[Equality Now, 3 March 2014] Equality Now today released the tenth in our Survivor Stories series, which illustrates the importance of survivor leadership to effectively combat sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
Lilly & Michelle – New Zealand
Lilly, who suffered a turbulent and abusive childhood, was introduced “to the streets” at age 18—the year prostitution was legalized in New Zealand. She thought life in the sex industry would give her independence, but instead came to realize that she was trapped in a situation that would take her seven years to get out of. With help from Freedom from Sexual Exploitation, Lilly was able to exit the sex industry and is working to build a better life for herself and her daughter.
Michelle, who also shares her story with us this month, similarly endured an abusive and violent childhood in New Zealand. She was classified as an alcoholic at age 14 and entered into prostitution at age 32. After successfully battling her substance addiction and exiting the sex industry, Michelle now expresses her views on what it will take to stop exploitation in prostitution.
“The only reason I could handle the street was because I was brought up in a violent home which prepared me for the violence on the street. You have to be street smart, street wise and be able to defend and protect yourself.”
“Prostitution is not normal and by making it legal the government is saying it is an ok job. Why make it easy to do it? It has made people who have often already been abused get abused even more, even if it is only emotional.”
What You Can Do
On 26 February, the European Parliament adopted the groundbreaking Honeyball resolution which targets the demand that is fueling sex trafficking, while decriminalizing and supporting those in prostitution, in line with the Nordic Model. Join us in calling on UNAIDS to follow suit and #ListenToSurvivors like Lilly and Michelle and take a strong stand against the exploitation of women and girls in prostitution.
Though UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé stated that his organization “is not advocating for the decriminalization of pimping or brothel ownership,” UNAIDS and other UN agencies continue to be referenced as calling for the full decriminalization of the commercial sex industry, including the inherently exploitative practices of pimping and brothel-keeping.
Survivor Stories reflects the multiple ways women and girls become trapped and, most importantly, how they are using their voices to advocate for change and justice. It is a forum for survivors to shape the conversation and be a part of the solution. Listen to their stories and advocate for change. Be a part of the solution.