Abstracts Osteuropa 6/2006

Julia O’Connell Davidson
Men, mediators, and migrants. The laws of the marketplace in human trafficking

The debate over prostitution and human trafficking is characterized by two opposing positions. For abolitionists, prostitution is the exploitation of women per se. They demand that mediators and clients be punished so as to eradicate sexual slavery and human trafficking. By contrast, their liberal and libertarian opponents consider it a commodity just like any other. They hope greater social acceptance and state regulation of prostitution will lead to an improvement in working and living conditions for prostitutes. Both views fall short of the mark. Prostitution and migration can be voluntary acts of self-determination, but they can also entail force and exploitation. A policy that really has the well-being of people in mind must take aim at reducing poverty in migrants’ countries of origin and not at fighting human trafficking and legalizing prostitution.

Bärbel Heide Uhl, Claudia Vorheyer
Profiles of perpetrators, images of victims. The logic of international human trafficking policy

Numerous international state organizations have taken up human trafficking in recent years. They all claim to be protecting human rights. In fact, the political discourse of human trafficking is influenced above all by criminological thinking and revolves around strengthening and defending nation-state or supranational borders. As a result, the people affected by human trafficking are not helped, nor are the structural causes fought.

Britta Schmitt
Regulate it, make it taboo, criminalize It. The ethical and religious roots of prostitution policy in Europe

With the fall of the Iron Curtain, trafficking in women from eastern Europe to western Europe and prostitution began to attract greater attention from the public and politicians. Several countries have since changed their prostitution policy. Many have chosen liberalism, others repression. A comparison of Sweden, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Greece shows that other interpretations of the Christian view of human nature, various confessions and historical developments, as well as the effects of Soviet ideology are shaping attitudes towards prostitution and finding expression in legislation.

Veronica Munk
Migration and sex work. The dilemmas of illegality

More and more women around the world are looking for work far away from home. Prostitution is one form of work. Legal migration is hardly possible. With regard to laws on residency, such women are living illegally in the European Union. They are pushed to the fringes of the labour market. Illegal migrants now account for the majority of prostitutes. Most come from eastern Europe. The dominant public view that they are victims of trafficking in women does not correspond to reality. The struggle against trafficking in women must not lead to the struggle against prostitution. Instead, an improvement in the rights of illegal sex workers is necessary. Only in this way can better working conditions and health be achieved and the exploitation and crime in the sex industry be fought.

Christiane Howe
Imaginary worlds, private worlds. Prostitution and relations between the sexes

Most of society associates prostitution with the unknown, the secretive, the uninhibited, and the forbidden. This other world either exalts prostitution or reviles it. Such images reflect social constructions of masculinity and femininity and the sexuality associated with them. Today, male sexuality in particular is burdened by expectations that are impossible to meet. For many men, one solution is to seek escape among prostitutes. Here, they can live out their fantasies and the repressed side of an ambivalent sexuality.

Judith Siegmund
The unknown species. Getting to know John

Using an artistic approach, the video project “The Unknown John” gives eastern European women working along the German-Polish border region the chance to speak. The interviews provide information about the motives and interests of their Johns, make references to role models and national stereotypes, and reveal something about the self-image of Slavic women. The latter are neither femmes fatales nor victims. Such clichés are two variations on a common attitude: They allow Johns to deny responsibility for their actions. It is time to direct public attention from prostitutes to their clients.

Eliot Borenstein
A nation’s close-out sale. Prostitution and chauvinism in Russia

The prostitute is a central figure in Russian culture. It is a metaphor for the traditional understanding of Russia as a woman and serves media and literature daily in creating a Russian identity. The interaction of art and ideology, which has produced the metaphoric post-Soviet prostitute, acts exactly the same way: It is aimed primarily at men. Using the symbol of prostitution, criticism is directed at Russia’s sell-out to the West, whose capitalism has turned everything and everyone in Russia into a commodity. However, the post-Soviet prostitute above all expresses a fear of Russian men, for although she is a powerful temptress, she lacks a phallus.

Karin Sarsenov
Is it a sin to travel? Being on the road in post-Soviet times

In Russian literature, the travel story is usually a story of male identity. Travel by female Russian migrants and their experiences on the road hardly exist. Furthermore, love of the homeland, the topic of all travel stories, is a male theme, since the homeland is often feminized and patriotism presented as heterosexual love of a woman. Three contemporary works of prose by women intervene in this discourse by examining female migration. In a subtle and often most refined way, they play on the stigmatization of Russian women as prostitutes and in doing so pull the rug out from under the patriotic discourse.

Rebecca Plassa
Documentation, speculation, emotion. Twelve books on human trafficking and forced prostitution

When it comes to human trafficking, forced prostitution, or even the sexual abuse of children, emotions quickly flare and speculation runs riot. The dimensions, causes, and effects of human trafficking are less known. There is a lack of reliable data. A number of academic and literary publications are trying to remedy this deplorable state of affairs. Not all of the authors, however, are immune to expressing generalizations, superficiality, and one-sided opinions.

Elena Tyuryukanova
Bodies sold. Labour migration in Russia and the CIS

Cross-border labour migration is an integral element of the global economy. Russia is the most important host country for migrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States. At the same time, tens of thousands migrate from Russia to the European Union and the United States. In recruiting cheap labour, employers and mediators aim to make enormous profits. Women make up the largest and at the same time most vulnerable group of migrant workers. They have fewer opportunities for legal migration than men and are pushed into poorly paid, largely insecure segments of the labour market that are risky and marginal up to the point of slavery and prostitution. As a result, women frequently end up victims of human trafficking.

Alexandra Orlova, Sasha Baglay
The limited impact of the law. The struggle against human trafficking in Russia and Ukraine

Since the 1990s, Russia and Ukraine have been confronted with trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation. While Ukraine made human trafficking a criminal offence in 1998, Russia reacted only after international pressure. Furthermore, the Ukrainian Criminal Code is more in line with the stipulations contained in the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Palermo Protocol). However, criminal law in Russia and Ukraine, both signatories of the protocol, still assigns too great a role to the victim’s consent and too small a role to the victim’s exploitation in a given moment of helplessness.

Mary Buckley
Human trafficking as a political issue. Legislation and problem awareness in Russia

The topic of human trafficking was long a taboo in Russia. Now, the criminal code penalizes it. This is the result of education efforts by non-governmental organizations and women’s groups as well as enormous pressure from the United States. The implementation of the new laws remains insufficient. A lack of awareness about the problem, corruption, and isolated cases of complicity on the part of the police and the legal system are responsible for this. The struggle against human trafficking must get at the roots of the problem. More jobs must be created so as to overcome the material need that drives so many women abroad. More education is needed for potential female labour migrants, as is the establishment of a nationwide network of emergency shelters and rehabilitation programmes.

Angelika Kartusch, Gabriele Reiter
Trafficking in women in postwar regions. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo

From the public’s point of view, human trafficking is linked to war and reconstruction. The international community plays an important role in conflict-torn regions. On the one hand, the presence of the international community in consolidating peace creates a market for informal businesses such as prostitution and trafficking in women. On the other hand, the international community protects human rights and rule of law. A dilemma thus arises, as the case studies Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo show. However, instruments have evolved for fighting trafficking in women.

Berna Eren
Destination Turkey. Migration, prostitution and human trafficking on the Bosporus

Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey has become one of the most important destinations for tourists and migrant labourers from the former Soviet Union. In the first half of the 1990s, it was above all travelling merchants who went to the Bosporus. Since then, there has been a rapid growth in migrant prostitution and human trafficking from Ukraine, Moldova, Russia and the southern Caucasus. Turkey formally allows prostitution in bordellos within very narrow limits. Most prostitution, however, is forced to take place illegally. As a result, the living and working conditions of prostitutes from the former Soviet Union are so frequently marked by violence that one must speak of human trafficking. Turkey is reacting with strict criminal legislation. Offers of social assistance remain rare.

Cathrin Schauer
Everybody takes what they want. The sexual exploitation of women and children in a Czech border region

“Paradise” for sexually voracious German men lies just over the German-Czech border. By contrast, this “paradise” is often hell for the women and children from whom they can buy sex on the cheap. Many of these women and children see in prostitution a way out of a life without prospects. The difficult economic situation in some regions of central and eastern Europe is driving women into the hands of unscrupulous pimps, human traffickers, and sex tourists and leading families to turnover their children to strangers as sexual playmates. The consequences for those affected, as well as for society as a whole, are devastating.

Veronica Munk
Hamburg – More than the Reeperbahn

In Hamburg, more than 2300 women work in prostitution. Half of them are migrants. The network TAMPEP, which does social work with prostitutes by going out on the street and is active in AIDS prevention, health issues, and the rights of female migrant sex workers, maintains contact with these migrants. Most migrants work from apartments in groups of two or three and come from Poland, Lithuaniam and Bulgaria. Women from the new EU countries also work independently.

Hana Malinová
Prague – Sex market in the heart of Europe

In the Czech Republic, the debate on prostitution focuses almost exclusively on border regions. But in the last few years, a booming sex market has also emerged in Prague amid the flood of tourists. In Prague clubs, the living and working conditions of the women, overwhelmingly Czechs, are better than in northern and eastern Bohemia. Various non-government organizations working with prostitutes by going out on the street have also contributed to creating a relatively better situation.

Sarah Richardson
London – Sex in the city

Contrary to widespread public opinion, the sex trade in London is not concentrated around Soho, Shepher’s Market, and King’s Cross. A systematic survey shows that a network of almost 750 locations exists where women sell sexual services. In addition, there are over 150 escort agencies. Women from eastern Europe make up most of the sex workers.

Jo Doezema
White slaves, poor Slavs. Melodrama of trafficking in women

Representations of human trafficking in the twenty-first century bear an astonishing resemblance to descriptions of “white slavery” 100 years ago. The typical victim is young, naive, and pretty. She wanted a better life, was attracted, deceived, and forced into prostitution. This melodramatic account often says more about the society that produces prostitution than the woman it is supposed to describe. This is shown, for example, by comparing a 1885 report by W.T. Steads about his research on white slavery in London and a 2003 report on human trafficking in Romania.

Beate Fieseler
“Then go stand on Nevsky Prospect!” Prostitution at the end of the tsarist empire

In the Russian Empire, prostitution was officially prohibited. With the emancipation of the peasants and increasing urbanization, demand for sexual services began to grow in towns. The number of prostitutes increased accordingly. While luxury bordellos for the upper class run by foreign women were tolerated for a time, the state rigorously prosecuted prostitution among the lower classes. The reason given was that the public health had to be protected. Empirical statistics from around 1900 reveal information on the age groups, social origins, and working conditions of women working in prostitution. Most prostitutes offered their services voluntarily so as to escape adverse social conditions and a precarious state of employment.

Barbara Klich-Kluczewska
The lewd side of real-existing socialism. Prostitution in the People’s Republic of Poland

Prostitution in socialist Poland? According to communist interpretations, this deformity of capitalism was damned to die off. In fact, this “indecent act” rose steadily in the People’s Republic. Neither the strict control of prostitutes and a comprehensive albeit ineffective assistance programme, nor Stalinist-era efforts to make it taboo and criminalize it could change this. Even after the political thaw, prostitutes continued to be presented as immoral criminals subject to prosecution. Public debate of this topic remains in the initial stages; religious and social initiatives have been blocked by the state.

Marcin Zaremba
An abyss of immorality and powerlessness. Prostitution in Poland between Nazi occupation and de-Stalinization

De-Stalinization made it possible: In communist Poland, it was possible to discuss prostitution and the problems associated with it. This also happened at the highest levels of the state and party. In early 1957, the Interior Ministry and the police drew up a frightening report. Two documents reflect the communist leadership’s helplessness vis-à-vis the growing numbers of prostitutes and the problems associated with them, such as female unemployment, destruction of families, increase in crime, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The roots of this development go back to the Second World War.

Published 10 July 2006
Original in German

Contributed by Osteuropa © Osteuropa


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