I’d like to respond to some of the points raised by Juliet, a sex workers’ rights activist.
I agree to an extent with Juliet’s initial observations that it’s very rare for either clients or sex workers to be asked directly for their experience and it is very important that their voices are heard in this debate. But it should be raised that the voice of ex-sex workers has been quite loud in recent years and those struggling to escape from the trade have indicated quite clearly that many are suffering from their experience of working in the profession.
Juliet makes a few assertions regarding radical feminism that need to be deconstructed. Firstly she states that ‘There is a wing of feminism, however, that describes sex work as violence against women.’ It needs to be stated that the intrinsic desire of this wing of feminism is to see violence stamped out in all its forms.
It should also be noted that many women who position themselves within this strand of feminism worked relentlessly in challenging the news coverage of the ‘Suffolk murders’ at the end of 2006 because the media often ignored the fact that the ‘prostitutes’ were actually women with hearts, souls and aspirations.
Prostitution can be defined as an act where a person coerces another by means of finance into satisfying their sexual wants. The ‘client’ has in this interaction thought themselves superior (because they have money) and now have a ‘right’ to utilise the body of another in any way they please. The question, therefore, that needs to be posed to all ‘clients’ is: what makes you think you have a ‘right’ for your sexual wants to be gratified?
Those who ‘choose’ to work in the sex industry are dehumanised and viewed as an underclass – sex workers are used by society and clients and then discarded. Where is the humanity in all this? Prostitution may be one of the oldest professions but this does not mean it needs to continue – no person has the right to ‘own’ another person’s body, even if for only a short time.
If decriminalisation occurred we would probably see the word ‘client’ eradicated and the word ‘customer’ introduced. The customer will then be protected by consumer’s rights – will the client then have a right to a refund if unsatisfied with the service received or a right to get what they have paid for no matter what harm is caused to the ‘supplier’?
It is the demand for the industry that keeps the industry in its place and so this demand needs to be eradicated. The attempt to purchase another’s body should be made into a criminal offence – this will then offer the protection that sex workers are looking for as there will be no customers.
From where I am sitting either you believe that human life is worth something or you don’t – no compromise.
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Phoebe Kisubi reflects on using participatory theatre as a tool for social and political activism among sex workers in Cape Town, South Africa
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Following a series of murders of sex workers in Ipswich in December 2006, Red Pepper asked whether finally it was time to decriminalise prostitution. Juliet, a sex workers' rights activist, said it was. The anti-prostitution campaigners, Assumpta Sabuco Cantó and Charo Luque Gálvez, said it wasn't
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