Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Challenging Users and Abusers of Prostitutes, including Traffickers and the Police: The Radical Feminist Work of Ruchira Gupta's organisation, A2W2, and of Sheila Jeffries

[a2w2 poster image is from here]

What does Audre Lorde mean when she says,
"the masters tools will never dismantle the masters house"?

From a larger sense, Lorde is suggesting that the notion of empowerment and reclamation of voice can only happen when there is a pure transformation of paradigm. Individuals that seek to enhance voice and discourse can only do so when they are committed to increasing power and sharing it with these voices. For example, if a company is not committed to racial and ethnic inclusion, but installs a person of color in their bevy of vice presidents or other executives, little, if anything, changes. The "master's house" is still present as well as the repression of voice. Simple and shallow forms of inclusion do not alter the imbalance of power in dynamics and relationships. Only when there is a true transformation, or dismantling of "the master's house," can there be change to the house and those who inhabit it. [source: here]

"Unless law enforcement agencies take action against
traffickers, no human rights programmes
for victims and survivors can be implemented."

"India must change its anti-trafficking law to
dismantle the system of prostitution immediately."

-- Ruchira Gupta, Geneva, 2010

One of many arguments put forth by pro-prostitution activists including pimps and procurers is concern for women's safety and how to assist in making the lives of women in some systems of prostitution safer. It is a matter that warrants careful review--not because pimps and procurers claim to care (I don't accept that they do). It ought to be a concern because the safety to women is an overarching concern, well beyond the scope of systems of prostitution, but within those systems, particular emotional, physical, and sexual abuses happen that are somewhat system-specific. So, for example, while men battering women ought to be an overarching concern for anyone concerned with human rights violations and social justice, pimps and procurers battering women in systems of prostitution (hereafter, s.o.p.) has its own dynamics, that aren't necessarily replicated in other systems. It is not, in the U.S., under general law, illegal for a woman outside s.o.p. to report a man battering her. But for a woman in prostitution, reporting abuses can result in her arrest and detainment in prison.

A pro-legalisation argument, often supported by procurers who want their 24/7 access and don't want it to be impeded by prostitutes being in jail, is that prostitutes could organise within brothels, possibly without a pimp, and have protections due to not having to be vulnerable on the street or when meeting men in places in which they are unfamiliar and know no one. At the end of this post is a counter-argument to that one, noting what is changing, due to technology, regarding procurement strategies. I stand with the girls and women of A2W2 and many other human rights organisations and activists across the globe who do not support legalisation of prostitution as a means of creating a better world for women inside and outside s.o.p. Any approach that legalises a form of white male supremacist activity and abuse is clearly using the master's tools.

First, though, is a report from the Times of India, focusing on some of the brilliant and brave work of Ruchira Gupta and the many girls and women who have escaped s.o.p., including those who were trafficked and enslaved. It is these girls and women to whom I look for guidance, particularly in that region but also beyond, on how best to deal with the overlapping in intricately interlinked het male (and frequently white) supremacist problems of prostitution, pimping, procurement, trafficking, and sexual slavery.

Both pieces are linked to by clicking on their respective titles.

CM vows to free girls from brothels
TNN, Jun 1, 2010, 06.11am IST
PATNA: During his Vishwas Yatra in Araria district on Sunday, chief minister Nitish Kumar visited Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Girls' Hostel at Forbesganj and promised an inmate, Juhi Nat, rescued from a brothel, that he would ensure release of her friends from the clutches of human traffickers.

This residential school is being run by an organization `Apne Aap Women Worldwide (A2W2)'. The girls petitioned the CM for prompt action against traffickers who had forcibly taken away their fellow students for purpose of sexual exploitation.

"I will ensure action on this," Nitish told the girls. In fact, a few months back, the A2W2 had lodged a complaint with the CM and government officials and a team had visited the institute for an on-the-spot study. Some actions were also initiated, but the traffickers forcibly took away some teenaged girls and have allegedly detained them in home-based brothels in Rampur redlight area at Forbesganj where they are being sexually exploited.

Three 12-year-old girls, the institute complained, are trapped in home-based brothels for prostitution in spite of repeated complaints to the police and local authorities since January.

A couple of days before the CM visited the institute, founder president of A2W2 Ruchira Gupta took the case of the victim girls to an international seminar in Geneva, Switzerland, and explained how some brave girls and women, and men were in a face off with human traffickers and police.

Gupta was attending a seminar on `A Human Rights Approach on Combating Human Trafficking: Challenges and Opportunities' organized by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations Office in Geneva.

"Unless law enforcement agencies take action against traffickers, no human rights programmes for victims and survivors can be implemented," she said. "India must change its anti-trafficking law to dismantle the system of prostitution immediately," said Gupta.

She appealed to member states, including India, to change their law based on the UN Protocol and put addressing the demand for trafficking, exploitation of victims and abuse of a person's vulnerability at the centre of the amended laws.

*          *          *
Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society

Volume 17, Number 2, Summer 2010

E-ISSN: 1468-2893 Print ISSN: 1072-4745
Sheila Jeffreys

"Brothels without Walls": the Escort Sector as a Problem for the Legalization of Prostitution
Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society - Volume 17, Number 2, Summer 2010, pp. 210-234

Oxford University Press

This article examines a developing trend in the prostitution industry in the western world, the boom in escort prostitution. Escort prostitution, operating through mobile phones and the Internet, is supplanting the brothel as the major form in which prostituted women are delivered to male buyers. Policy-makers who promote the legalization of the prostitution industry have argued that this policy will make prostituted women and girls safer and combat organized crime. These assumptions are based upon the idea that prostitution will take place in brothels which can institute health and safety codes, and enable easy identification of the illegal brothel industry which can be closed down. Escort prostitution provides particular challenges to the regulation of prostitution because there is no way in which it can be controlled or made "safe." Alongside the other harms associated with prostitution which are exacerbated in legalized regimes, this development provides a significant reason why the policy of legalization is doomed to fail in achieving its objectives. The problems associated with the escort boom will be examined in relation to the state of Queensland in Australia, and the Netherlands, jurisdictions in which the prostitution industry has been legalized.

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