[New York, 15 March 2017] The CFFB (French-speaking Council of Women, Belgium) was invited to deliver a speech during an official side event of the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women #CSW61. Co-organised by Belgium, Iceland and the European Women’s Lobby, the event discussed the Nordic Model on prostitution as a key step to ensure girls’ and young women’s economic empowerment. Viviane Teitelbaum, president of CFFB (a member organisation of the EWL), presented a feminist approach to prostitution. Here is her inspiring speech.
A feminist perspective on prostitution - Viviane Teitelbaum, CFFB, Belgium
Because I’m a feminist, I am for the abolition of prostitution.
I’m committed to the abolition of prostitution because I’m a feminist and a humanist.
The story of prostitution and sexual exploitation is one made of extreme violence, often invisible, or rendered that way by those who benefit from it.
Because the history is also one of big profit and billions earned by coercion, violence, exploitation of the body - humiliated, tortured, branded, aching... until they don’t feel anything.
The story concerns millions of people in Europe only, a majority of women and girls. Their story is one of modern slavery affecting them by an extremely serious breach of fundamental rights and human dignity. Therefore, consent of the victim is irrelevant when one stated means has been used.
In Belgium prostitution is tolerated but pimping and trafficking are punished by the law. But hypocrisy and money at stake will allow for everyone to deny connections. But the fight against prostitution is to prevent trafficking in human beings in terms of sexual exploitation, because one feeds the other.
This is also what is called the game of supply and demand, and we feminists we are committed to try to build a model of equality within our society therefore without prostitution and the violence that it carries. This kind violence putting our dignity, equality and the vision and status of women at stake is why we are committed to fight as it puts our core values at risk.
Today in Belgium you have brothels you have street prostitution and you have more and more student prostitution. Lobbies are very active at this very moment to push to legalize prostitution in our country. By all means. And means they have. We have our values to fight the system and sometimes we feel powerless, but we will not abandon.
And to tell you the truth, being an activist and committed feminist, being also a politician and feminist, I do not understand the sightlessness of our society, blinded only by profit and machismo.
I do not accept the prevalence of the system above our values.
I was not always for the abolitionist system, did not understand all of it, I listened to testimonies and changed. How could you not?
Today as we understand the violence within the system of prostitution how could we not fight it. Today we are still a minority, but as feminists it is our duty to continue and find the language to influence our politicians. We will never reach equality if we don’t’. And the legacy of today’s feminists to our future has to be to find the courage to continue this battle for dignity, equality and respect.