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Ni Coupables, Ni Victimes

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Sexyshock presents "Ni Coupables, Ni Victimes" (Not Guilty, Not Victims) Grab your make-up, fix your hair, prostitutes are everywhere! Videobox at the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour and Migration. Brussels, October 2005 Who are you? Do you want a mask? No! Why not? I have appeared in thousands of newspapers, I don't care, the whole world knows me! My art name is Jasmin and I am from Vienna, Austria. I'm from Madrid and I'm part of an association that works for the rights of prostitutes I come from Spain and the association is called HETAIRA My name is Justine Abellan. I come from Barcelona and I am a member of the promoting sex workers' group of "Comisiones Obreras" My name is Nutella and I come from Switzerland I am based in the UK now, I have been there for the last ten years. Originally I am from Portugal My name is Diane, I am a sex worker and I am from Canada but I live in France for the last 5 years. I am Camille Cabral, I was born in Brazil. I have two nationalities. I live in Paris so I am Brazilian and French My name is Maj, I am from Denmark and I am working as an escort I will just limit myself to saying that I am from Russia, Moscow My name is Carla Corso, my sign is cancer I am a proud animal rights activist and I worked as a prostitute for 25 years I am Alejandra Oliveira and I am from Portugal My name is Martha Marchan. It's my real name. I have never changed it. therefore I don't want to hide my face My name is Fabian. I work as social worker at "Espace P" here in Brussels. Who am I? I have no idea but I know that my name is Jo Bernardo, that I was born in Lisbon and that I am Portuguese Hi I am Scarlet Harlot. I have been at this whore conference all week. Just a few days really but it feels long and we had meetings and it was serious but I am an artist right, "sluts unite", I am Scarlet Harlot. What are you doing? What is my job? My first job is my life Unemployed housewife I'm going to tell you: I am a whore You asked me about my work, didn't you? If you ask me how I live, how I survive, I will answer you I work as a professional dominant I am a "sex living", I mean I use my sexuality to make money I worked as an escort in an agency about one year I take phone calls from people who want to talk about sex, who want to have a sexual experience over the phone Now I stopped working on my own and I am the manager of an escort agency in Vienna We live in a society where services are bought and sold Sex work is one of these services Providing sexual services should not be criminalised. Any discourse that defines sex work as violence is a simplistic approach that denies our diversity and experience and reduces us to helpless victims. I stopped doing phone sex and now I study. I am doing a doctorate on organising within the sex industry. I do many different things one of which is prostitution what I proposed to do was to set up a union for those of us who work in the sex industry I have been a sex worker for more than 25 years and I have been living with HIV for 20 years in our research we documented the process, analysed it, thought about it to help to give us a tool for the future, for future organisation or for sex workers in other countries who would like to unionise as well. I was one of the first to do outreach work in downtown Montreal. I want to share my life experience as prostitute and as someone living with HIV. I was elected to local government with the ecological Green Party I am also the founder of an association fighting against discrimination of sex workers: whether women, transgender or men. I am also a sex worker I have experimented with different ways of working: street, exclusive hotel, night club, apartment with phone The one I enjoyed most was definitely the street. I invented using the camper, I was the first who worked on the street by camper in this way I was able to offer, how can I say...more comfortable services! I did prostitution for more than 20 years and at the moment I work as a business owner I belong to a 24 year old organisation that fights for the rights of women I opened the first gay and lesbian bookshop in Portugal, in Lisbon and I am the president of ARTÉ an association for the study and defence of rights to gender identity I was forced to leave my country, they pressured me because I was a strong organiser able to oppose owners and authorities denouncing them, telling them they did nothing. I was forced to leave my country because they threatened to kill me Here, I am an ally. I am a psychologist and I am an assistant teacher at the faulty of psychology. I worked for 4 years as a social worker on a project that helped people that prostituted themselves, in Porto I didn't make a decision, I just got here by chance. There was a social worker job, I asked myself, why not? It's on the streets, not indoors, a little different When I learned about the women, their reality, their difficulties, their activism I realised that it was very beautiful so I wanted to stay and continue. Before decriminalisation in Denmark in '99 I used to work for escort agencies after decriminalisation I had the chance to start working on my own, independent. So I like the sex work because of the money I like my work as an outreach worker because I can share my experience with other people. I am happy you know. 20 years ago they told me I was HIV positive and I would live 2 years now 20 years later I am still here and I am still working. A prostitute is not a poor soul, why should she be. She is a woman full of virtue, she is full of prejudices like the whole world, but she has her virtues and she is happy where she is, because it is enough just to be a human being. There is no reason she should be a poor soul, she is not because she is not begging I love my job Sex workers should not be perceived purely as victims to be assisted, criminals to be arrested or targets for public health interventions. We are part of society, with needs and aspirations, we have the potential to make a real and valuable contribution to our communities. Restrictive legislation contributes to discrimination, stigma and abuse of sex workers. The fact that sex becomes work does not remove our right to have control over who we have sex with or the sexual services we provide or the conditions under which we provide those services. We demand the right to engage in sex work without coercion, to move within the sex industry and to leave if we choose. Permitted Legal Forbidden In Switzerland sex work is legalised and male sex work became legal in 1992. Therefore it is exactly 13 years The situation is that it is legal everyone can do it if they get a "green card". The green card is a registration card to be a prostitute In Belgium prostitution is not illegal. What is against the criminal law is soliciting, 'pimping', and brothel keeping. but not working as a prostitute. In Switzerland we have the opportunity to be legal, to pay taxes and to have social security. But, even though we might be an avant-garde country, it's not paradise. Prostitution is not recognised as a professional activity. You cannot claim the title of prostitute, you must use another one, like waitress, farm worker, masseuse. So it is obvious that social illegalities will emerge; when there are no clear regulations the context imposes itself, and the women always pay the highest price I mean that the stigmatisation is the same, like in other countries For the escort agencies it is a very big problem because it is half legal. Everybody knows what is running behind closed doors but it is not allowed. We have to register and pay tax but at the same time we don't have a chance to have a private life because when you register with the tax office they put you on the register, a public webpage. Everyone can find your name, address and everything, which makes it very difficult for the girls to dare to register themselves. Even if I want to work legally it's impossible for me because I have to to take care of my own security because the government does not do it. I have to get dressed now...I hope you don't mind, it's a little shocking...Is that okay? Oh this is Sexyshock so it's no problem We are used to being shocked. It's okay. I know I have very big breasts! I know. We condemn the hypocrisy within our societies where our services are used but our profession or businesses are made illegal. Prostitution was decriminalised in 1982. The exploitation of prostitution is criminalised, so I think the situation is not that bad. Prostitution is permitted but not legalized therefore you can be a prostitute but you cannot practice it anywhere. Say the government decides to make me pay for it's moral obsessions and it would like to pass a law saying what I do is a crime unless, I do it how they want: in a brothel, controlled, with signage...under the pressure of police and health inspectors etc.. They don't want me to say I am a free woman but that I'm a big whore and anyone can spit on me. If the police catch me in an non-designated area, they can arrest me for being immoral. This is a classic double standard: here you can, there you cannot. It is normal that women and men work on the streets with the collaboration of police If they are assaulted, for example, by their presumed clients Instinctively, I am in agreement, but I don't know the problem They work, so they have the right to be protected by the law I think it is essential to have forms of protection for them also I believe they are right, it is a private matter, everybody and choose what they do. They do not interfere with other people's freedom They should be protected. Everybody has to have their rights, also the sex workers...sorry it's funny In Spain sex work is not illegal, there is no law that penalises sex work but through a law that penalises 'pimping', whether intentional or not, sex work becomes criminalised. It is really a very bad joke from the state, that prostitution is not illegal, so you have the right to sell sexual services but that everything around sex work and prostitution is illegal. It is very difficult to have this activity as an economic activity without breaking the law somehow. It is difficult to have a private life because you cannot legally share it with anyone nor share your money with another person, not even your child. It is an absurd law because whoever lives from sex work, even by choice, becomes an accomplice: the bank where you deposit your money, the baker where you buy bread, the landlord, your partner, your son or daughter. If you work with another sex worker you are safer than working alone so the law forces sex workers to be in a very vulnerable situation. The law is responsible for the high levels of violence in the sex industry. Both indoors, where it is only legal if you work on your own, and outdoors. By making solicitation illegal the laws forces sex workers into more isolated and dark areas where they are more vulnerable. A year and four months ago the council of Madrid approved a law against prostitutes and which closed the streets. This horrible law is called a "law against sex slavery" and it forces us to leave the streets where we work. I had to move 15 km away from where I worked because they said my presence disturbed. Solicitation is illegal...just to be there...on the street Fines from 300 to 500 euros only for waiting on the corner of the streets It's crazy! Really, this is an arbitrary abuse towards us as sex workers, but above all as persons and as women. The situation is bad, there are continuous raids. Most of the women are not from Moscow, but come from surrounding cities and countries of the former Soviet Union. At this moment, street prostitution is banned, prostitutes are controlled and under pressure from police. It is hidden because in Moscow they like to give the impression that street prostitution does not exist. We demand our governments acknowledge and apply fundamental human, labour and civil rights for migrants. In particular the xenophobic portrayal of migrant sex workers adds an additional layer of stigma and increases their vulnerability. We demand that sex workers be free to travel within and across countries and to migrate, without discrimination based on our work. As an outreach worker I met with police. They said they must arrest all the prostitutes in Lyon, finger-print and photograph them for a "European file". In case they find those girls working in another city or something like that. I think that it's against the law to do that and we don't do that to other people, we do that to prostitutes. There are a lot of girls from other places. Like Romania. For them it is forbidden since February 2005 to work as a sex worker. They come to Austria to try to work but it is very illegal. If the police catch them they will be sent back to Romania and they will not be allowed to come back to Austria again. Regarding street prostitution in Russia, there are areas where women work and in each area there are from 20 to 150 women. 40% of these work under a pimp who receives 50% of the earnings. The rule is 50% to the pimp, 50% to the prostitute. The remaining 60% are deceived by pimps who cheat them, knowing that women are afraid to go to the police because they are illegal. It's a complicated situation. They are not in their own town but in a big city where women from Ukraine or Belarus have no one to turn to. they have no rights, they cannot go to hospital or to the police. They make the barriers increasingly higher and women cannot migrate anymore, so they have no choice but to place themselves in the hands of traffickers to be able to come to Europe. So obviously the responsible ones are our politicians and our repressive laws against migrants. Globalisation is not only economic. I think it should also be a globalisation of human rights. Human rights which are rights to health, rights to housing and the right to work freely. I believe that the state should not have control on people's sexuality but at the same time, I recognise a law is necessary to guarantee rights especially to immigrant women. So I am forced to ask for legalisation of prostitution. I ask for it to be recognised as a job, as for other workers, and that a residence permit is issued to migrant women, to be able to work outside of the illegal racket that now exploits them. So they can work in total legality. Society imposes an 'identity' and 'social role' on sex workers that goes beyond the recognition that we use our bodies and minds as an economic individual resource to earn money. The 'identity' and 'social role' imposed on us defines us as intrinsically unworthy and a threat to moral, public and social order labelling us sinners, criminals, or victims. Stigma separates us from 'good' and 'decent' citizens and the rest of society This stigma leads to people seeing us only as 'whores' in a negative and stereotyped way the rest of out lives, and the differences amongst us, become invisible. It denies us a place in society. We exist because this society cannot live without sex work because if we did not exist, this kind of sexual regulation would not be present. Every day you work on the street with people you meet, you see the society in which we live, you see how people live and how they face life because they tell you. My job gives me the opportunity to see a problem of all modern societies: loneliness. Many people think that money can buy everything, but love and tenderness cannot be bought with money. We are very important because our job, our mission, goes beyond collective sexuality: we do social work where the ghosts of man, of woman and of trans are mixed and this exchange creates the richness of human diversity. Many people say many bad things about sex workers, having no education, having no free choice but I feel the opposite way. This is a choice I made myself, nobody forced me into prostitution. I'm not offended if they call me whore or prostitute, but the problem is that they call me this because other than "whore" there isn't another word to call me. I don't believe we can call people working in the streets "poor souls" Without a doubt we have gained spaces of visibility. First because people are still curious to see "the whores", and also because prostitutes have created cultural things. And so we have created an interest that is slightly more important and that is less lecherous. Why are you here? We have a lot of problems in Denmark. They want to criminalise our customers just like in Sweden. And at the same time politicians and feminist groups are lying for us, telling us that the Swedish model is super and that the customers have gone down and prostitution has gone down but those of us in the business know this is the biggest lie they ever told us. So I felt I had to find a way to counter these lies and I found this organisation on the internet in my search to get some good advice. Then I was invited to this conference. I came to this conference because I think that it is very important that sex workers pay attention to each other and that they collaborate on a European level. The main reason I came here was to meet everybody, to network, to meet old friends, activists and comrades and to meet new ones. Why are we here? To know our rights better, to know what other women do and to bring back this information to Russia. To show other sex workers that what they do is not shameful, that they have some rights and that they are human beings. I think it is necessary once and for all to recognise the rights of sex workers and if we are able to agree and claim common demands there is a better chance that we will be heard. It is the first time that I have seen an international conference where there is a huge and coherent presence of sex workers, and their presence is important because it is from here that we can start to become conscious of the force of unity of sex workers in the world; to globalise the empowerment of sex workers. I think that all people have the right to earn their living as they want and as they can. Based on this premise, I don't criminalise, stigmatise, and marginalise anyone. This is a good base to start to regulate or to legalise or to do anything we want to do. I can say to all the others that what we will do won't be new, because the women of other countries who have similar problems have started to do it already and the result is very positive. It is possible...it is possible to change the situation Living our little daily life, in our little cities, we forget that there is another world outside our own little world. This conference is useful to remind us of another world, other forms of struggle, other forms of organising in order to be able to advance opportunities to fight for rights and guarantees. Above all in the case of migration. That for me is most important. I was invited to join other conferences but normally in their programs there are academics and "specialists" who lead the conference and they invite some prostitutes as decoration. I am completely fed up with being a piece of decoration anymore, and I am really pleased that this time it turned out differently. It's hard to go to the city hall and talk to the politicians... "oh I am a prostitute...you must give me my rights" and then what? My girlfriends don't want to do that because they would be in trouble, if they're on television their mother might see them... It's very, very hard to be a sex worker rights activist. So I resort to many bras and...excuse me...and political art, which I find very liberating. Its very liberating. It gives me a chance to say what I need to say in a sort of comedic way. "Pussy power...pussy power...ooh" A wish for the future. In the future I imagine only to battle more, to be even more active to have an even stronger will to act, to do everything always with the desire not to lose my dignity ever. This is what I hold onto the most. My biggest desire for all of us who work in NGOs in the field of sex work to become unemployed. I would like for us to disappear because that would mean that there is no need for our services any more, and that nobody has to depend any longer on social services. This would mean we would all have a salary, the possibility to earn a living, to pay taxes, to have full rights and a access to everything as every other European citizen, also to have all civil rights guaranteed and this is what we all have to fight for today so that in the future we are all unemployed. This would be the best news! And as a union we could ask for a rise in salary and other normal things. I hope there will never be another sex worker in prison for sex work because it not a reason. Me, I was in prison with people who kill people, real criminals just because I was a prostitute...I don't think it should be the same you know. I am not judging people...but I see too many young girls going through that and they never come back. I wish that prostitution will be legal everywhere and at the same time that we have the possibility to be anonymous so so we don't have to fear for ourselves and for our families, for our children, because we do have children, so we can be free. How do I imagine my future? As I am now, with the same liberties to be in touch with my principles and my convictions. What is clear to me now is that I have a daughter and that I will teach her this: respect others so they respect you. I would like to start a project that gets girls away from their pimps so they can work in a good family feeling; in friendship. We are all women together, working for women and men and we know what we talk about. I would like to see more men active in these kinds of conferences, to meet more men who have experiences of sex work and then we could really count as equal partners in the debate. I often feel quite alone. Obviously I am not alone here but I often feel alone, so this is my wish. I would like that both men and women have the freedom to choose their clients, that they would be compensated rightly for their work, and that they would have decent work conditions and...good sex! I would really like the hypocritical society we live in now to open its eyes to and open a dialogue with the women who do street work. This is my strong wish. I think that it is a wish for all human beings, not only for those who work in the sex industry. This is a revolution. It is, I'm very serious about this I think unionising sex workers can be the first step to a world revolution. We are the most marginalised of workers. We are the workers with the least rights. If you can organise sex workers, if we can say my body is my business, I have control over my body and nobody is going to tell me what to do, I think that will inspire everybody else to also stand up for their rights and say actually I don't want to live under capitalism, actually I want to have control over my body and my life and my work and then we'll get rid of capitalism and live happily ever after. I hope we will find a cure for HIV, I hope for my children and for other people's children, that we can find something. You can live with HIV but it is not easy everyday... and I hope we can change. Sex workers all over the world, unite! Do not dream your life, live your dreams! I would like to make love to a woman and overcome the boundary of heterosexuality that I unfortunately have. There is nothing easy about it, even opening your legs, from time to time is not easy. I say... Enough of so much studying and so much philosophising, and let's get working on this seriously. Legalise it now! I know you are very poor and I have a good offer... I will do 'digital' sex, a hand-job for twenty euro, cheap, cheap, cheap, for twenty euro twenty euro, cheap, cheap, cheap. Now hold it, I'm with the international sex police! You're a disgusting, degenerate, depraved whore! No! oh yes! You're under arrest ma'am...you're a bad girl Bad girl? I'm not a bad girl...those are just bad laws. "Not Guilty, Not Victims" produced by Sexyshock in cooperation with ICRSE International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe Thanks to Raagma, Carlos della Orchestra del Kaos, Fabrizio Salerno, Scarlot Harlot, casa Savenella, Simona Ovni A warm thank you to everybody we interviewed.

Video Details

Duration: 37 minutes and 54 seconds
Country: Netherlands
Language: English
Producer: Sexyshock/ICRSE
Director: Sexyshock/ICRSE
Views: 2,671
Posted by: roxiecarpenter on Apr 3, 2008

"Ni Coupables, ni victimes" ("Not Guilty, Not Victims") is a polyphonic conversation gathering the words of some of the protagonists at the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour and Migration, Brussels (2005). They speak of the complexity and nuances of the sex industry and their lives: the challenges and the struggles of being a sex worker in Europe today, the repressive policies affecting their lives, and the strategies of resistance enabling them to do their work, build their desires and plan their futures.
Sexyshock: www.ecn.org/sexyshock
/ ICRSE: www.sexworkeurope.org

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