Partners In Health Helps Give Prostituted Women Real Choices in Malawi

Prostitution defenders like to think that most in the sex trade freely choose their work. This June 2009 article from Partners In Health tells what happens when prostituted women in Malawi are given a real choice:

From “waitress” to waitress

…Poverty and gender inequality are woven into these women’s life stories. Few have had the opportunity to pursue an education, which would have given them the skills and means to find other ways to economically support themselves and their families. Nearly all have been bribed or assaulted by the same men who in one moment condemn them and in the next are their regular clients. The language of individual blame and immorality that many, including the women themselves, use to describe those who practice commercial sex work fails to recognize the structural violence that lies at the core of its existence…

PIH/APZU [Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo] hopes to develop the Zalewa site as a women’s empowerment center that gives commercial sex workers in the region the tools to find safer ways to support their families by addressing the women’s medical, social, and educational needs…

“There has been a tremendous improvement in my life, because this time I am no longer risking my life,” says Stella. “When I was doing commercial sex work, I didn’t know what might happen that night. It was always my wish to […] not to have to do that work, but with such poverty, I was desperate and needed cash.” One year ago, Stella could not sign or even recognize her own name. She now attends literacy class five afternoons a week, and at 35, she has finally learned to read and write. When Tiyanjane Restaurant opens its doors in a few weeks, Stella will be ready to take orders as a real waitress, notepad in hand.

We encourage you to support this initiative. Contributions to Partners In Health are accepted here.

See also:

Letter to the Gazette: “Addressing prostitution, promiscuity in war on AIDS” (5/12/07)
Today’s Daily Hampshire Gazette publishes a letter from Jendi Reiter. Jendi is a co-founder of NoPornNorthampton…

To the editor:

Laurie Garrett’s column on the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (“Perils of Moralizing Foreign Aid” , May 5-6) wrongly minimizes the social costs of prostitution and promiscuity. Garrett argues that the Bush administration is imposing arbitrary, repressive religious values when it conditions AIDS funding on a nation’s willingness to denounce prostitution. She also criticizes the government for supporting AIDS programs that encourage abstinence outside marriage and faithfulness within it.

Most sex workers in developing nations are more like slaves than they are like the “D.C. Madam”. Trafficking in women is a human rights violation that self-styled progressives like Garrett should oppose. Moreover, heterosexual women in the Third World, who lack the social power to enforce safe-sex guidelines in their relationships, are being infected with AIDS at an alarming rate by husbands who patronize prostitutes.

The connection between AIDS, prostitution and infidelity is not an invention of the religious right. Gay activist and journalist Gabriel Rotello, in his groundbreaking book “Sexual Ecology”, concluded, after careful study of the epidemiological data, that the “condom code” had failed and that only monogamy (or, as a second-best, a serious reduction in the number of partners) could prevent AIDS and other STDs from wiping out the gay male community. Like the highly promiscuous men he studied, prostitutes who engage in unsafe sex – in their case, generally not by choice – constitute a “core group” that sustains an epidemic and allows it to cross over to the general population. If Garrett is not concerned about the morality of selling women’s bodies, she should at least take the science of disease prevention seriously, instead of hijacking this issue to advance a naive agenda of sexual liberation.
News Roundup: Age of Entry into Prostitution Declining

“Consenting Adults” proclaims one of the ads above [from the 6/12/08 Valley Advocate]. An odd phrase to apply to a legitimate massage service, but perfectly understandable for a commercial sex business. Smokescreen phrases like these are often employed by defenders of prostitution in attempts to stifle debate. They are not convincing. Studies that show a majority of prostituted women want out, and claims that only “adults” are involved are ever more questionable.

Escort Prostitution: A Response to Tom Vannah, Editor of the Valley Advocate
While a few women may choose a life of prostitution in a truly voluntary fashion, the reality for most is a history of sexual and/or child abuse, separation from their family and/or country, and poverty. Addictions to drugs or alcohol are common. They are routinely lied to, coerced, abused, threatened, and blackmailed (e.g. ‘I’ll hurt your family back in the Ukraine if you don’t cooperate’).

When a “progressive” outlet like the Advocate runs ads for commercial sex enterprises, it not only publicizes them but legitimizes them. It also puts a big dent in the Advocate’s moral authority. If the Advocate truly wants to
be a friend to underdogs, it needs to side with them over callous profiteers.

Even Dan Savage Has a Clue about the Realities of Prostitution

Our Poster to the Valley Advocate: “Stand up for women! Drop your Massage/Escort ads”

Not For Sale Media Project; Downloadable Posters

Prostitution: Factsheet on Human Rights Violations
62% reported having been raped in prostitution.
73% reported having experienced physical assault in prostitution.
72% were currently or formerly homeless.
92% stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately.
(Melissa Farley, Isin Baral, Merab Kiremire, Ufuk Sezgin, “Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” (1998) Feminism & Psychology 8 (4): 405-426…

Child Prostitution: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
Country by country reports

Realities of Teen Prostitution Mock Notions of ‘Sex Work’, ‘Sex-Positive’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Empowerment’; Media Glamorizes Pimps
…authorities know that child prostitutes are subjected to constant sexual abuse. Yet public opinion often paints these girls as criminals. The first step towards ending the misery for the exploited is to recognize them for what they are: victims.

…an estimated 80 to 95 percent of child prostitutes have a history of sexual abuse…