19 March 2013

Prostitution in the News

In the last month or so, prostitution has been in the news a lot. Alongside of all this news that I have been trying to keep up with, I have attended the film Nefarious, as well as attending a day seminar on trafficking and spending an evening focusing on trafficking signals with other volunteers from the crisis center of the community. I feel like I ought thus to know more now about prostitution and/or trafficking and that I also ought to share what I know. But I don't really know what to say.

I'm not sure if the Swedish model of punishing those visiting prostitutes is good for the women working now in prostitution, irrelevent of the conclusions made during the recent trip of Hilkens and Segers to check things out. I wish there was a way to fight against the culturally accepted idea that "men need to have sex" and that having sex with those underage would be morally apprehensible to everyone, but I have no idea how to do that. Better policy is not always the answer. I would think that changing the age of prostitution from 18 to 21 (the current plan in Amsterdam) would make things better by decreasing the chance of those entering into prostitution under the influence of a pimp/loverboy, but others have questioned if this won't simply push more prostitution underground. More than enough questionable things happen by and to those claiming to work for escortsservices or from home. Ensuring that those working behind the windows speak English, Dutch, or Spanish (another plan here in Amsterdam) will also hopefully decrease the chances of women being trafficked here from places like Bulgaria or Hungary. At the same time, the circumstances in those countries haven't changed so women will continue to come and continue to use the services of those willing to bring them here illegally (i.e., human traffickers). More news has been that Patricia Perquin has lost her anonymity, which has immediately raised questions about the validity of her story. It is a pity, as her book had much good to say, irrelevant of whether it is all her own personal story. Furthermore, this past weekend two prostitutes were attacked (Amsterdam and Utrecht) and there was a huge questioning in Alkmaar that has led to arrests, but both events raise questions about how prostitutes are treated and seen by the wider society.

The buzz in the news feels more irritating than helpful - and I'm not sure how my voice will help. Furthermore, all those news items seem irrelevant in light of the real women with names and stories who I am allowed to visit every other week. Is it not more relevant news that one of the woman who I always visited disappeared without a trace or without saying good-bye? She lived in Alkmaar, a city known as an easy place for those who are illegal to begin. And she worked every night, a fact I found out only after she'd left. What mess was and is she involved in? How much do I worry and how do I pray for her?

And is it not even more relevant news that I got to share with some of the women that we worry about them sometimes? From the woman desperately searching for a new place to live (how does one find an affordable place to rent in Amsterdam outside of the social housing?!?), to the woman who had worked at least 50 of the last 60 hours, to the woman working on her Dutch, to the woman making plans and working hard to begin a life outside of prostitution.

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