‘If I had to have sex ten times a day with strangers for a living, at what point would I start to feel sick? From the beginning surely.’ So concludes the voice-over of a thought-provoking video clip launched today by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) as part of its campaign to put an end to prostitution in Europe, which it considers a form of violence against women.
The one-minute clip is the work of French film director Frédérique Pollet Rouyer and Belgian film director, Patric Jean, whose 2007 documentary ‘La domination masculine’ won critical acclaim. In the clip, a steady stream of women visit a young male prostitute, leaving money on a table in payment for his submission to their desires. ‘What we are appealing for is a moment of reflection and empathy,’ says Patric Jean. ‘We are asking viewers to imagine themselves in the place of a prostituted person and how it feels to rent out one’s sexuality and body for money. If this basic reality of prostitution makes them feel uncomfortable or worse, they should take a stand against it.’
The EWL campaign, entitled ‘Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution’, calls on individuals, national governments and the European Union to take concrete actions to bring about an end to societal tolerance for widespread sexual and economic exploitation of persons in prostitution, the vast majority of whom are women. ‘As far as the members of the European Women’s Lobby are concerned, the system of prostitution represents a backwater of inequality, a place where violence and oppression are thinly veiled by a distorted image of equality through commercial exchange,’ says Rada Boric, Executive member of the EWL, representing more than 2500 women’s associations throughout 30 countries.
Associations working with women in prostitution and survivors of the system agree and point to pervasive inequality between women and men as the key root cause for prostitution. ‘Society has a duty to find alternatives for women so that they can live in dignity and not fall into prostitution,’ insists Pascale Rouges, a survivor from Belgium.
A range of official reports and academic studies back up this harsh assessment. According to the UK Home Office, up to 95% of women in street prostitution are problematic drug users. Nine out of ten women in prostitution would like to exit the system of prostitution but feel unable to do so. In the Netherlands, where procuring was decriminalised in 2000, up to 90% of women working in brothels in 2008 were victims of trafficking. An international study found that 62% of women in prostitution reported having been raped, and 68% of them meet the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the same range as victims of torture.
‘I am very pleased that the EWL has had the courage and foresight to initiate this campaign’, said Mr Proinsias de Rossa, Member of the European Parliament. ‘It is high time for us to open our eyes to the reality of prostitution in our societies, and to its absolute incompatibility with the values of gender equality and human dignity that the European Union espouses and to which it is legally bound.’
The video clip is available in all European languages and is one of a range of awareness-raising tools unveiled today by the EWL at the campaign launch. A personal pledge to take a stand against prostitution and a call to European governments and institutions to take action are also available here.
Download the Press Release in Word format: