Prostitution and Sex-trafficking: An analytic truth

5 May

Prostitution and sex-trafficking are intrinsically linked; you have one because of the other. Our deep connection is through the demand for our bodies because we are bought, used, exploited, humiliated and raped by the same offenders and that cruel bond can never be broken by anyone, at any time, in any county. Though some policy makers, governments and radical academics will do their best to try to disconnect us but their denial of the truth is both futile and illogical, it is an analytic truth and for it is only the fool that does not acknowledge that.

For nearly eighteen months I stood alongside a trafficked woman, we became extremely close although we met in secret, as she was always under the watchful eye of her master.  I have never met a woman so broken down and as much as I loved and cared for her, I could not break the unhealthy attachment or twisted sense of loyalty she had for her controller.  She would defend him if he beat her, she was at times desperate to please him and yet something inside her longed to be free but freedom was a concept she had lost all sense of.

I tried to help her escape and took her to my home and that first night I will never forget, I said I would run her a bath as she looked exhausted.  I ran the bath, left out a towel and called her in.  I left her to relax and went in the other room, I was closing the window, when she called me, I turned around and what I saw shocked me to the core, for there in front of me my friend stood naked, but she had the body of a child, her rips stuck out, there were no breasts, it was covered in old bruises, new bruises, scratches, she looked like someone who’d just been released from a concentration camp, my eyes welled up but I did not want her to see me cry, so I brought her into the bathroom again, she had called me to wash her hair for her as her arms were sore, I washed her hair, took her out of the bath, and she sat in between my legs on the floor as I brushed and blow-dried her hair, she was humming just like a child, I put her to bed and sat beside her until she fell asleep. And then I cried and cried for the lost child I had just put to bed, I’ll never forget the image I saw but this was nott a concentration camp, in Poland in 1945, this was my apartment, Dublin, 2010, there is no war but there is no law to protect either.

My lost friend returned to her master, she had only tasted freedom for five days and could not understand it, she could no longer think for herself.  The one and only thing that removed my friend’s freedom was prostitution, we can blame the traffickers and pimps but they only exist because of the offenders, men who believe they have a right to buy other human beings.

Some months ago I went on an outing to Dublin Zoo with the survivors of prostitution and sex-trafficking and their children.  We had stopped to see the giraffe’s, they have a new enclosure since I’d last been there and a new baby giraffe.  I picked my friends little girl up to show her, they’re giraffes I said and they come all the way from Africa, she was not that bothered, she like all toddlers was more concerned with trying to climb the fence.

But I looked back around at the giraffe’s, beautiful, graceful creatures from Africa, and then it occurred to me, we bring these animals to our country so that children get to see them. We treat them so well, give them the appropriate shelter, food and settings so they can grow, be healthy and happy, and rightly so.  But they are not the only thing that we now import to Ireland, for we now import women and children from Africa to satisfy the needs of a certain type of man and it is not to be admired and treated with respect like the giraffe’s, oh no it is for very different reasons and none of them have anything to do with admiration and respect.  I picked up that little girl again, I hugged her and kissed her cheek and I apologized to her on behalf of my country, I apologized for what has happened to her beautiful mother but I told her things were about to change.  I felt such shame but it was not the toxic shame, we as prostituted women live with, no this was different, this was shame for my homeland.

Silence is golden, they say, no it is not, peace and serenity is golden, silence can be deadly.  Why has Ireland stayed silent for so long regarding the purchase of human beings for sex because it places a different value on women like me and a different value on the women that are trafficked into this country.  It is something most people would not admit to, placing the value of one woman over another, sometimes they don’t even see it.  But I only have to think what would be happening if the women were being trafficked in from America or Germany, do you think we would tolerated it then, I think not, so if I was a woman born to a “respectable” family from Manhattan, I would be rescued, supported and returned home safely, for America is of great value to us, but if I am born into poverty, uneducated and tricked into coming here from a Eastern European country, I am not entitled to the same treatment because that country is of no value to us, how do we decide this, what right do we have to decide which human being is more valuable than the other.

Human trafficking is the modern day slavery and sexual slavery is the most appalling of crimes, for it removes human beings of all their human rights and dignity.  To do nothing is to play an active role in it happening.  The world over is waking up to this, my country has no choice but to stand up to it.  For freedom is something Ireland had to fight for itself, so we should have no struggle with fighting to protect the freedom of others, no matter what country they come from.

Prostitution is, was and always will be an absolute affront to human dignity and I know that because I have lived it.  Just two and a half years ago I stood on a lonely street having been stripped of every piece of dignity I ever owned and everything I thought I once was had turned on me, despite me.

Sweden did the right thing in the name of freedom, justice and equality, Norway and Iceland followed and now it is Irelands turn and we must not let an opportunity to evoke a social change for the greater good pass us by, for my government does not have the right to continue to let tragic lives become absurd.

In finish, one’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life’s of others, that is my wish for my country, that it attributes value to the lives of the trafficked, the coerced, the displaced, the isolated, the damaged, the addicted, in essence the haunted majority of which I was once one.

Mia de Faoite

13 Responses to “Prostitution and Sex-trafficking: An analytic truth”

  1. Nusha Yonkova May 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    Dear Mia, Thank you for this moving inspiring article. It was only last Friday, when I was thinking that it was so utterly disappointing to listen to Clare Daly TD, a strong women’s rights defender I once thought, who apparently withdrew support from the TORL campaign in the debate on the recent Bill. She started her contribution by admitting that she would not choose prostitution for herself and for her daughter but … apparently accepted it for other women, whom she consented were of poor economic background. How do you accept to see women in a situation that you not simply ‘would not choose for you and your dauggher’ but a situation that you actually dread – more than hunger and more than any dirty dangerous underpaid work! This is what gets me in these kind of political statements by female politicians that render rest of their women’s solidarity talk an empty hollow self-promoting attempt

    • miade May 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

      Thank you Nusha, that is sad news, far too many take the “there’ll always be the desperate, so lets just make conditions better for them” line and I flatly refuse to accept that because I was one of those desperate they are so quick to cast aside. When really they are saying that they believe every man who ever put his hands on me & the all the other women had a right to do so & they are happy to fight for the rights of those men. And you are right, if you wouldn’t except a life of exploitation for yourself or your daughter, why the hell would you except it for anybody else’s child. Keep up your great work :)

  2. Mary Kate O Flanagan May 9, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Maith thú a Mhia. Thank you for making this point. We can’t, as a civilised society, accept that people can buy each other. Saying, “There will always be prostitution” is like saying, “There will always be murder”. It may be true but normalising the sale of humans beings allows men to deceive themselves there isn’t something transgressive about this act. I don’t believe that men who frequent prostitutes can have healthy partnerships with any women. I think it is a wholly corrupting practice. We need to acknowledge this and make it illegal. There are people out there desperate enough to sell themselves, so we need to reach out to them and provide better supports. And we need to name and shame and imprison the ordinary Johns who provide the money to keep trafficked women and children coming into this country.

    • miade May 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      Go raibh mile maith agat Mary-Kate, your right to say “there will always be” whatever the crime is so don’t legislate is to imply that all legislation is redundant. Legislation is the only thing that curbs human behaviour, as Ireland has clearly demonstrated through its smoking ban & drink-driving laws in recent times. The purchase of human beings for sex must be formally acknowledged in law as a crime and it is the only thing that will put a halt to the importation of vulnerable human beings. The sex industry is a wholly damaging place and no one leaves it unharmed. Many thanks for your insight and support, with kindest regards always, Mia.

  3. Joanne Ni Riain May 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    This is a heartbreaking read but very well written. As a law student, I hate this idea that the law has to accommodate every exception in the name of ‘freedom’, especially in such cases as prostitution where allowing for the liberty of the few can have disastrous effects on the majority of prostitutes. This is very evident in the discourse surrounding prostitution, with people frequently referencing women who engage in it willingly and consentingly (arguable in itself).

    We could say the same about drug dealing/trafficking. I might, from a position of privilege choose to being dealing drugs on a small scale and selling to some friends to make extra money, but the law says this is illegal because where is the line drawn between me and much more serious criminal enterprises? The law needs to protect women and reflect what we as a society believe is right. If prostitution isn’t good for the middle and upper classes, it’s not good for anyone.

    • Feminist Rag May 12, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      Hi Joanne, I just wanted to say that the line-drawing you speak of is arbitrary and part of a linear-thinking culture that is on its way straight to annihilation the further out on its linear branches it goes, as it so desperately tries to divide and control every single aspect of life, as we see in the maze we call The Law. Re. your example of drug dealing, there would be no “black” market if there were no (highly controlled & inaccessible) “white”/legal market. The drug dealer on the street is no different from the pharmacist at the corner drugstore — what we have is one set of greedy thugs (the government) competing with and trying to control a different set of thugs (the so-called criminals). The problem around drugs is their mis-use — when respected and used properly, some drugs are life-saving, while others would never exist (the ones that drug addicts don’t seek but that big pharma peddles purely for profit).

      Hi Mia, my apologies for going off point there (though I think it’s all connected). I just found your blog tonight and love it, and this is an excellent article! The story about your friend is heartbreaking.

      I disagree a bit around the idea that law is The Answer to abolishing prostitution, because the law is solely about punishment, so it does little for prevention. It may fear monger some men from buying sex and maybe some pimps from selling it, but it will never fear monger all. Just like the death penalty doesn’t deter some people from murdering. Also, how can we expect anti-prostitution law enforcement when so many cops, lawyers and judges use porn and prostitutes? All that said, I definitely support the Nordic model (and anything that deters prostitution!), but I feel abolition will come from a radical decolonizing cultural shift in mind, heart and Spirit wherein we (re)teach men (and women) how to be whole human beings, for it is only men disconnected from their humanity who can dream up, develop a desire, and demand for a class of women to so horribly dehumanize. Whole human beings do not behave this way. What do you think?

      Sincerely & Respectfully,
      Natasha

      • miade May 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

        Hi Natasha,

        Thanks so much for replying, great to hear from you. I see your point with regards to the law being the answer but it must be the first thing that we do, it in itself opens the door to further debate which will create awareness, it sends out a clear message that this behaviour is no longer exceptable, we must formally remove the female body from the market and what will follow is the why? I spent 6yrs in the company of offenders and yes many are in positions of power but not enough of them. With the amount of public awareness the survivors along with our partners in the Turn Off the Red Light campaign have created, we back that up now with legislation then social change for the greater good is not just a possibility, it is in fact inevitable. As Sweden has proved 14yrs on now and apart from there being a 70% drop in prostitution and a serious halt put to sex-trafficking, there has been a philosophical shift in the thinking of a nation and the next generation of young men and women have grown up understanding that it is outlawed because it is a offence against human dignity and equality, that is my wish for Ireland but it won’t happen overnight, but the law must come first. Hope this goes some way to answering you Natasha and please stay in touch.
        With much respect & solidarity, Mia :)

        “We plead for our sex, not for ourselves”, Mary Wollstonecraft.

    • miade May 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      Many thanks for your reply Joanne, absolutely the liberty of a few should never come before the freedom of so many because any time in history that has happened, human dignity & freedom have been lost and we only have to look at the appalling state of Amsterdam to confirm that, now publicly acknowledged as the social experiment that failed but Joanne your right, at who’s expense did it fail, the liberal revolution that has back fired which disastrous consequences but again who is paying those consequences! My answer to those is be a liberal but please never be a liberal at the expense of human dignity. Legislation should always reflect the values of a country and Ireland now needs to value the bodily integrity of the most vulnerable women you are ever likely to meet. My sincere good wishes to you with your studies and thank you again for taking the time to reply, kindest regards Mia.

  4. Lauren May 15, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Amazing piece of writing. You anime light into situations so many people want to keep in the dark and ignore. Well done I commend your courage, boldness and strength!

    • Lauren May 15, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      Shine light that is supposed to say.. The joys of touch screen

      • miade May 15, 2013 at 11:13 am #

        No worries, I got ya :)

    • miade May 15, 2013 at 11:13 am #

      Thank you so much Lauren, the horrific situations the trafficked women & children are in here in Ireland just can’t be ignored anymore. The true face of prostitution is so cruel but it must be seen. Many thks again for your kind words, kindest regards to you, Mia.

  5. Jayneen Sanders May 20, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Thank you so much for your moving article. Many woman who have been sexually abused as children fear for their own kids. This children’s book might help them broach the subject with their children. The book is ‘Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept’. http://www.somesecrets.info Just a thought. TY!

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