EWL News

Youth4Abolition discusses youth sexual exploitation in Europe

[Brussels, 15 June 2017] On 9 June, the members of the coalition Youth4Abolition met in Brussels for the fourth time. A network of youth abolitionist organisations, initiated by the EWL, Youth4Abolition aims to bring the youth voice in the debates on prostitution and sexual exploitation in Europe, linking to the structural context of inequalities between women and men, rape culture and pornification, and developing recommendations on sexuality education, ending male violence and building a respectful and youth-friendly Europe.

You can read below a blog post from Borcsi Kristof, from the Portuguese Network of Young People for Gender Equality, where she gives an account of the day, from her perspective. 65 persons attended the morning session on youth sexual exploitation, including the Y4A network but also members of EWL Observatory on violence against women, and some EWL partners from civil society and the EU institutions. Gloria Steinem joined our session and encouraged the work of Y4A: "struggle produces energy!". Read, below Borcsi’ blog, a summary of the presentations.

To find out more about Youth4Abolition, contact pape@womenlobby.org.

“On the Youth 4 Abolition meeting of the European Women’s Lobby we gathered 16 young participants from 10 different countries to discuss the strategies and possibilities of the abolition of prostitution in Europe.

We spent a day getting to know each other’s work, learning about the philosophy and approach of the abolitionist movement, getting to know more about the reality of prostitution and exploitation of women, and discussing the advantages of the Nordic model of legislation – the practice of decriminalising the victim and penalizing the buyer.

In the beginning of the day survivors of prostitution and cyberviolence shared their stories with us, and we also heard presentations of associations who take an important part in fighting against violence against women and girls – which gave a shocking insight to the reality of abuse and exploitation of women, and also gave us ideas and tools how to fight against it. We discussed for example how the language we use to approach this area is already biased: many times approving of the abuser and judgemental of the abused: such as using the terms „loverboys” and „prostitutes” instead of „teen pimps” and „abused persons”.

On the afternoon we got to know about the prevention work of some of the present youth organizations, and then we heard presentations about good practices of organising a feminist camp. In the end of the meeting in groups we created possible strategies for abolitionist camps. In the closing session we discussed our action plans for the future. We talked about how could we support each other to promote abolition in each country, and we also talked about the possibility of a next meeting, since it was very much inspiring, empowering and effective to work with young people of different countries of Europe – of different legislative and social backgrounds regarding prostitution – and share experiences.

As Gloria Steinem - whom we had the honour of receiving a visit from – told us about violence against refugee women: „You may have taken my country, but my body is mine.” Thus we will continue to fight for the essential right of every woman in the world to own their own bodies. Our bodies can’t ever be an object for sale, trading or trafficking: that it’s ours, it belongs to us and only us.”

Borcsi Kristof, member of the Portuguese Network of Young People for Gender Equality, Youth4Abolition

Session on youth sexual exploitation

Ariane Couvreur, from ECPAT, presented their global study on sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. She debunked several myths, and informed us that ECPAT organized the first global forum for adult survivors of childhood sexual exploitation last year.

Yasmin Van Damme, from Child Focus presented their research about the phenomenon of loverboys in Flanders, and highlighted the reality of the phenomenon and the way these ‘teen pimps’ target the most vulnerable girls.

Fiona Broadfoot, survivor of the sex trade, and founder of ‘Build a girl’ in the UK presented the reality of youth sexual exploitation in the UK, and why she decided to create an organization which works towards building the self-esteem of girls. “When I entered the sex trade, I stopped developing my self”, she said. “Feminism saved my life”. Fiona is also a member of SPACE International, an international network of survivors.

Pamela Smith presented the Sexual Exploitation Children’s Outreach Service of Barnardo’s (SECOS), its aims and activities to support children and youth affected by sexual exploitation in the UK. She stressed that these children are not ‘children with problems’, they face a context (abuse, exploitation, poverty…) which leads them to risky situations.

Alisha Watts, survivor of online grooming, shared her experience and the role of SECOS in her recovery. Her mother stressed how important it is that Alisha’s story can be heard and shared, so that she is making a difference for other girls.

Finally, Delphine Moralis, from Missing Children, presented their work to prevent youth sexual exploitation and to support children affected, including through the hotline that they manage. She highlighted the role of the media, who mentions only 0.5% of the reality of missing children and children sexually abused.

The main messages and information from the session were:

  • Youth sexual exploitation is a reality; we need to address it.
  • The gender perspective in youth sexual exploitation reflects the gender dynamics in society: more girls abused and exploited, and of course older persons taking advantage of younger children, because of the power relations between youth and adults.
  • It is crucial to reframe the phenomenon, to reflect what it really is: ‘teen pimps’, sexual abuse, pimps (talking about ‘sugar daddies’ for example). We need to change the culture we live in, which glamorizes or normalises sexual violence.
  • It is also important to break the myths about these children: they are not a risk, they are at risk, and need support. There is a structural problem of child protection in Europe, whether the children are from Europe or refugees/migrants. Early intervention and prevention are key. It is about valuing and investing in children, and not about considering their support as a cost for society.
  • Sexual exploitation has long-term consequences on children and the adults they become. The abuse and the consequences don’t stop at 18. Sexual exploitation is part of the continuum of violence against women and girls. Society needs to support programmes which have a life-cycle perspective (beyond 18 years old).
  • Voices of survivors must be at the core of our work. It will most probably be adult survivors, as young people are not listened to and empowered to speak out. Children must be empowered to say no, and the legal system behind them should give all means to do so (law, projects, services, NGOs, etc.).
  • Together, we go further!
YOuth4Abolition in action

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