Monday, April 30, 2007

Surprise!!

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Sometimes I believe we live in the twilight zone.

The government has released new reports which study the effect of the lifting on the ban of pimping (all released in 2007, research done in 2006):

Evaluatie opheffing bordeelverbod; gemeentelijk beleid
Evaluatie opheffing bordeelverbod; de sociale positie van prostituees 2006
Verboden bordelen; evaluatie opheffing bordeelverbod: niet-legale prostitutie
Prostitutie in Nederland na opheffing van het bordeelverbod

(NOTE: all the reports are in Dutch but also contain very lengthy summaries in English)

The reports are actually surprising. Lets focus on one of those reports: Evaluatie opheffing bordeelverbod; de sociale positie van prostituees 2006 (‘Evaluation lifting brothel ban; The social position of prostitutes 2006’). It is basically the follow up of another report ("De sociale positie van prostituees in de gereguleerde bedrijven een jaar na de wetswijziging”) (2002) ['The social position of prostitutes in the regulated businesses one year after the amendment'] .

Both reports show several surprising results. Many prostitutes (several hundreds in both reports) are interviewed and asked about things like their emotional well-being or how much freedom they have to choose clients. At first I didn’t take the first report (2002) too serious because I doubted if it represented the general population of prostitutes in the licensed sex businesses. The researchers approached the prostitutes directly and asked for a long interview and my guess was that victims of human trafficking would not have been particularly eager to participate. But also because most brothels simply didn’t cooperate. The researchers were also vague about response of the prostitutes. They just say that per brothel approached 2,1 prostitutes wanted to cooperate (of an estimated 5 or 6 prostitutes per brothel).

But the latter report is clearer (page 9). 34% of the approached businesses cooperated. Of the non response 28% was “objective”, that means the businesses were not contacted, or the telephone wasn’t answered, the telephone number didn’t exist, the business was discontinued or they didn’t open the door. There was a “subjective” non response of 38%. In these businesses prostitutes or proprietors were contacted but it didn’t result in an interview. In half of these cases it concerned a prostitute who didn’t want to cooperate because she didn’t feel the need to. In a quarter of these case proprietors didn’t feel the need to (and therefore also decided over the participation of the prostitutes). In the last quarter of the cases the prostitutes or the proprietors said they had no time. But what’s important is that the researchers stressed that [when] the researchers were allowed to enter a brothel, the prostitutes easily cooperated and they noticed no interference of the brothel owners, except for window prostitutes who often didn’t speak the proper language.

This time a lot of foreign born prostitutes were interviewed (page 8): 60%, among them also many Latin Americans (18%), Eastern Europeans (9%) and Thai women (5%). The prostitutes were also old (page 7), almost half were thirty years or older. Many escorts were very young (which corroborates with my own findings), almost 30% of the escort-prostitutes were 18 or 19. Also funny is that in this study the average period that the prostitutes have worked in prostitution is 2,3 years(page 17), this is much shorter than in the previous study which was 5,1 years (page 11).

The results are peculiar at best when you compare them with other observations (such as lots of accounts of forced prostitution, excessive us of drugs, bad labour conditions, low sexual self determination etc…, see the rest of my blog) Of the interviewed prostitutes 8% (27 of 343, see page 13/14) indicated they were forced. Here the researchers are vague, they say that a section of this group were initially forced and then started to work independently, but they are unfortunately not clear about how many prostitutes they actually interviewed who were still forced at the moment they were interviewed.

A very important result is that ‘only’ 17% said they entered prostitution because of debts (page 13). Other reasons were ‘better earnings, career switch, only way’ (27%), ‘extras, quick money’ (11%), ‘excitement’! (12%), and ‘other (cosiness and attention)’ (3%).

Also, in this report the distress levels are lower than of Dutch people in general!! This result is similar to the earlier report (page 48-49).

As I said before, I didn’t take the earlier report very serious, but because of the new report I doubt. These reports knock over three very important assumptions about prostitution in general. The first is that prostitutes enter prostitution because of poverty. The second is that there’s a relation between prostitution and post traumatic stress (like put forward by Melissa Farley in ‘Prostitution, Violence and Post-Traumatic Stress disorder’[1998]). The third is that there's a strong relation been prostitution and drug use (only 5% indicates to regularly use harddrugs in both reports). And the fourth is that there's a strong relation between prostitution and human trafficking. And regarding the last point, why did the researchers encounter so very few victims of this crime?

There’s also another report: Verboden bordelen; evaluatie opheffing bordeelverbod: niet-legale prostitutie [‘Forbidden brothels; evaluation liften brothel ban: non-legal prostitution’]. Main conclusions: the supply and demand has dropped (page 96-97), the variety in nationalities has decreased (page 97), the laws are not very clear for prostitutes and proprietors (page 97-98), the non licensed segment of the prostitution industry seems to be small (page 98-100), prostitution by minors seems to be rare - also in the non-licensed segment of prostitution (page 100-101), the number of illegal prostitutes seems to have dropped (page 101), signals of forced prostitution and exploitation have rarely been encountered (page 102) and the awareness of proprietors and clients about involuntariness, exploitation and exploitation has increased (page 102-103).

These researchers stress that many involved in prostitution state that for instance many Russian have disappeared into the ‘illegal circuit’ but cannot indicate what constitutes the illegal circuit (page 103). The conclusion of the researchers is that the ‘illegal circuit’ doesn’t exist to a large extent.

Heyyyy, maybe the ‘quest’ for the ‘voluntary’ prostitute is solved. This is beginning to look like the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Maybe the truth is that THERE ARE NO FORCED PROSTITUTES in the Netherlands!!!! (okay don’t exaggerate) But still, this is in total contradiction with other sources. I need a lot of conspiracy theories to solve this problem.

Really, I’m scratching my head. That's because a couple of months ago actually a large gang of human traffickers has been rounded up which has exploited at least a 100 prostitutes in the window brothels of Amsterdam, Utrecht and Alkmaar. No signals? And why have the researchers not interviewed these women?

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