in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, have launched a campaign to raise awareness about the
difficult circumstances in which they work.
have renamed one of the major parks in the city Prostitutes’ Plaza and a book
has been launched about abuse and exploitation.
Argentine prostitutes fight back
By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Buenos
Prostitutes in the Argentine
capital, Buenos Aires, have
launched a campaign to raise awareness about the difficult circumstances in
which they work.
They have renamed one of the
major parks in the city Prostitutes’ Plaza and a book has been launched about
abuse and exploitation.
The women have been marching and
handing out condoms.
It is part of a national campaign
to admit prostitution exists and provide better security for women involved.
On the city street maps, the park
is called Mercy Plaza but the locals all call it Once Plaza, since it sits at
the heart of the working-class Once neighbourhood.
Only now the women who, come
nightfall, work around here have renamed it Prostitutes’ Plaza.
On the ground by the main statue
they have daubed the words "No woman is born a prostitute".
It is the title of a book
published by two women, Sonia Sanchez and Maria Galindo, which looks at
Argentine society and the role prostitution plays within it.
"We’re taking control of the
streets," said Maria.
"It’s a small but important
Sonia said: "We’re saying
enough is enough. Prostitution isn’t a job. It’s sexual exploitation and it’s
Other slogans daubed, then
painted over, around the square read: "The pimps rule here" and
"Here they exploit the bodies of girls, and the police do nothing".
How the Dutch protect their
By Patrick Jackson
As the murder of prostitutes in Suffolk
grips the UK,
BBC News looks at some of the safety mechanisms being used in the Netherlands
to protect local sex workers there from violence.
This Sunday, campaigners in North
America and Europe will be marking an End
Violence Against Sex Workers Day with vigils, demonstrations and posters.
The murders in Suffolk
"are another horrifying chapter in a long history of violence towards sex
workers", says Petra Timmermans, a Netherlands-based campaigner for the
human rights of prostitutes.
For Ms Timmermans, the
coordinator of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in
Europe (ICRSE), the vulnerability of prostitutes to violence is inextricably
bound up in social attitudes.
Prostitution in the Netherlands
involving Dutch or other EU citizens is a legal occupation, and a recent report
by the foreign ministry shows that most work in brothels or sex clubs.
They can openly advertise their
services in newspapers and on the internet.
However, a small number of legal
prostitutes still solicit on the streets, government statistics show.
In response, a number of cities
have created official "street walking zones" which feature special
car parks for prostitutes and their clients.
Condoms and coffee
These car parks have privacy
screens – "a bit like stalls", says Ms Timmermans – between which
prostitutes can conduct their business in their clients’ cars.
Security cameras monitor the car
parks and social services provide advice, medical information and condoms.
"You can talk to a social
worker, you can get a shower, a cup of coffee, things like that," says the
"I have never heard of
anyone ever being hurt, or at least seriously hurt, in a zone."
According to the foreign
ministry, "the introduction of these zones has significantly increased the
safety of street walkers".
Government figures from 2004
showed that people driven into high-risk prostitution by drug addiction – a
phenomenon common among EU prostitutes – made up only about 10% of all
prostitutes in the Netherlands.
This is thanks to good drug
outreach programmes, Ms Timmermans suggests.
And she adds that the attitude of
the country’s police – "they are great in general" – is also an
Preying on the ‘worthless’
End Violence Against Sex Workers
Day came about in 2003 in response to the Green River
serial murders in the US,
in which 48 women, most of them street-walking prostitutes, were murdered
around Seattle over some 15 years.
murders will be in the minds of Sunday’s protesters along with the trial of a
Canadian man for the alleged murders of at least 26 sex workers in Vancouver.
Petra Timmermans believes that if
our social attitude to prostitutes changed, there would be less risk of such
"We decide that some people
aren’t worth our time and violent people know that," she says.
Prostitution is a reality, she
argues, and in order to protect those women and men who engage in it, it should
be given equal status to other occupations.
"We know, for instance, that
there is exploitation in the textile industry but we don’t scream ‘Stop buying
clothing’ – we talk about labour rights and working conditions," Ms
"We need to start talking in
that way about prostitution."
Dutch prostitutes do still get
hurt, she adds, but the Netherlands
has made "many more women’s lives safer and gone a long way in challenging
many long-held biases that have let killers off the hook".
there is really no escape from this rape prison called prostitution?
former woman prostitute, California
PROSTITUTION IN EU STATES
prostitutes treated as self-employed persons; street prostitution in managed
zones; brothels legal but subject to licensing
similar rights for prostitutes to those of the Dutch though prostitution
subject to VAT; legal brothels and recognised red light zones
prostitution legal – soliciting and procuring are not
prostitution legal but buying sex is not, so clients risk prosecution
prostitution not officially illegal but soliciting, procuring and
Here in Mexico
the situation terrible. Prostitution is illegal, but it is practised everywhere
for men and women. The authorities like to protect them for money not for the
government, but for themselves. And if you want to have their services is
probably that cops will try to take as much money as you can give for buying
Prostitution is a crime in Nigeria
but it is widely practised and patronised by all and sundry. Many of the street
walkers are every day exposed to the risk of being killed for ritual purposes
etc, but many families’ livelihood depends on it. I wish the Dutch approach
would be adopted in Nigeria.
Prostitutes or not, they are human beings, our family members, brothers,
sisters, mothers, etc. Society needs them and we need them alive! Let’s stop
the hypocrisy. We should not expect our personal norms to be normative for
society. Let’s respect their choice.
Martin Manasseh Esq, Abuja,
I have lived 22 years in the
centre of Amsterdam with the red
light area just fifteen minutes away from my homes and I have never felt unsafe
walking in the area. It’s a vibrant, lively, busy area, with a lot of police
presence and a few police stations as well. When I visit England,
I cannot imagine having a safe feeling walking through a red light area there.
I spent some time in Botswana
this summer and I really believe that sex work should be organized. This is for
the many safety nets and health checks that may become available. I mention Botswana
because there, like everywhere else I guess, HIV is of the utmost importance.
Unfortunately many women there are so desperate for cash that they will sell
their bodies for 60p with a condom and 100p without. This clearly contributes
to the spread of HIV in a nation with approx 33% infection rate. We need to
protect these women, wives and mothers from HIV as a global community.
Courtney Baker, Orillia,
If prostitution is illegal, then
it should be enforced as a crime and the girls helped in rehabilitation as part
of the sentence. As very few would consciously seek such a profession, there is
usually a reason for going into it. If there is no will to enforce its
illegality, then it should be legalised and heavily controlled. In Russia
it is not illegal or legal, in fact, no one really knows what it is, it’s a
grey area. But the greyness allows for corruption, abuse, and even slavery. I
think if it is legalised and regulated, and the punishments for things such as
forced sexual slavery should be increased to just short of savage. Legalisation
would offer protection to the girls (and men) which the state does not, here or
Due to the Dutch system, I have
never seen in my district a murdered prostitute and very seldom a beaten-up
prostitute in my 30-year career as a police surgeon and forensic pathologist.
Dr OS van Hees, MD, PhD, The
Hague, The Netherlands
I am from a country where just
talking about prostitution is a sin. There is prostitution in the Arab world
and it has been there for ages but everyone is trying to neglect it.
Prostitution and violence are in Egypt
as well as drug addiction and child abuse, but everyone doesn’t want to face
the reality or criticise the situation. We have also street mothers – a
homeless woman who has been raped and left with her child. In general human
rights are not protected in Egypt,
imagine if somebody tried to argue about a prostitute’s right.
No one talks about this problem
and it was never an issue in the parliament or even on TV. I respect and am
very impressed from how the West sees the problems and facts of life and try to
handle it and deal with it in an intelligent way. Yes prostitution is a fact
and something we cannot prevent and they have the right to have a normal safe
life since they have chosen that by themselves. I hope that hypocrites and
contradicted people in my country will wake up and try to face their problems
as the West is doing.
Africa, prostitution is illegal, but the
laws governing solicitation of this nature are never or hardly ever enforced.
If enforced, the alleged offender has to pay a minor admission of guilt fine
(spotters fine) or they can appeal against the fine through due legal process.
In our "designated" areas where prostitution is common, there is a
24-hour police protection and presence, to ensure the safety of these girls
amongst other things and to try and combat of other crimes associated with the
sex trade. In addition some Women Rights Groups have opened "safe
houses" where some of these girls can take their clients for business at a
really minimal fee. Condoms etc are also being distributed by the government
100% free of charge and have been made easily accessible (any and all public
places, places of work and clinics) for everyone due to our high HIV/Aids
rates. Also, people with a low type of income, associated with these type of
prostitutes, they do have access to free healthcare etc, should they contract
some type of disease associated with their trade.
But in spite of the above, crime
in these areas is rife, these ladies still get beaten up, raped and murdered
and our HIV/Aids infection rate continues to be amongst the highest in the
world. Some even refuse to use the safe houses because. Therefore, in my view,
by legalising it and setting up controlled brothels with the right healthcare
infrastructure might not work. It’s not working in South
The issue of prostitution in Liberia
is a crime, it has reduced sex workers to a point were they are constantly
molested, beaten at night and disgraced at daylight. On Carey St is were you
usually see this brutality against sex workers, they are seen by the general
society as an outcast. And the government do nothing about this prevailing
issue in Liberia.
The human right organizations in Liberia
do not advocate on these voiceless sex workers.
Madison Cammue, Monrovia,
With what I saw and actually
touched here in Iran,
I could say the situation is far more terrible in my country probably than any
other country in the world! Lots & lots of prostitutes, especially in the
capital, Tehran, and a total ban to all the activities around the subject and one
logical result, absolute lack of human rights for these poor women… they
could easily be hurt or even murdered without anybody finding out… God bless
Dr Shahab, Tehran,
Some time ago my girlfriend was a
sex worker. As her drug habit caused so much uncertainty, she took risks. She
was kidnapped, tied and driven to an unknown location in fear, threatened with
a straight razor and barely managed to talk her way out by pleading for more
drugs at a friends, where the people inside prevailed upon the stranger to
exit. No police report was given, as blaming the victim only adds stress and
anguish. I looked for the sucker for years.
pedro, Fair Oaks
, Republic of California
I used to live and work in Munich.
Between my office and the underground station was an industrial estate through
which I and my colleagues (men and women) walked. On the industrial estate were
several brothels. The girls worked in a warm safe environment, not on the
streets. Women walking down the streets were left alone because they were not
sex workers (the sex workers were all indoors). It worked, and the UK
should consider doing the same thing. Prostitution is a valid occupation and
it’s about time we got used to it.
are so much more progressive, intelligent and practical about the issue of
prostitution than my own country that it’s embarrassing. I worked for five and
a half years for the New York City Department of Health in their Bureau of
Sexually Transmitted Disease, and many of the sex-worker patients I counselled
had some truly horrible tales to tell: rape, beatings. Most of the sex-worker
patients I counselled (and they were all women) had drug addiction problems,
and quickly ran out of ways to earn money to feed their habits, until selling
their bodies became the last method they had of economic survival. Until the
elected officials in my country have the backbone to admit the simple truth –
that prostitution IS a fact of life, and that, rather than ignore it through
criminalization, it should be legalized in select areas where workers can be
monitored and medically cared for – sex workers here will be harassed, jailed,
beaten and murdered.
Sojka, Maryland, USA
Here in Spain
where I live – a respectable area – there are four brothels in the area, the
police check the clubs to ensure the girls who are working there do so of their
own free will, and are not abused. Maybe the UK
should take a look at the Spanish system? It works and works well. The local
news paper has three to four pages of sex worker adverts every week. It would
be easier to stop the sun shining than to stop prostitution, and mankind is
trying that too, but that’s another story.
Chris Miley, Malaga
I live in the red light area of Ipswich
and regularly overhear early morning exchanges between local prostitutes, their
dealers and the odd client. Allowing these women a safe place to work legally
would enable them to then openly seek aid regarding other issues that affect
their lives. It would also ease tension from those of us in the local area and
might have prevented this series of events from occurring.
Matt S, Ipswich
Very similar arrangements are in
place in Germany
and it is rare to have any trouble. The most famous red light district – the
Reeperbahn – has a police station right in the middle of it, in an historic
building, and the police are out on foot too and there is hardly any crime
Roy Brookes, Hamburg,
Great article. As a retired
psychologist who spent time treating prostitutes and witnessed, vicariously,
what trauma they had experienced, I am for a system of licensing and treatment,
including counselling, for prostitutes here in the USA. It is a profession
which is not likely to go away in the foreseeable, and these workers should be
subject to the same rights as any other employee. RJS
Robert Severson, Kalamazoo,
In the red light district here in
Antwerp, there is a shopping
mall-style prostitute complex with a police station in the middle of it!!