Edinburgh ~ Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Prostitution is not a choice: nine out of 10 women want out
By Christine Lavelle
DAMNING new evidence was unveiled yesterday showing that not enough effort is being put into helping women escaped Scotland’s sex trade.
Fears have also been raised about the affect prostitution, sex theme bars and magazines are having on the nation’s children.
A new project launched yesterday which aims to highlight the problems and unite impact groups to do something about it revealed that:
- Nine out of 10 women involved in prostitution in Scotland want to get out of it and never made the voluntary choice to enter the industry
- 90 per cent of children aged between eight & 16 have viewed online pornography
- A quarter of teenage girls think being a lap dancer would be a good profession
- 63% of teenage girls said they would like to be a glamour model
These figures come from an online survey of almost 1,000 young people in the UK aged between eight and 19, undertaken by the Lab TV website.
A summit chaired by members of the Women’s Support Project and Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust in Edinburgh today was aimed at those working in local authorities and health boards, to expose the reality of prostitution and pornography– an industry worth £1 billion a year UK wide.
Linda Thompson, from the Women’s Support Project, said this is having a powerful negative impact on young people, as recent studies show that 90 per cent of kids aged between eight and 16 have viewed pornography online.
And, another shocking figure that Ms Thompson pointed out is that in the same survey 63 per cent of teenage girls said they would like to be a glamour model – while only four per cent answered “teacher”.
She said: “These results show the normalisation that is taking place in this country – sexual exploitation is just widely accepted, and it should not be.
“We have invited people here today who are on the front line of tackling the sexual exploitation of women – we have GP’s and addiction councillors who are working to get to the root of the problem and challenging the traditional taboos.
“One of the main things we are trying to challenge here is the common perception that women have a choice to go into these industries – it is just not true.
“We chose Edinburgh as our base, as we recently found out that the city is the UK’s sex industry capital.”
A short film has been produced for the first time, featuring the voices of two women who have been working as prostitutes in Scotland – ‘Katy’ and ‘Stephanie’ – who explain what it can be like working on the streets.
Stephanie talks about having been attacked four times and raped twice, but that she still believes she is one of the lucky ones.
She said: “A lot of people think it’s easy money but it definitely isn’t because there’s a lot of psychological problems, a lot of violence.”
And Katy explains the pressures of being a prostitute on everyday life, explaining that she had not had sex with her own boyfriend “for ages” because she just could not being herself to do it after a day of “working”.
The DVD was developed by the two partnering groups, because of a demand from local organisations for tools to help them to take action on prostitution, pornography and adult entertainment.
It was accompanied by a resource pack to support local staff to run training and awareness-raising sessions using the film.
Alastair Robertson, training co-ordinator for Forth Valley Violence Against Women partnerships, who also features in the seven-minute film, said men have to take more responsibility for their actions.
He said: “Men are the ones with the choice here – they choose to view porn on the internet, or buy a prostitute, and even lads’ magazines are so widely available now that even young people are getting their hands on the content and the conditioning that this is normal begins.
“It is an industry made by men, for men – they are the only ones who profit – and it is not a choice on the women’s part, they just need the money and in turn they are being exploited.
“It terrifies me to think it could be my daughter who in some way could be tricked or duped or encouraged to join an industry which is glamourised on the face of things, but essentially is about abusing women and about objectifying and exploiting them – and that could end up with their death.”
Dr Digby Thomas, a GP at the Edinburgh Access Practice, said he attended the event in a bid to make contact with other concerned parties, and hopes communities across Scotland will work together to tackle the problem.
He said: “At the practice we deal with many of the root causes of women having to go into the sex industry – like homelessness or addiction to drugs – and even mental health issues.
“It is difficult to actually get the women in to see us which really concerns me about things like contraception and their general health.
“We are here to help them, and hopefully this initiative will mean that more women come forward to seek a way out of the hell they are going through.
“I hope in the future we see a multi-agency partnership, where we all work together to take on this problem.”
Andrea Beavon, domestic abuse co-ordinator for Scottish Borders Council, said: “This event is long overdue, I am so glad we are starting to challenge something that has come to be accepted for a long time now.
“The more people that understand what is going on the better as it will only strengthen the resources to tackle it.
“So many young men and women today are conditioned to believe that there is nothing wrong with watching porn, and that women choose to become prostitutes because they simply like having sex.
“People feel that it is a choice women have, but the reality is that it is a tool used by the sex industry to make you think it is okay.
“I believe this initiative is going to work, because it is hard-hitting and eye-opening.”
Screenings of the film in cinemas are set to be arranged during the 16 Days of Action on Violence Against Women, between 25 November – 10 December.
* Nine out of 10 women in prostitution want to exit the industry
* UK porn industry is worth £1 billion annually
* 63% of teenage girls said they would like to be a glamour model
* 90% of eight-16 year-olds have viewed pornography online
* Sex industry is the third most popular in the world, only behind drugs and arms