Friday, September 02, 2005

Illuminated from Darkness

Back to index

The following is a manifesto written by a group of Christan organisations who work with prostitutes. They call themselves the POOP(‘Platform Organisaties Opvang (ex)Prostituees’=’Platform of Organisations who shelter (ex)Prostitutes‘) which was initiated by the Christenunie (a protestant Christan political party).

Among those organisations are:


Innercity Project, Rotterdam
Leger des Heils, Amsterdam (Salvation Army)
Platform Zorg en Politiek
Revival Joy, Utrecht
Scharlaken Koord, Amsterdam (Scarlet Cord, not the same as de Rode Draad=the Red Thread)
(visit the Scharlaken Koord on this
website and the website of the Tot Heil des Volks)
Stichting De Haven, Den Haag
Stichting De Tweede Mijl, Amsterdam
The Cleft, Amsterdam
Victory Outreach, Rotterdam
Women Trafficking, Amsterdam

The name of the manifesto is:

“Uit het donker opgelicht” (Illuminated from darkness)
(Date:October 2003)

(orginal document) )

It was a respons to an evaluative survey done by the WODC(‘Wetenschappelijk onderzoek- en documentatie centrum’=’Scientific Research and Documentation Centre’) in 2002 to check if there was progress after the brothel-ban was lifted. ("De sociale positie van prostituees in de gereguleerde bedrijven een jaar na de wetswijziging” (2002) [the social position of prostitutes in the regulated businesses a year after te amendment]..... on no, excuse me, they mean this report: Het bordeel-verbod opgeheven written by A. Daalder in 2002)

The following are some excerpts from that manifesto which I translated from Dutch into [broken] English.

They are making some shocking revelations too. But I have to note that, the social workers who are behind this manifesto are mainly active among street-prostitutes and window-prostitutes. The WODC has researched a much wider variety of prostitutes, including prostitutes who work in clubs. I strongly believe that human trafficking occurs a lot more in street-prostitution and window-prostitution than in other forms of prostitution. But the POOP assumes these prostitutes are representative of all prostitutes. I believe in clubs many more ‘voluntary’ prostitutes can be found.(By the way, I am not a Christian)


Illuminated from Darkness

In this Manifesto we like to inform you about our experiences as social workers concerning the lifting of the brothel-ban.
We are glad that many institutions and political parties aim the same thing, namely, that no woman should work as a prostitute against her will. We fully agree about countering issues like human trafficking, force, manipulation and loverboys in the world of prostitution. The law that made possible the lifting of the ban on brothels aimed at that in the first place. However, it is assumed that there will be a time there will only be women in prostitution who want that and who want full recognition of their “profession”.

Our experience – for some organisations it’s more than 10 years – in working with this target group shows that this is not realistic. We encounter only a few women who like their work as a prostitute, they don’t want recognition for their “profession”, on the contrary, they want to be anonymous and for the majority of women working as prostitutes, the only positive side about this “profession” is the vast amounts of money that can be made in prostitution (on average 350 euros per evening).

With this manifesto we as social workers want to give a voice to the thousands of women who are only surviving in prostitution and have to work long hours to pay their window-rent, a meal and money for their children and families in Africa and South America and, what’s left of it, to pay off their debts. Labour laws, taxes or being socially accepted are literally a ‘far-from-my-bed-show’[this saying doesn’t exist in English] for these people.

We can imagine that when you read this manifesto, you would think like, of course these Christian organisations are against the lifting of the ban on brothels, they are after all “against” prostitution. We would like to explain to you that we don’t want to hand over this report to you from a moralising point of view, but because of a sincere concern for the prostitute and even the prostitute's client. Our experience shows that the life of a prostitute, even despite how well the government wants to regulate prostitution, is a life that causes deep damage. This can be on an emotional level as well as on her physical condition. We will show you this through our surveys we have carried out.
.
.
.
[skip]
.
.
.

Controlling and regulating the exploitation of voluntary prostitution depends on the willingness of the prostitute and the operator [of brothels] to be registered. The readiness of a prostitute to be registered for the purpose of, for instance, paying taxes is completely lacking. We know from our own research that 93% don’t pay taxes and of the 892 contacts the Scharlaken Koord had with prostitutes in 2002, only 19 (which means 97% don’t pay taxes) said they were paying taxes or were willing to pay taxes if they had made enough money. More than 450 women had no say in the money they earned. They turned over all the money to their pimp or loverboy. All other prostitutes ridiculed even the thought of paying taxes. Only a small number of women of those 892 knew the brothel-ban was lifted. Even monitoring bodies like the tax department show through their numbers that there was no willingness to pay taxes. Of the approximately 20.000 prostitutes in the Netherlands, only 923 are registered, so that they are willing to pay taxes. The other 19.077 knowingly don’t choose to do so. Therefore there is no increase in tax revenue from this sector. This observation is important, because the image of the prostitute as a career woman that is put forward by the “Rode Draad”[Red Thread] and the mr.[LL.M] A. de Graaf foundation is certainly not in accordance with the situation of the women we see in practice.
.
.
.
[skip]
.
.
.
At least one quarter of de approximately 20.000 prostitutes in the Netherlands is a victim of human trafficking. That means more than 5000 women and girls in the Netherlands are working under duress and/or manipulation. The persons who run the brothels often work in the criminal domain themselves. [a footnote at the bottom of that page says that they have drawn this information from the Dienst Nationale Recherche 23/09/02. I'm quite confident that they mean the report Mensenhandel in Nederland by Essy van Dijk. I believe the writers of the Christian manifesto misinterpreted the report and that Essy van Dijk who on her turn misinterpreted the report "Mensenhandel Vanuit Centraal- en Oost-Europa" about Eastern European prostitutes, which was written in 1997 by the IPIT and the IRT Noord- en Oost Nederland. Essy van Dijk says in her report that this research estimates there are some 5000-7000 forced Eastern European prostitutes, but in reality they estimate it is 500 at each moment and 2000 on a yearly basis.]
Involuntary prostitution has boomed the last two years in the Netherlands. There seems to be a shift within the criminal domain from the high risk trafficking in drugs to the almost risk-free exploitation of women. Because of the lacking supervision by the government of the huge flow of money within the prostitution industry, it is very tempting for criminals to change over to this lucrative ‘branch of industry’. Therefore it came to no surprise that among a random sample survey of 439 Dutch window-prostitutes in de Wallen in 2001 and 2002, more than 380 women indicated that they were introduced to prostitution by a loverboy[pimp]. 873 window-prostitutes in the same period on de Wallen, came from countries outside the European Union. (mainly Nigeria, Ghana and Bulgaria)[the numbers are from the Scharlaken Koord]. By way of human traffickers these prostitutes get false passports and means of transportation. A lot of money has to be paid for that. Trafficked women from Africa in the red light district of Amsterdam first start to pay back their debts to the trafficker in exchange for given services. It concerns debts of between 40.000 and 60.000 dollars. To be certain that a trafficked woman pays back her debt, human traffickers use voodoo-rituals, violence and intimidation. At this moment, October 2003, we still encounter many girls from Africa. Our question to you: how do these women get their Dutch passports, or identity papers? It may be clear that there exists a brisk and expensive trade in Dutch passports.

‘Voluntary’ prostitution
One of the goals [of legalizing prostitution] was better supervision, so that ideally only voluntary prostitution would remain. It should have been possible, just as voluntary as for any other random job, to choose for a career in prostitution. As a logical consequence, in the same bill that regulates the lifting of the brothel-ban, the provisions in the penal statute against human trafficking have been severed. The section in law against involuntary prostitution is formulated exhaustively. Not only factual force or pressure, but every abuse of a factual situation of ascendancy which results in the performing of sexual acts with a third person, is penalized. Aside from that, also the client is penalized when a prostitute is concerned who certainly is older than 16, but younger than 18.

In the inquiry that the POOP carried out a prostitute gave a telling answer to the question: do you work voluntarily as a prostitute: ”What a stupid question, I say yes, but if that were not true I would also say yes. I estimate that 8 out of 10 women who work her are not voluntarily in prostitution”.

The POOP has the guts to say that practically no woman really voluntarily enters prostitution!!! Underlying causes of prostitution could have been, not given attention and warmth during childhood or incest/sexual abuse: who has gotten it voluntarily? We as social workers know that women as a first response always say that everything is going fine and that her profession is not a problem, until we get deeper contact. Then the distressing causes often surface. Also we hear from women who have worked as prostitutes for years, that they never have encountered women who liked working in prostitution. Reasons prostitutes often give why they entered prostitution are varied. We’ll name the most important ones:
-human trafficking: coming to the Netherlands under false pretences to quickly earn a lot of money in connection with poverty and lack of perspective in their country of origin.
-economic motives: very quickly earn a lot of money, mostly because of problematic debts.
-by loverboys [pimps who use romantic techniques to lure a girl/woman into prostitution]
-a drug addiction
-a history of maltreatment/incest/sexual abuse or a lack of warmth and attention during childhood.
In which other profession would you see such an enumeration? Perhaps you could even say: If the goal of the law, combating involuntary prostitution, would indeed be the aim, then nearly all prostitutes would be helped to step out.

How many women are factually working against their will in the sex-industry, is even more unclear. The WODC-report says that nearly half is saying that they rather want to stop with that work. They are only stopped from doing that because of the circumstances (they are stigmatized, don’t know how to start a new and different life, etc….)
Our own research on the streets indicates that the most important reasons why they have entered prostitution are money, financial problems and human trafficking..
Of those prostitutes 72% immediately want to stop and be eligible for a step-out-programme. That’s a much higher number than the WODC presents. Some have tried earlier, but returned because of problems with paying off their debts, didn’t find another job, no accommodation, language barrier or being illegal.

Furthermore the WODC states that three quarters of the prostitutes in the regulated sector say to enjoy their occupation, but [the WODC] immediately stresses that it doesn’t rule out negative feelings. It turns out that the WODC apparently does not want to substantiate its own research-data, because as stated earlier, when you continue to ask questions the prostitutes will indicate how many troubles they have and that they find their occupation humiliating at least. Also, the vast majority of those we surveyed say they feel unsafe. Some even feel threatened by customers and some say they have been raped by them. Even these numbers are strangely enough contradictory to the numbers of the WODC.
.
.
.
.
[skip]
.
.
.
.
Protecting the position of the prostitute
Since October 1, 2000 prostitution is a legal sector. This implies that employers and employees have to work by mutual agreement on normal labour relations. This is primarily a responsibility of the person concerned and they will be addressed because of that. [I don’t understand the previous sentence]. Of the 427 Dutch women the Scharlaken Koord encountered on de Wallen in 2001/2002 and who entered prostitution by a loverboy, there were no normal labour relations. In 7 out of 10 contacts, within 2 minutes the mobile phone rings and the woman behind the window immediately has to explain why she is not working and who is visiting her. Hereby a great difference becomes visible between the factual situation and the desired/presented situation of an independent entrepreneur or a self-confident employer who takes care of things. As stated earlier, of the 892 contacts with window-prostitutes in Amsterdam by the Scharlaken Koord in 2002, only 19 where independent entrepreneurs.
.
.
.
.
[skip]
.
.
.
.
[end]

Back to index

No comments: