Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday, June 25, 2005


By Kamala Sarup
July 2005

''Women and girls in war zones suffer rape and violent abuse while offenders escape punishment, Because national authorities have failed to act to halt such abuses. Despite promises, treaties and legal mechanisms, governments failed to protect women and girls in conflicts in Colombia, Iraq Sudan, Chechnya, Nepal and Afghanistan the report said.''Amnesty International said.

Amnesty's secretary general, Irene Khan said in an interview "What we have seen consistently is that if you don't prosecute and punish then, there is a tendency for it to continue. Women and girls are not just killed, they are raped, sexually attacked, mutilated and humiliated. She further said no official statistics were kept, so it was impossible to say whether the situation was worsening.

The report urged political leaders to openly condemn violence against women and cooperate with the court in bringing offenders to justice. It also recommended the urgent provision of medical and humanitarian support for female survivors of abuse.

Terrorism And War fuels Prostitution

Millions of women are involved in prostitution for survival on the streets. Many women see the prostitution as a way to freedom from war and terrorism. So, women see in prostitution a way to earn more money.

The prostitution is the direct consequence of economic crisis, and the low status afforded to women in the country. Because women have a limited access to occupations and resources, they are the ones hardest hit during economic crisis. Poverty is definitely linked to prostitution. On the other side, It exacerbates an already desperate situation caused by war. Poverty is leading many women into street prostitution.

Today's girls, especially for those being raised in the country's conflict-ridden and terrorism afffected rural areas. For the displaced, especially poorly educated teenage girls whose wage-earning skills are often limited working in the fields, there are few options: remain and risk being killed; often for a life of prostitution. War terrorism and poverty are bringing more and more girls from village into cities.

Terrorism and war-affected women are also sexually abused. It is important to know if women and girls are turning to prostitution for food and shelter.

In a bid to escape poverty, terrorism, war and abuse in the country, an increasing number of women are turning to prostitution. Prostitutes operating in bars, restaurants and hotels. Some night club owners reportedly allow under-age girls into clubs for sexual exploitation by clients. Most of the displaced are from rural areas and entering urban settings. The search for jobs is complicated. So many girls start having sexual relations, and become prostitutes. That the vast majority of women who find themselves as prostitutes are there unwillingly.

There have been no studies linking displacement and prostitution. Clearly, reliable studies and data on sexual exploitation and prostitution and the link to displacement are urgently needed. .

Unfortunately, one of the only wage-earning options available to many young, poorly educated females is prostitution. The direct impacts of the war and terrorism on women are wide ranging. On the other hand, Left with no home, no income, women ending up begging or prostituting themselves in order to provide food. Terrorism, hunger and war form the backdrop to this furtive exchange, for deepening poverty is driving increasing numbers of women to sell their bodies.

Yes, poverty was the main obstacle to the full realization of women's equality. It manifested itself in poor health, low levels of education, food insecurity and unemployment. Further, women constituted the majority of the population living in rural areas, and they suffered the consequences of unsophisticated farming practices and inadequate power infrastructure.

As girls usually have few marketable skills, sex becomes the only avenue for survival. One of the most tragic consequences of the terrorism and war has been kidnapping of women and children. Displacement is the most common consequence of war and terrorism and women the most affected population.

In fight, as well as upon arrival in an big cities, women commonly experience violence and abuse because war and terrirsm have contributed to a rise in prostitution, which threaten women's health. In the streets, the girls are under the threat of disease. Prostitution is officially illegal and HIV is wide spread among prostitutes in the World. Moreover, is the fact that the continuing war and terrorism has exacerbated the problem.

Even a cursory look at the situation on the streets indicates that there are many more women and teenagers involved in prostitution than the official statistics suggest. And because some of the countries are a closed society, prostitution is not widely discussed in public. Most of them work as prostitutes, usually for between 10 and 20 dollars. Prostitution appears to be appearing everywhere in the society. Family problems, not unrelated to poverty, may also lead the girls to prostitute themselves.

Only the women who sold sex faced legal penalties, not the men who bought it. The law continued to hold prostitutes, not their customers? Even government only do not distribute condoms. Similarly, reports from the field indicate that large stocks of condoms expire because they go unused. Awareness of the disease and methods of prevention are extremely low in many countries.

However, Governments have failed to systematically identify and meet the distinct needs of a large and particularly at-risk women and have no program for them. Most women made the dangerous choice to sell sex because of financial difficulties and limited opportunities.The number of girls engaged in prostitution has risen, though there was no reliable information, prostitution seemed to be a growing phenomenon.

The government does not give licenses to them or require them to be tested regularly. Terrorism, war and political instability in several countries for the unabated prostitution of women.

Inadequate social safety nets have left many women with no choice but to sell their bodies. In addition, poverty brought about by war and terrorism leads to increased prostitution, and as few have access to information about how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.

When the social infrastructure collapses as a result of terrorism and war, famine, and economic crisis women turn to prostitution as a last resort. No matter how women and girls get into prostitution, it is difficult to get out. Often women can leave prostitution only after they become ill.

In some cases, it is the parents who sell their girls to foreign paedophiles via local intermediaries. How long will we allow the current situation to continue?

Special attention must be given to the encouragement of economic growth in the rural areas.
For this reason, alternative income generation strategies are needed. A reintegration strategy should include greater training, credit and enterprise opportunities. Those affected most negatively by war and terrorism are women living in poverty, and particularly in rural areas; the negative impacts on basic human needs, development and reconstruction must be addressed.

In the name of protecting prostitute, with the support of many NGOs are introducing legislation but such legislation does not provide protection. Prostitute are forced by poverty, violence terrorism and war.

Women and girls should then be offered protection through programs which tackle the root causes of the problem, lack of security and income. In order to change these things, the economy has to be improved.



The New York Times
Published: July 24, 2005

In early May, when the government of Brazil rejected $40 million in American AIDS financing because of restrictions the United States would have imposed on groups that work with prostitutes, Rosanna Barbero gave a quiet cheer. She had been there before. Barbero is the head of Womyn's Agenda for Change, the leading advocacy organization for sex workers in Cambodia. WAC teaches the country's many prostitutes to organize and to improve their working conditions, and it has spun off a sex workers' union that now claims 5,000 members. Starting in 2001, the U.S. Agency for International Development supported Barbero, with about $73,000 over three years. Then in 2003 Congress mandated that any organization receiving U.S.A.I.D. assistance declare that it ''does not promote, support or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution.'' Technically, WAC doesn't do any of this, but in practice, it would have had to break with the sex workers' union. Barbero went to the union's elected leaders -- five women and two srey sros, or transvestite/transsexuals -- to ask what they thought she should do.

Philip Blenkinsop

Rosanna Barbero, left, with garment workers at the Womyn's Agenda for Change office.

''They said don't take the money,'' she recalls. ''I remember one said: 'Do they think we're worse than dogs? How can they tell us all this time that we have to stand on our own two feet, and now suddenly say they can't work with us?'''

Barbero, 40, is a diminutive Australian with a singsong accent, a warm, informal, hippie-ish air and a gift for the creative use of obscenity -- something you acquire, apparently, in her line of work. When she first came to Cambodia in 1992, she had no intention of working with prostitutes; she was doing research for her thesis in Asian studies. What she found was that peacekeepers and aid workers affiliated with the United Nations were fueling a sudden explosion in prostitution. Assessing the situation, she came to see sex work as an understandable, if far from ideal, response to poverty: ''If you have nothing, what do you do? You sell sex. That's what's left.''

WAC is a kind of nonjudgmental, antiauthoritarian sanctuary for these women. Its headquarters, a double-decker barge moored on the Tonle Sap River, was previously a floating discotheque -- one of those, in fact, where Barbero used to watch U.N. peacekeepers cruise for girls. Now a visitor might find anywhere from a half-dozen to 50 women sitting in a circle on the dance floor, holding a meeting. Some might be prostitutes discussing how to avoid being raped, while others might be laid-off seamstresses brainstorming about a campaign against Levi's. (WAC also works with garment workers.)

''This is one of the most amazing things you'll ever see,'' Barbero told me on one visit, pointing to the anti-Levi's garment workers, who were working on a mobilization strategy. ''You can't do a demonstration in Cambodia. So they've decided to form a girl band.''

By tacitly accepting sex workers' choice of livelihood, WAC stands on one side of a growing divide among aid groups. Since the U.S.'s policy shift, more and more of the other groups working with sex workers in Cambodia are what are often known as ''rescue'' organizations. The rescue groups, like Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Precaire and the Christian evangelical International Justice Mission, contend that sex work is virtually always oppressive and that many or most prostitutes are trafficked into the business against their wills. Both organizations investigate brothels for evidence of trafficking and assist the Cambodian police in carrying out spectacular raids, springing prostitutes into safe houses where those who wish to leave sex work are given vocational training, often as seamstresses. The two groups receive substantial U.S.A.I.D. money.

These raids are controversial. After one A.F.E.S.I.P. rescue on Dec. 7, an unidentified mob attacked the group's safe house and spirited the rescued sex workers back to the hotel where they had been working. Some days later, the unrescued women protested in front of the U.S. Embassy, claiming they had not wanted to be rescued at all. The protest appeared to have been stage-managed by the hotel's owners, but it illustrated how hard it is to determine whether sex workers are in brothels by choice or under duress.

No one questions the rescue groups' bravery, but many criticize their strategy. Rescue groups focus on prostitutes who are ''trafficked'': those who are under-age, have been tricked into sex work or are held captive by force or in debt bondage. But such cases are a minority. A 2002 U.S.A.I.D.-backed study found that 20 percent of the sex workers the researchers encountered directly were trafficked. But because of sample bias, the study's author, Thomas Steinfatt, says that he thinks the countrywide percentage is much lower. Another study of Vietnamese migrant sex workers, who make up about half of the prostitutes in Phnom Penh, found that 94 in 100 had sought out the work aware of the conditions they would be working in.

Barbero supports freeing children and women held forcibly but finds most other rescue operations futile: ''You're rescuing somebody and putting them back into the same situation'' that drove them to sex work in the first place. The Cambodian Women's Crisis Center acknowledges that of 48 trafficking victims it helped return to their homes in 2004, some 40 percent have already gone back to sex work. As for vocational training, Barbero says, sex workers ''are all pretty damn sick of 'We'll put you in front of sewing machines 14 hours a day and make you a better woman.'''

If rescuing sex workers isn't the answer, what is? Barbero's response is an odd mixture of realism and utopianism. Realistically, she argues, Cambodian women will never have an alternative to the sex industry until the economy improves. But like many in the antiglobalization movement, she faults the policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization for the country's poverty. Barbero has a quixotic faith that different global-development policies could lift Cambodia out of the economic misery that drives women to sex work.

Whatever the merits of its global politics, WAC is widely seen as the most effective organization in its field in Cambodia. In concert with the sex workers' union, WAC helps sex workers protect themselves from violent clients and predatory policemen. And it helps them reach out to hospital workers so they aren't refused when they seek treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. If Barbero had taken U.S.A.I.D.'s antiprostitution pledge, she would have sacrificed the quality that her constituents most value: a willingness to accept them as they are.

As U.S.A.I.D. forces the pledge upon antitrafficking and anti-AIDS organizations, an increasing number are starting to protest: in May, 171 N.G.O.'s signed a letter opposing it. Congressional supporters of the pledge seek to keep U.S.A.I.D. money from ''groups who promote prostitution overseas,'' as Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, recently wrote to the secretary of state. Rosanna Barbero hardly sees herself in that description; she says she hopes to see the Cambodian sex industry disappear, but she holds that this will be impossible until the country's overall welfare improves.

''You're sitting in the West in a comfortable situation, and you think of those girls, Oh, they have to [have sex with] 10 men a day, how disgusting,'' she told me the first time we spoke. ''As a woman, you think, How awful. But after years of developing friendships with sex workers, I see them as unsung heroes. Most of us, to survive in the awful situations that they've had to survive in, we probably couldn't do it. We have never been in a situation where we've had to consider, Do I sell my body or not?''

Matt Steinglass is a writer based in Hanoi.


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