European & International News

Women as rewards for top employees: how the business world helps maintain the sexual exploitation of women

[Brussels, 20 May 2011] As reported by the German Handelsblatt and the BBC, in 2007, a major German insurance company ‘rewarded’ its top 100 salesmen with a party organised in a thermal bath in Budapest, Hungary, for which they also ‘ordered’ at least 20 prostitutes. This means that each woman was expected to be ‘used’, on average, by at least five men over the course of a few hours.

The prostitutes were labeled – like goods in a shop – with colour-coded wristbands to designate for what and by whom they could be ‘used’. Some were only available for conversation, while with others the men could “do whatever they liked.” Women with white wristbands were reserved for the top businessmen attending the party.

As if the women were ‘frequent customer’ cards – on which customers of cafes or restaurants try to obtain as many stamps as possible in order to get the 10th coffee or lunch for free – they received a stamp on their arm after each occasion that a businessman ‘used’ them. According to the Handelsblatt report, some women had a dozen or more stamps on their arms (again, this is over the course of one night).

It would be interesting to know how the businessmen who participated in this party would feel about 12 or more strangers demanding to have sex with them within a few hours’ time span (and clients of prostitution aren’t known for being gentle). Let’s also remember that these 100 ‘top salesmen’ most likely have wives, girlfriends or partners, as is estimated to be the case for 50% or more of clients of prostitution.

The intertwining of the sex industry and the corporate world is not rare. Important business deals are often made in strip clubs, and it is not uncommon for male participants of business dinners to be provided with prostitutes at the end. These practices – against which women’s rights groups are protesting in some countries, for example in the UK – perpetuate violence against women and inequality between women and men, and serve to further exclude women from advancing in the business world.

No one should be bought and put on offer for use by others like a product, be colour-coded to designate for what and by whom they can be ‘used’, or marked to show how many times they’ve been ‘frequented’. The acceptance of prostitution and sexual exploitation is the acceptance of the subordinate role of women and children as sexual objects to be used and the superior position of men with money as those who can use them. As long as prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation of women and children exist, there can be no real equality between men and women.

The EWL has been working for years to end the sexual exploitation of women and to thereby remove one of the main obstacles to gender equality. As part of this work, the EWL will officially launch its campaign ‘Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution’ this June at the EWL’s conference on violence against women!

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