Monday, July 25, 2005

NYT to Poor Women: Go Sell Your Selves

Thanks to a 2003 Congressional mandate, organizations receiving USAID must declare that it ''does not promote, support or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution.'' Predictably, the NYT is falling over it-self in its haste to criticize this policy.

A Brazilian based group, Womyn's Agenda for Change, headed by Rosanna Barbero, who became interested in working with the "sex industry" while studying in Cambodia. When there:
[w]hat she found was that peacekeepers and aid workers affiliated with the United Nations were fueling a sudden explosion in prostitution. Assessing the situation, she came to see sex work as an understandable, if far from ideal, response to poverty: ''If you have nothing, what do you do? You sell sex. That's what's left.''

And what about selling your children, particularly the female ones? What about infanticide? What about child marriage, or slavery or child labor? Some in this world believe that these are "an understandable, if far from ideal, response to poverty".

The article contends that some of the sex workers are there by choice. This contention is based on the story of a group of prostitutes, who were rescued by anti-prostitution organization, only to be abducted by an unidentified mob that broke into their safe house, who protested in front of the US Embassy claiming to not wanting to be rescued. The NYT author says that while [the] protest appeared to have been stage-managed by the hotel's owners,.... it illustrated how hard it is to determine whether sex workers are in brothels by choice or under duress.

Sadly, the series done by Nic Kristof is only available via paid archive, however, in that, he rescues two Cambodian prostitutes & follows them on their road to independence. It is clear that while poverty & sex discrimination are major hurdles for both girls, both struggle happily, to achieve a life of dignity.

Despite the contention that the 'prostitution option', is an answer to poverty, the unfortunate truth is that prostitution perpetuates poverty. People only seek work & start businesses when they have to: as without necessity, there will be no invention. When prostitution is an available option, families are more likely to pressure the less valued young women into seeking sex work to support their extended families, rather than to use more innovative means of earning income.

In many cases the daughters are sold or 'voluntarily seek' sex work to support not only their families, but also the drug addiction of their father & brothers. Prostitution acts as a temporary analgesic to poverty & addiction, making them less keenly felt on the short term, while failing to address their root causes & give impetus to entrepreneurial activity. As it removes the drive to rise above one’s station, it serves to keep its victims trapped in an intergenerational cycle of poverty. This is in addition to the fact that commodifing the most intimate of human contacts has terrible impact on culture.

While, working fourteen hours day sewing garments is hardly a life's ambition for many, I doubt that many would prefer prostitution.

I wonder if the NY Times editorial board will demand that the US government spend tax dollars to buy UN-approved kneepads for the girls who "volunteered" to work in these brothels.

Paging William Jefferson Clinton....
sometimes the girl's family pressurizes her to get into this profession....this is the most cruel thing...........
What's to be done?

Women driven into prostitution to put clothes on their backs or food on the table is nothing new, I'm sorry to say.

The attitude of Barbero is... difficult to understand. While I don't support branding prostitutes with a scarlet P (is it were), neither do I see them as 'unsung heroes'. I definitely find the author's attitude disgusting: he appears to laud Barbero while sneering at the efforts of those groups who try to outright rescue women forced into selling themselves.

Weird, very weird. Puts back all the work we've been doing to eliminate this social scourge. It might be regarded as the oldest profession, but prostitution is a degradation of women. I'm sure thieves are just earning a living, but that doesn't make it right. Those who say prostitution is a victimless crime ignore the fact that the woman is a victim, like beggars are victims.
Indeed, the victims of prostitution are women: the women who sell themselves & the women who's husband's visit these women & bring home an STD.

I too am certainly not advocating that we stone these women, but rather that we try to help them leave the trade.

As you mention Avik, there are many times when the girl's family pressuers her into it. Many times it is a parent or family member who sells the girl.

Mwalimu, I hope Bill isn't going to read this. Wonder what they'll call the concert to raise money for it :)
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