Saturday, May 05, 2007

Surprise - part 2!!!!!

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I don’t know what to believe. Pick and choose what you like. There’s a new Volkskrant article written by Menno van Dongen ("reportage Misstanden in de prostitutie - Gevangen achter het raam" ["report - abuses in prostitution - Imprisoned behind the window"](Volkskrant, Menno van Dongen, May 5th 2007), May 5fth, 2007). Some quotes:

(…) For six weeks the Volkskrant followed specialists of the Dutch police who are doing research into a violent gang of human traffickers. During the last years this gang forced at least 90 women to work against their will behind the windows of Amsterdam, Alkmaar, Utrecht and The Hague. The women were guarded by bodyguards and were being maltreated in a horrendous way.
‘This organization is only the tip of the iceberg’, according to Jan van Til, teamleader of the Unit Noord- en Oost Nederland of the Nationale Recherche [criminal investigation department].
‘There are more of these sort of organizations’, according to Henk Werson, national co-coordinator human trafficking at the police. ‘Many prostitutes are forced to earn thousands of euros per week by their pimp and are maltreated if they don’t achieve that.’ (…)
‘In the Hague roughly 70 percent of the window prostitutes are victims of human trafficking’, says 33 year old vice investigator Anita. She has worked [and still works] for years for the Ploeg Commerciële Zeden [team commercial vice] and started her career as a local policeman on the tippelzone.
‘Many women are victims, but don’t know that themselves, or they don’t want to know.’, states the inspector [Anita]. ‘For them it’s a big step to acknowledge they have been tricked, for instance, through a loverboy method. They feel ashamed, are scared or believe they are in love with their pimp.’ (…)
Most vice investigators have been trained by Henk Werson, specialist in the area of victims of human trafficking. He works at he Expertisecentrum Mensenhandel en Mensensmokkel [expert centre human trafficking and people smuggling] in Zwolle, a division of the National Recherche. In addition Werson is national co-coordinator human trafficking at the police; he describes himself as the ‘driver and advisor’ of the team that researchers the activities of the brothers B. [the gang which exploited at least 90 women] and their accomplices.
According to Werson only a few window prostitutes satisfy the ideal picture of the woman who enters the profession voluntarily, doesn’t have to hand over money and can choose for herself when she works and which clients she takes. ‘That’s true for only 1 or 2 percent of the prostitutes. And then there are the women who have worked against their will for so long, that they got used to the profession. They are not forced but think that they can’t do anything else.’
But still a large majority of the prostitutes say they entered their profession voluntarily, according to a recent report by the Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum (WODC, scientific research and documentation centre) of the ministry of justice (they mean this report: Evaluatie opheffing bordeelverbod; de sociale positie van prostituees 2006). Werson says that the testimonies of the prostitutes are unreliable on this issue. ‘They will nearly all deny that they are forced, even if that is the case. In all kinds of researches it turns out that at least between 70 and 80 percent of the women don’t do this work voluntarily [I've actually never seen such a report]. That’s also what we hear from ex-prostitutes.’
The police-expert states that many women have good reasons to keep silent about compulsion. ‘Many prostitutes are maltreated, threatened or charmed by a pimp. Some maybe started voluntarily, but what you often see, is that quickly a pimp shows up who says: if you don’t give me your earnings, I will tell your family that you are in the profession. Then you have a problem, because prostitution is still taboo.’ (…)
Dutch women are often charmed by pimps who try to make girls dependent on them, says Henk Werson, the human trafficking specialist of the police. Many people call such pimps loverboys, but that word we never use at the police, because it’s being romanticized. They are ruthless human traffickers, who use a sort of loverboy-method: they approach vulnerable girls, promise them everything and try to make them fall in love. When that is achieved, they are being put to work in prostitution and are isolated from family and friends. To stop is then almost impossible.
‘What you often see with foreign women, is that their family is threatened, or that they are brought to the Netherlands by human traffickers and thereafter have to pay off a huge, large fictive debt for the journey’, according to the police expert. ‘The interest percentage is mostly so huge, that they never can relieve their debt. Many women hardly complain, because they can make a lot more money here than in their own country. Still you can speak of exploitation.’ (…)

I repeat, I don’t know what to believe anymore. For instance, the articles talks about 70 percent of the window prostitutes in The Hague who are forced. That’s also what a client told me on a forum. Funny is that Paul van Gelder (one of the contributors on one of the recent WODC-reports, the one about 'Verboden bordelen; evaluatie opheffing bordeelverbod: niet-legale prostitutie' in which he researched the situation in Amsterdam) has also done fieldwork in The Hague in the recent past and he said to me that many prostitutes who work there are independent!!!! But, he also gave me the advice to go into the prostitution neighbourhoods and observe the prostitutes when they have their lunch-brake. If you see them sit with each other having a lunch, then according to van Gelder, they are independent. He probably assumes that all forced prostitutes are monitered 24 hours a day, which could explain why he believes many window prostitutes in The Hague are independent.

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9 comments:

Lincoln said...

There is nothing simple when it comes to prostitution.

http://www.prostitutionprocon.org

high said...

I'd love to hear from you... really. it sounds a bit like a story i know. I have some doubts and I guess you could help put my mind at ease.

Jonathan said...

Donkey, as you know I've dealt with this issue since many years ago, here in Italy.
The conclusion of Dutch government's report doesn't surprise me at all: every reasonable assumption and every serious research done (like 2004 Norwegian government's research about Netherlands and Sweden) were already perfectly clear and conclusive.
That 8% (eight-per-cent) of (initially) forced is completely plausible, whereas the journalistic statement of "70% of slaves" is bullshit as usual: please listen to researchers, not to journalists!
And I can't believe hearing a policeman saying something as stupid as ‘Many women are victims, but don’t know that themselves, or they don’t want to know.’!
I told you many months ago: the "loverboys" argument is the last line of defense of anti-prostitution people, especially now that legalization turned out to be successful.
They can't show the "trafficker", so they show the "loverboy" saying "Hey, a loverboy is as much as dangerous as a trafficker, even if the prostitute believes to be in love with him!".
Well, a prostitute is just a woman, like every other woman, and has the full right to choose her boy-friend, even the wrong boy-friend. But that doesn't mean she is forced by him.

I'll tell you a story:
in January 2007, italian Police completed a huge anti-prostitution operation, called "Spartacus".
Four months of investigation led to 800 people arrested plus 1300 people charged. A huge operation: if you have (at least) 800 traffickers arrested, of course there were thousands of prostitutes involved. Newspapers wrote about "slaves set free", just a few journalist reported the REAL number (official Police number!) of women found to be slaves (and so put in protection plans): 45 ...
Yes: FORTY-FIVE slaves out of EIGHT HUNDRED prostitutes (AT LEAST)!.
Please don't waste your time making the calculation, I'll tell you: it's about 6% (SIX-PER-CENT). Six per cent of slaves, not more. And the number of prostitutes involved is likely to be much greater than 800 (because usually every pimp manages more than a prostitute), so the real share of slaves is probably even lower!
By the way, the most reputed italian researcher in the field, Parsec institute, estimated from 8% to 15% the percentage of slaves in street prostitution in year 2005 (indoor prostitution in Italy is considered to be much more free from trafficking, so that percentage should decrease considering indoor also).
So, you can see that all good numbers usually agree among themselves and reality supports good researches ...

Can you really think that in Netherlands, that has legal brothels, thorough regulations and Police controls, forced prostitution could be more widespread than in Italy, whose prostitution market is unregulated and is at least for an half on the streets?

Donkey said...

That depends on what you define as slavery. I’m perfectly aware that the big majority of foreign women in prostitution in the Netherlands know that they would be working in prostitution. But one thing doesn’t rule out the other. One can choose to work in prostitution and still be exploited. What is important to me is how much the women can decide what happens with their bodies. That’s called sexual self determination. Many sources indicate that the large majority of the Eastern European prostitutes are exploited, even in this time when many of these women from the new EU-countries can legally work here. Such evidence also exists for many Dutch window prostitutes. Other sources indicate that even most prostitutes are exploited, the foreign as well as the Dutch prostitutes. And then it doesn’t matter that the women knew they would be working in prostitution.

Often prostitutes are divided into the guilty women and the innocent women. The guilty women are the ones who choose to work in prostitution, they will be punished and expelled, even when they actually were forced. The innocent women are the ones who were unaware that they would do this work, they are sheltered and protected. What selection procedure is used to separate the 45 from the rest?

Also the fact that a woman doesn’t believe she is forced doesn’t mean that by definition she is not forced. Many women who are abused by there husbands choose to stay with their husbands. But does that mean that when he orders her to work in prostitution that we as men are free to abuse these women because the woman chooses to stay with him?

This is what TAMPEP has to say about prostitutes who are exploited (TAMPEP – final report, 1994, page 61):
“The sex workers feel the power of the trafficking networks and the intermediaries as a great weight which controls not only their lives, their resources and their mobility, but which can also have serious consequences for their legal status or otherwise in the various European countries.
Such a situation leads the sex workers to adopt the condition of passive, guilty victims to such a degree that they come to see themselves as criminals, a self estimation which is reinforced by the social stigma attached to them as non European immigrants. The traffickers and go-betweens on the other hand, knowing the language and the social medium as they do, remain unblemished. In these circumstances it is very difficult for the women to denounce the people who traffic them, exploit them, and mistreat them.”


It could be an explanation why relatively so few prostitutes say to researchers they are forced. But I have to admit, it could be the reality. I hope it is.

Jonathan said...

"One can choose to work in prostitution and still be exploited".

One can be exploited (for example, by a parasitic "loverboy" to whom the woman voluntarily give part of her earnings), but at the same time NOT FORCED.

I mean, the only important factor is exactly what you said:
"What is important to me is how much the women can decide what happens with their bodies. That’s called sexual self determination."
I fully agree and that's the reason I refuse to consider such "loverboys" as traffickers, they usually are just parasites.

"Many women who are abused by there husbands choose to stay with their husbands."
True, and those husbands deserve to be jailed.
But to persuade someone to prostitute is completely different to beat her: beating is a crime, convincing is part of human relationships.
And, by the way, those beaten women know very well they are abused, just accept the situation (often for wrong reasons, such the fear to lose her "husband") surely it cant' be said that "they are victims, but don’t know that themselves"!

About the 45 slaves in Italy, the Police procedure is simple.
We have a very generous law in Italy: if a prostitute goes to the Police station and asks the Police to be protected, Police asks a judge to give her a stay permits "for protection", that allow her not only to be protected but to be helped in finding a "normal" job too.
A really precious "gift" for a foreigner, thet quite often is clandestine!
And the prostitute is not even enforced to denounce her traffickers, to have the permit!
They are just asked to "cooperate with investigators", a quite vague statement.
This has lead to an abnormal number of "stay permits for protection reasons", because many prostitutes just want to obtain a stay permit before stopping their activity and changing job or, in some cases, just wants the stay permit, after that they return to prostitute themselves again, voluntarily.
So they often lie about their slavery, also because they are not forced to denounce anyone.
Judge just has to evaluate if the prostitute could be threatened, usually asking to the Police.
But when a prostitute says she is threatened and Police has no sure information about that, they say to the judge "OK, she could be threatened, please give her the permit".

The case of "Operation Spartacus" is different: the Police discovered the trafficker and exploiters, so Police had a clear picture of the circumstances. Given the huge number of arrested, you can surely assume that these now destroyed gangs managed many thousands of prostitutes, all of them suddenly found themselves in a enviable position: the exploiters were arrested, so eliminating the threats, and the women could easily ask for protection and help, if really menaced.
Well, it seems that just 45 of them asked for protection and help in finding an "honest job" and/or were credible at requesting it.
A number incredibly low if you believe to the "all-are-slaves" fairytale but absolutely credible if you look at them as volunteer prostitutes.
Moreover, prostitution in Italy is largely composed by rumanian and bulgarian girls, that since January 1st 2007 are EU citizens: so, suddenly they found to be free from exploiters (that usually are not real traffickers forcing girls, they are just pimps) and to be freely move in and out of Italy!
They no longer need exploiters to move and stay in Italy and, lo and behold!, Police arrested the exploiters: the "Operation Spartacus" was a godsend for those women!
In fact, just after "Operation Spartacus" and after January 1st there has been a remarkable rise in street prostitution in Italy, reportedly mainly by rumanians and bulgarians (what a surprise! :-) ), notwithstanding the many arrests of exploiters!
That fact is well explained with the voluntary prostitution, that moreover in many cases no longer needs exploiters for "logistical" reasons.

By the way last October, speaking on italian TV "Canale 5", the assistant chief of italian Police, as well as the national coordinator against trafficking, explicitely said that the slaves are about 10% of the overall prostitution.

So, you can see that all good numbers usually agree among themselves and reality, and Police too, supports good researches ... ;-)

Donkey said...

Yes, but what do they mean with 10? Do they mean 10% who are lured under false pretences?

The numbers in the Netherlands which are singing around (also mentioned by our national rapporteur on human trafficking) is 3.500 (extrapolated from the number of charges pressed against human traffickers) out of an estimated 25.000 prostitutes. But I know how those numbers have been calculated and it is not entirely convincing. In the same report where Essy van Dijk (“Mensenhandel in Nederland” http://www.politie.nl/Nieuws/Images/32_6540.pdf) calculated this number she states very convincingly (also drawn from the profeit-studie) that actually most of the foreign women are exploited and therefore are victim of human trafficking. Well, out of an estimated 68% of the prostitutes in the Netherlands, you can make a simple calculation that if that were true that at least 34% would be forced. And she goes on to say that probably also most Dutch and legal residing prostitutes are exploited, so that would really mean 50% at least. Why did she then calculate the 3.500 figure? Why is the media not using the 50% at least figure?

But then again, perhaps the 10% figure is indeed the more realistic figure. I surely hope that it is, because that would make things a lot easier to solve. It mind boggles me that there is no fixed scientific way to find out, even after 3 years of researching.

Okay something about definitions. Hillary Kinnell uses this one
( see http://www.nswp.org/pdf/KINNELL-FEMINISTS.PDF ):
-was subject to force or the fear of force
was subject to threats or fear of serious harm or serious detriment to themselves or another person
was abducted or unlawfully detained
was unconscious
was unable to communicate by reason of physical disability
had agreement given for them by a third party

Well, that is a very good definition, where I initially would have immediately agreed. But I could imagine that a prostitute could also be extorted by spreading nude pictures or other harmful information (like working in prostitution!) for instance. That’s not in this definition, but I would surely consider that as force. I’ve tried to create a strict definition myself, and I’ve given up because I don’t know exactly where to draw the line. Where does force end and freedom begin?

In one of the volkskrant-articles it is mentioned what happened to the prostitutes who were controlled by the gang which exploited at least 90 women. They still work in prostitution, but many simply don’t press charges. And the article doesn’t mention that they have sought help. According to the article the recruited women were prostitutes whom the gang members visited as clients (to recruit them).

Jonathan said...

"Yes, but what do they mean with 10? Do they mean 10% who are lured under false pretences?"

The police chief didn't specified it on TV, but the concept of "sex slave" in Italy, used by researchers and Police too, is related to being deceived and then forced to stay in prostitution, usually by the means of personal threats or menaces to their families.
Another case of slavery could be a former volunteer prostitute being prevented with brute force to stop prostituting oneself if she wants.

In Italy, researchers and Police usually tell apart, correctly, pimps from real traffickers in human being.
Just journalist, politicians, priests and nazi-feminists make a mess of the two concepts.
Pimps are exploiters, they get a part of the girl's earnings, usually depending on an agreement between them and the woman (money against lodging and transportation); in this case girls are NOT slave and that's the case of the most part of foreign prostitutes in Italy (no trafficker controls her, but a pimp is present).
Traffickers, on the contrary, force woman to prostitute themselves, against their will; that's the case of less than 20% of prostitutes in Italy, according to researchers and Police (20% was estimated ten years ago, now it really seems that is could be much less than 15%).
By the way, in Italy we have no concept and almost no debate about "loverboys" (luckily, I had to add): if a boyfriend asks and obtains money from a prostitutes, without inducing or forcing her, it's usually see as a private matter between the two, not a crime. On paper, a judge could charge him of aiding or even exploiting, but usually that's not enforced.
We usually fight against real exploiters gangs and traffickers in slaves, not against parasitic boyfriends.

I'm under the impression that anti-prostitution people in the Netherlands purposely make a mess of the terms "pimp", "trafficker in slaves" and "loverboy", to raise estimates of forced prostitution.
That could explain statements such the one you reported: "actually most of the foreign women are exploited and therefore are victim of human trafficking".
In my view (and in italian Police and researchers' view) to have a pimp (exploiter) doesn't mean to be a victim of trafficking, because in the most cases there is a free (even if not legal) agreement between volunteer prostitute and pimp.

About forced prostitution, the most common story related to "slaves" is the girl being lured with the promise of an "honest job" in Italy and then forced to prostitution. This was more frequent until ten years ago, especially for albanian girls (the first batch of foreign prostitutes that arrived in Italy at the beginning of the Nineties, unfortunately being controlled by the most brutal gangs).
At present, I bet that 99% of east-european girls already perfectly know where the danger is, after all they watch TV (albanians can watch even italian TV).
So those stories, when heard these days, usually mean just two things: 1) embarassement to admit a voluntary job 2) wish to grab a stay permit "for protection", as I told you before.
By the way, albanian prostitution has decreased markedly in Italy, also because of so much brutality during the first years: women learned the lesson.

Donkey said...

I hope you're right.

I have to correct myself, I said that I "hope" 10% would be a realistic estimate, I obviously hope that it is 0% (I'm not a sadist).

Anonymous said...

A short web search on prostitution told me that some 6% to 95% of prostitution in Europe is forced. With such discrepancies, I don't believe anybody anymore.

However, there is one thing that seems to be certain: Any legislation that doesn't discriminate heavily against pimps has failed from the start. If, in their world, pimps are gods and whores cattle, then this pattern should be inverted whenever the law gets involved.

I'd suggest a legislation that makes any direct or indirect property transfer from prostitute to pimp invalid. Any money given would be considered a loan, preferably with high interest rates. If the prostitute would not claim it (because of fear, death, etc.), then the state would be entitled to seize it and use it to helb abused women and children. Just an idea in need of a lot of elaboration.

But, of course, I do not make any laws. The law is made by people like the US Government, which officially states that prostitution is a horrible abuse of women and therefore its victims must be punished. Yes, check out their websites, that's what they say. And there is little reason to assume that other governments apply more logic to the subject. So what to do? I don't know.