Sunday, December 26, 2010

Another blast from the past!!!!

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I’m looking through the archives of all the human trafficking stories I have collected throughout the last 6 years. Many I haven’t even read yet. I’m performing statistical analyses on them. There are some very shocking and horrific stories, but also some cases that make me wonder. There are the ones who say that human trafficking doesn’t exist. That prostitution is a noble profession, and that all the prostitutes who say say it isn't are lying bitches. That the supposed victims only want to get a residence permit and then say they are victims of trafficking, or they are so jealous about their boyfriends having relationships with other prostitutes that they go to the police and file a complaint against him.

In between the mountain of trafficking stories I have found some very peculiar cases, which seem to support these claims in some cases.

I want to start with a very old story way back from 1997 from the newspaper 'De Volkskrant':
the link is over here

I'll provide a complete unofficial translation:
‘Russische hoeren gespitst op verblijfsstatus en uitkering’ [Russian whores focused on residence permit and welfare]

Mark van Driel – June 25 1997

Not in the Bloedstraat, not in de Enge Kerksteeg, but behind the Krasnapolsky near the koffieshop. That’s where her lucky window lies, thinks Katia Ivanva [fictive name]…

For more than three years Katia hasn’t been on de Wallen. The frail, dark blonde Russian woman (24) has married in the mean time, works as an accountant in the bread factory of her father and lives in Solnechnogorsk just outside Moscow. Amsterdam belongs to her past, until she unexpectedly was summoned as a witness in the trial against her former pimp Wladimir C., a 32-year old Russian who is suspected of women trafficking.

Katia is one of the thirteen young prostitutes who in 1993 filed testimonies at the police about Wladimir. A part is incriminating. Six women say that they have been lured under false pretenses to the Netherlands. Supposedly they were promised work as stripper, flower girl or waitress. Once in Amsterdam, with a large debt through the purchase of the airplane ticket and visa, they were forced to work behind the window.

The other seven women, among them Katia, says that they voluntarily - on the invitation of Wladimir - went to work on de Wallen. There was not a bit of coercion, but of a business deal. The former policeman arranged a temporary visa, accommodation and a window, and in exchange got 150 guilders per worked evening. The women most of them highly educated, were allowed to arrange their own working hours. They earned approximately six hundred guilders per night.

From the testimonies that the judge read aloud during the session, it turned out that also prostitutes whom accused Wladimir of exploitation, profited from some ‘labour standars’. Also these women traveled between their area of birth and de Wallen, without accompaniment of Wladimir.

The lawyer of Wladimir, mr. M. van Vuuren, believes the travel information and the telephone wiretaps of the police prove that the women worked in prostitution voluntarily. The Russian women lived in the house of Wladimir or came to visit there. Nowhere it turns out that they were beaten or exploited, he says. A girl even flew back to Russia without compensating for her ticket, without reprisals.

Van Vuuren suspects that the incriminating testimonies have been made up. He believes that the women wanted to profit from the arrangement which is meant to protect victims of human trafficking. According to chapter B 17 of the Vreemdelingcirculaire (circular letter for aliens) a woman can - in exchange of an incriminating testimony against a trafficker - get a residence permit that is valid during the period of the trial. Sometimes they also get welfare.

The Russian women made use of the deal to prevent their deportation when they were encountered without valid papers behind the window, thinks Van Vuuren. From the telephone wiretaps it turns out that the women discussed the arrangement mutually. With the temporary residence status and the welfare they supposedly kept on working.

The Public Prosecutor acknowledges that the women can profit from the B 17-arrangement. How often the measure was offered to the victims, is unknown. About abuse [of B-17] there isn’t information either. The abuse [of B-17] can only be prevented, says the spokesperson, by deporting the women and (letting) them be interrogated in the country of origin. That’s expensive and doesn’t happen often.

Katia Ivanova, the only prostitute who appeared in the courtroom to give evidence, confirmed the suspicions of the lawyer under oath. The girls lied about Wladimir to be allowed to stay in the Netherlands, she later says in a café. They later kept on working with welfare with another pimp.

Weren’t they afraid of Wladimir, who [the prostitutes] - because of the false accusations - could get into trouble? Katia laughs cheerfully. ‘Wladimir dangerous? He’s much too reliable for that. He doesn’t belong to the mafia, but earned a little bit extra with us. In the meantime he tried to set up an import and export firm; in fruit juice, motor oil, cars.’

Also lawyer Van Vuuren sees Wladimir as a starting, not very clever businessman. From the telephone wiretaps it turns out that often he had money problems. To make ends meet he took all kinds of moonlight jobs. Except of being a pimp he also was a paperboy and, shortly, re-stocker of the shelves.

Wladimir, who was arrested in Germany last year, is back in Moscow. The judge immediately set him free Friday after the session. The punishment which the Russian (possibly) gets next week, will because of that most certainly be lower that his detention of remand of ten months.

Punishment the Russian will get, thinks Van Vuuren. He predicts that the pimp will be duped by an ‘inaccurate formulation in the law’. The law speaks of human trafficking when a person bring women to the Netherlands and offers them work in prostitution. Even when the women work voluntarily behind the window you can speak of illicit traffic. Two partners of Wladimir were sentenced to nine and eighteen months in prison in 1994 because of that reason.

Katia responds with relieve to the release of her former pimp. She hopes that her testimony has helped, because she had to lie to be able to appear in Amsterdam. Her husband and parents know nothing about her past in prostitution. She always maintained that she has worked in the Netherlands as an accountant.

‘It was about money and adventure’, says Katia. ‘I was nineteen and wanted to make pleasure. And Amsterdam is safer for girls than Moscow. ‘She doesn’t have regrets , but feels some shame. But she has stopped on time, she knows. Contrary to a girlfriend. Who sits in Haarlem behind a window: divorced, child taken from her, on cocaine.

A lucky window doesn’t last forever, Katia realises when she stands for the closed curtains of her favourite window. She shivers, wants to leave quickly and seeks explanations for the ominous feelings that befall her. ‘The atmosphere is totally different. It stinks. Al those men, al the black women. It’s not like in the past. Or perhaps I have changed?’

The name Katia Ivanova is fictitious.
So, that's a totally weird story. Six women who say they are forced? That cannot be a coincidence. I would say that Wladimir is a very bad man! After reading this story at first, I believe, hey, this Wladimir is really innocent. But now that I think about this longer, I do remember that there are cases of human traffickers being nice to one group of prostitutes, but treating another group badly. Perhaps this is the case here. Human traffickers treat different prostitutes differently. And perhaps Katia was one of the accomplices. She perhaps was one of the bad traffickers herself.

Another solution to this mysterious story is that indeed several women were promised the wrong jobs, but immediately after arriving accepted the indecent proposal to work in prostitution, were treated relatively well after that, and were happy with the situation. I know several cases about this happening. And what could have happened in this case is that after they left Wladimir they indeed wanted to have a residence permit and went to the police saying that they were tricked, which may not be a lie. Perhaps they were tricked initially, but collaborated with Wladimir after that.

I cannot make cheese of this story. But, it is still strange why women have to hand over money to men who don't do anything but receiving money. Why don't the women buy plane tickets for themselves and live in hotel rooms if they don't know a place to live? Why can't these women arrange these things for themselves?

But, I have found other very weird stories. The next story will be a story of how a girl falls in love with a man and within days after meeting him on TMF-chat works for him behind a window.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Making love as work

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I promised to review the book ‘Beminnen als beroep – mijn carrière als courtisane’ [making love as a profession – my career as a courtisane] by Roos Bachelier (2010, not her birth year, and a pseudonym). A Dutch book written by a Dutch prostitute.

Roos Bachelier is a mother of pubescent children. She is an older prostitute and very proud that her belly is still tight after giving birth to her children. She is active in the swingers’ scene and very open-minded. She has worked until recently in Dutch prostitution for many years (at least eight), mainly in club Mayfair in The Hague (which also hosts ‘privehuis Stout’ by the way, which is visited once). To illustrate how open-minded she is: her first entry in the world of prostitution began as an experiment in a swingers’-club under the presence of a female friend and her husband (of the latter). The husband played the role of a pimp and with the two of them they received clients. Also, when she married once, they had a special 'fuck-the-bride' wedding party.

In the book she mainly describes sexual encounters with clients. In my opinion, these stories are not so important. But, I want to know what she thinks about forced prostitution, and she has something to say about that. For me it still it big enigma if all the fuzz about forced prostitution is all just that …. a big fuzz, or is or was it real? Is there anything for a client to be afraid of?

After all the years that she has worked in club Mayfair she has encountered one prostitute who was forced. She describes her in the chapter called : Zorajah the insecure (in Dutch: ‘Zorajah de onzekere’). She is a young Moroccan woman who is forced to work by her husband. She was 18 years old (at that time), and already worked in prostitution for one-and-a-half year. They wanted to save money for an expensive marriage. He keeps all the money in a safe. She is not very good at refusing harmful request by clients. Two weeks after Zorajah stopped working in that club lurid men came to the club to collect some of her stuff that was still there. They were sent away by the managment. Roos tells that she feels sad about Zorajah. According to her forced prostitution does happen, within the margin, but still it does.

In another episode a vice inspector enters the brothel who inspects if there aren’t any forced prostitutes around by the way. He asks Roos if she does this work voluntarily. She becomes very agitated. She asks him ‘do you do you work voluntarily?’. ‘You do know what I mean?’ he says. She says ‘I understand very well what you mean. Exactly that’s why. I work to work, to earn money. Isn’t that what you also do?’. He says ‘let me ask it differently. The money that you earn, is that for yourself or for somebody else?’ She says ‘the money that I earn is only for a small part for myself. Most of it is for the bank, then a part goes to the supermarket, the shoe store, I pay the school fees of my children with it. Actually only little remains for myself.’ He says ‘but you don’t have to hand over your money to a man?’ While laughing she answers ‘to a man? Hell no. On the contrary, men lose their money to me when they come near me, the other way around doesn’t happen. May I ask something maybe?’. He answers ‘yes of course that may. ‘. ‘What do you think to accomplish with these questions?’ she asks. He says ‘In your case not so much. You probably do your work here voluntarily, that is clear now.‘ She says ‘but do you really believe that with these questions you can pick out a girl who doesn’t work here voluntarily?’ He says ‘You obviously never know, but that probability is very small. Actually it never happened to me. But I also give my visiting card. And it does happen that I get a response to that later. That nevertheless such a girl starts to think and asks for help. Then we can jump into action.’ She asks ‘What can you do for her? ‘ He answers ‘depending on the situation, mostly not so much. We can help her to leave the circuit, together with other organizations. It is complicated. But don’t you agree that abuses should be tackled?’ She says ‘Of course abuses should be tackled. But the real abuses, if you think about pimps, abuse, maltreatment don’t happen in a club like this! If you are a minor you are even not allowed to work here. If you are illegal you aren’t allowed to work here. Those abuses take place in an underground circuit. Because of the bad legislation and because of the arrival of internet that underground segment has become much larger. That’s where the abuses are. That’s something you should do something about as vice police. What could help in my opinion is that the minimum age of prostitutes is lifted to twenty-three years old. Young women who do this work, there mostly is a pimp behind that. If you are older, you are often also somewhat wiser, don’t let yourself be tricked by a man. Young women without self-confidence, they are vulnerable. But they don’t work in a club. A pimp will not put a girl in a club very quickly, there she is outside of his sphere of influence, she will be made independent way too quickly by her colleagues. Those girls are in another circuit, where there’s being worked without licenses.’

She says (in the same chapter as Wouter the cop) that in the eight years that she has worked in prostitution she never has encountered a woman who was violently forced to do this work. She does know that when at one point you want to do something else it could be handy to hide yourself behind a pitiful story, to get the social workers into action, to get understanding from society and get money for retraining. It seems easier to carry the humiliation when you are found pitiful because you couldn’t help it. She tells that whomever colleague she speaks, the most difficult part they never find the sex. If a girl abhors sex with an older man, she simply refuses him. The most difficult part is the moral condemnation from society. Social workers can’t help with that, they confirm it.

Another interesting part from the book is her chapter about Tara the window prostitute. At the time Roos knew Tara she worked in the club with Roos, but at first Tara worked behind the windows in Amsterdam. She started to work in prostitution at the age of 23 and works in prostitution for seven years. Tara tells that when she worked in window prostitution, that at first she had fifteen clients a day and that every day she went home with 1500 to 2000 Euros. She had a good connection with the other Dutch prostitutes. They were good colleagues, cooperated well together and helped each other. The prices were fixed, 50 Euro for a quarter of an hour. If the client wanted something more, like a different position or another piece of clothing that had to go off, he had to pay more. The rent of the room was 150 Euro, plus other costs (including condoms and parking) it cost 200 Euros to work. But you earned that back very easily. But then….. the Eastern European prostitutes came. They were all here to make money quickly. She never noticed anything about human trafficking. They do everything for 30 Euro. One after the other Dutch prostitute stopped. The good atmosphere was completely gone. Gradually she earned less. At first she went home with 2000 Euros a day, then it went to 1500 or even 1000. It went worse. It became normal to go home only with 600 or 700 Euro. Then came the days that she went home with nothing, and even TWO days in a row that she had nothing……

I find these testimonies very peculiar. Roos’ claim that there is no coercion in the club she works sounds plausible. This is an expensive club and it could be true that forced prostitution mainly happens in cheaper brothels. And above all, Roos mainly worked in that club. But Tara’s story surprises me. Of window prostitution you hear very often that the pimps are very present in these areas, and that they often approach and extort the independent prostitutes. Open violence against prostitutes by pimps on the street (!) is reported to be very common, and very visible. And many young window prostitutes, also the Dutch prostitutes, are forced by pimps. However, I have encountered prostitutes before who swear (in print and in chat) that nothing special happens in window prostitution in Amsterdam, and all the stories about human trafficking are just a mosquito made into an elephant. So, what’s the truth?

The enigma continues....

She also did a radio interview radio 1. In the radio interview she says that forced prostitution cannot represent more than 5% of the prostitutes. And all the Eastern European prostitutes in the club knew what work the were going to do.