns in 15 years. Sweden: Zero sex workers murdered by johns in 16 years.
“We demand an end to stigma, criminalization, violence, and murders. “ the NSWP declares.
But if that’s really what they want, why aren’t they supporting the Nordic Model? Perhaps it’s because the Nordic model cuts into the profits of the more privileged women in prostitution, pimps, and brothel owners. What’s a few murdered women when there’s so much money to be made?
Mellory, Suzie, Anna, and Sky. Say their names. Their lives matter. And they were viciously murdered by johns in a country where prostitution is being normalized.
Please do not erase them.
Has Amsterdam had enough of its breezy reputation? It may be famous for its in-your-face window prostitution, but the city has just voted to place tighter controls on its brothels. From this summer onwards, Amsterdam’s legal age for prostitution will rise from 18 to 21, and brothels will be forced to remain closed between four and nine in the morning. Prostitutes will have to pass language tests and have shorter shifts, while brothel keepers will be obliged to produce business plans demonstrating how they will protect their workers’ health and safety.
Seen from a country where prostitution is largely banned, these changes might seem laughably modest. They’re carefully targeted nonetheless. Younger women are most likely to fall victim to human traffickers, while those that don’t speak any Dutch or English find it much harder to contact police or social workers in cases of abuse. Meanwhile, early morning closure is planned because the time of day is seen as a problem period, with nobody else about in the streets to monitor or rein in bad behavior. Amsterdam’s city council considers the moves so vital that the city is going it alone, introducing laws that (while currently being debated) haven’t yet passed through the Dutch Parliament.
Amsterdam’s haste is understandable. It may be well policed and eye-poppingly unusual, but the city’s central red light district still feels like a place where women’s hopes go to die. Around 75 percent of the 5,000 to 8,000 prostitutes working in the city are from abroad, and many are believed to have been trafficked. Holland legalized prostitution in 2000 as a way of stopping exploitation, but evidence suggests that more women than ever are being forced into brothels against their will. A study from the London School of Economics published this winter found that in countries where selling sex was decriminalized, human trafficking has increased. While the number of women entering prostitution voluntarily grows under legalization, demand grows yet further, creating a shortfall filled by women trafficked and run by pimps.
Marijke Shahsavari-Jansen, section leader for the right-of-center Christian Democrat Party on Amsterdam’s city council, notes that people in Holland are well aware of these failures.
“When the law changed to decriminalize brothels there really was widespread support. Many people naively believed that legalization and regulation would turn prostitution into a supposedly ‘normal’ kind of business. In the past five years, however, there’s been a shift back towards a broader consensus in the other direction, as we realize that things have gotten worse, that there are victims of trafficking still. It’s as if abuse is now carrying on with a legalized varnish.”
Amsterdam isn’t planning to criminalize prostitution, of course. There is nonetheless a general move towards tighter state control of the seamier side of Dutch life. The left-of-center Dutch Labor Party has been considering criminalizing visits to prostitutes, while the 1012 Project launched last year has started thinning out brothel windows and “coffee shops” that sell pot from central Amsterdam. Many residents are tired of watching leery, beery tourists flocking to the red light district, one of Amsterdam’s oldest neighborhoods, and some are embarrassed by the city’s reputation. Support for the clean-out is hardly unanimous though, as some locals fear it will simply drive the sex industry underground without taming it.
It still seems unlikely that this is the end for anything-goes Amsterdam. As other European cities look for ways to relax their drug laws, there’s little support for further extending controls on coffee shops, for example. But women are still being forced into prostitution, and the argument that keeping the sex industry in the open will curb its excesses is increasingly losing currency.