Part 2 of my translated bits of the Red Thread report
Rechten van prostituees... (Sietske Altink and Sylvia Bokelman, October 2006)
("Rechten van prostituees ....."="Rights of Prostitutes"):
Look here for part 1:
Red Thread report (part 1)
Points of departure
The Red Thread focuses upon the work situation of prostitutes. She considers prostitution as a profession that can only be practised voluntarily.
We turn against every form of force in prostitution. This concerns force by third persons to enter the profession, but also more subtle forms of force like for instance working more per day, per week or per year than the prostitute wants. The Red Thread believes that one can voluntarily choose the profession, but one must also be able to choose to leave. We are fighting against the unfair conditions and malpractices under which many have to do this work, against force and exploitation, in short human trafficking and modern forms of slavery.
How can you allow as a feminist that men use and degrade women for money? For years that’s a question that’s being asked to the Red Thread, but which lately sounds louder. Inspired by the Swedish model some now also call for penalizing of clients. The Red Thread is against this. Prostitutes who choose this work don’t ask for this, that they are being protected against clients, but long for respect by society and the realization of the protection of their labour laws. Moreover, by penalizing the clients an important route for victims of human trafficking will disappear.
Must the legalization of prostitution be put overboard? The answer is “No”. The Red Thread stands firmly behind the legalisation of the sex-industry under strict conditions. Although abuses still occur a lot, before 2000 they occurred to a larger extent. Turning back the legalization will undoubtly be a license for malafide persons to reintroduce this sort of misery behind the scenes.
Nonetheless we believe that there’s reason for criticism. It can and it must be all much better. It’s time that operators modernize their management and that municipalities give them the opportunity to do that by allowing innovation. Short and well: sanctions for the old operators and a warm welcome for operators who stand for a transparent management which also conforms to proper labour rights.
The national government must support the municipalities much better than they do now. A general law is possibly a contribution to the rescue of the legalization. The further demise of the sex industry only helps criminals who will in their way ‘fill the gap’.
Hereafter we will summarize point by point the conclusions of the Red Thread, how five years after the legalization we look at sexwork, and what is necessary for a better prostitution-policy.
Conclusions point by point
- Five years after the legalization
. Over five years after the lifting of the general ban on brothels is long enough to evaluate the effects of the measure and the policy coupled to that measure.
· The Red Thread has as one of the few organisations a thorough and broad insight in the true, often alarming state of affairs in the sex-industry in the Netherlands. This insight is obtained by the hundreds of visits to many types of prostitution-businesses in all parts of the country and by the many contacts with (the mainly female) sexworkers through the Red Thread-helpdesk.
· The overall impression of the Red Thread is that there is improvement on some points, but we have a long way to go in what is to be achieved in the vision of the Red Thread; on other points the Red Thread believes the situation for sexworkers has gone worse.
· The Red Thread believes that the change which has been strived for in the national policy-goals got stuck halfway down the road. Especially municipalities don’t know how to deal with the responsibility the government has enforced on them, and often they make a complete mess of it.
· The government has the duty to fight human trafficking and exploitation in prostitution. That task is difficult, but the government doesn’t really put its back into it.
· The Red Thread wants to help the government to fulfil this task using her unique expertise. According to her goals the Red Thread watches from the perspective of the sexworkers (male/female).
- Vision of the Red Thread on sexwork
Vision on prostitution
· The Red Thread observes that in society there is a (diverse) need for sexual services. She has the starting point that it’s not useful and not necessary as a society to, like it happens in Sweden, counteract that need, provided that the service can take place under acceptable conditions.
· The Red Thread is under that condition still a proponent of the legalization of the exploitation of prostitution. The suppression of (exploitation or the buying of) sexual services leads to the going underground of the service and resulting from this the risks for the safety and danger of exploitation of the service providers.
· The Red Thread also starts from the right of sexworkers to choose themselves how to organize their lives. It is not the task of the government or social organizations to decide for them.
· The Red Thread chooses for an open debate that leaves the hypocrisy behind. Society should take notice that a significant percentage of the (male) population uses the services of sexworkers (male/female). It is no more than fair to recognize this and to see prostitution as a part of social life and to actively support the integration of acceptable forms of prostitution in society.
· The Red Thread states that sexwork is not a ‘normal’ profession, because sexworkers involve their physical integrity in their job. Exactly therefore they deserve more instead of less respect that workers in other sectors.
Vision on paid employment and independency
· Although the Red Thread doesn’t view sexwork like a job like any other, she does believe that labour relations, -conditions and –circumstances within sexwork should conform to the standards which apply to other forms of work.
· Specific demands should be set to protect the physical and psychological integrity of the sexworkers.
· Sexworkers should have the choice to work in paid employment or as an independent. In both models they should comply with the accompanying duties, but they should also be able to enjoy the accompanying rights.
Vision on exploitation and human trafficking
· The Red Thread holds the point of view that migrants in prostitution should not be treated worse than Dutch women. Slavery-like situations cannot be tolerated with the argument that these women are better off than in their home country. The Red Thread hopes that migrants who have been wrongly put to work by an operator could exercise their rights towards him/her.
· According to the Red Thread it is necessary to support prostitutes in a weak position in their home country in their struggle for the improvement of their position. As long as prostitutes in many countries can only work under bad conditions and have to do with extreme control of criminals, they will seek their salvation in countries like the Netherlands.
· Not only criminal forms of recruiting of prostitutes must be targeted ferociously, but also extreme cases of exploitation in prostitution. Therefore the concept of ‘exploitation’ should be unambiguously defined and specified.
· The Red Thread expects that a transparent management within prostitution-businesses, also on a the area of labour rights, can help to prevent abuses, and for that reason also advocates for enforcing such transparency.
Vision on innovations in the erotic nightlife
· The Red Thread advocates for a policy that focuses less on the ‘keeping under the thumb’ of the prostitution businesses and more on innovation of the sector.
· Furthermore the Red Thread eyes in the first place the innovations of the labour relations, -conditions and –circumstances, and transparency of the management. A clean trade will improve the image of the trade.
Vision on the national prostitution policy
· The Netherlands is party in the treaty that obligates states to combat human trafficking and exploitation. The Dutch law complies with that. The Red Thread expects from the government, that they promote to the first priority of her prostitution policy: the protection of sexworkers against human trafficking, the violation of the physical and psychological integrity and exploitation. The government should create the conditions for a safe labour practice by the sexworkers, free of human trafficking and exploitation.
· This duty rests in the first place on the national government. For as far as tasks are transferred to the municipal governments, the national government should make sure that also on that level the international obligations can be met.
· The Red Thread observes that the policymaking by municipalities in this area has shortcomings. She believes that the decision of the national government in 2000 to make the municipalities totally responsible for the prostitution policy has been aimed too high. The subject matter is too complex for the municipalities. The Red Thread pleads for a more active national assistence for municipalities.
· The Red Thread believes that a general prostitution law could do favours, but also a national program on expertise promotion for local policymakers, to be organized from a national centre of expertise.
· The Red Thread rejects making the clients punishable. This endangers prostitutes unnecessarily.
· For the Red Thread the legalization is a necessary condition for improvement.
Vision on the municipal prostitution policy
· The Red Thread observes that numerous abuses in the prostitution sector which are prohibited by law, are not combated actively enough. She therefore pleads for a more firmer enforcement by all (national and local) bodies who are qualified to do this, under the active direction of the municipal government.
· As counterpart of the coordinated enforcement on a local level a national report- and spotting-centre exploitation and sexual intimidation is necessary. There prostitution can report if they are forced to work long, are not allowed to refuse clients, are forced to use the services of the club-doctor etc. Through fieldwork (visiting businesses) monitoring of abuses take place on the shop floor.
· The Red Thread pleads for a consequent enforcement of the Bibob-law which fights against criminal owners of sex businesses.
· Experience shows that many prostitution businesses don’t particularly organize their management neatly, what opens up exploitation of workers, tax evasion and other abuses. It is therefore necessary according to the Red Thread that municipalities enforce transparency of the management.
· At the same time the Red Thread pleads for a generous municipal license policy in favour of those workers (independents, independents without personnel), and operators who respect the universal rules on physical and psychological safety, the labour law, transparent management and other relevant rules and legislation.
· Following naturally from this line of argument the Red Thread pleads that the municipalities allow innovative forms of prostitution to bring about a qualitative improvement in the erotic nightlife on the short term.
· The Red Thread pleads for an active involvement of the labour inspection the Employment Office [CWI] with the prostitution-policy.
· The Red Thread strongly advises municipalities against forcing individual sexworkers to have a license, because after all this strategy will have a contrary effect.
· The Red Thread therefore pleads that municipalities make sure that sexworkers can get accessible information about everything what is important in relation to their job.
· The Red Thread desires from the municipalities that they devise an active policy and urge relevant bodies to develop an effective practice for the changeover of prostitutes to other work.
Red Thread report (part 3)