Romina Lopez, who does social support work at “Dar Hosea”, a walk-in centre for women who are currently working in street prostitution, said that her experience in working with prostitutes makes her conclude that many do not freely choose this way of living but are coerced into this lifestyle. Lopez was speaking to Universe of Faith, a website administered by the Pastoral Formation Institute of the Archdiocese of Malta. She recounted the experience of a prostitute who told her that she used to cry every time but she had to go on as it was her way of earning a living.
Newsbook.com.mt is publishing part two of the interview in the light of the process of consultation on human trafficking and prostitution which government will launch later this year.
Consent? What consent?
Lopes said that many resort to prostitution because of “desperate financial problems, in order to maintain their drug addiction, or debt bondage, and out of fear of harm from pimps and boyfriends.” She said that “such sad and harsh realities definitely remove any belief that consent is exercised freely by the woman or child in prostitution.”
Lopez added that many women who are involved in prostitution are coerced into this lifestyle at a young age, mostly during adolescence. They normally commence prostitution between the age of 12 – 14.
Lopez said that many times a prostitute “feels unworthy, and suffers extreme low self-esteem. As a result, she often ends up in addictive behaviours, such as alcohol use, substance abuse, and leads extreme chaotic lifestyles. Too often she is involved in destructive relationships, with boyfriends, who further exploit and coerce her into a prostituted lifestyle. These so-called boyfriends are in reality pimps masked as boyfriends, who practice a sense of ownership on these women.”
Harsh childhood experiences
Basing herself on her vast work with prostitutes, Lopez said that most of the women in prostitution would have endured during childhood extreme harsh realities of emotional and physical distress which one would never have thought possible. It is often reported, that as a child, she would have experienced physical and sexual abuse, as well as emotional neglect by care givers whom she would have trusted. These are very often family members, relatives, or close family friends. Such traumas cause the woman to lock herself in isolation, and refrain from seeking help,” Lopez explains.
The social support worker added that these childhood traumas negatively affect the prostiture even as an adolescent and adult.
“This sad reality of trauma only enforces the woman to build a wall around her identity, as a means of separating herself from the rest of society; she learns to fend for herself. Repeatedly, she would have heard that she is worthless, only good for being used as a sexual object, and felt unloved.”
Is prostitution just another job?
Lopez believes that referring to prostitution as ‘sex work’ is a cover narrative which conceals the realities of the harms of prostitution, such as the sexual abuse which frequently occurs and also promotes gender inequality.
“When prostitution is referred to as “sex work”, it is being approved that sex is work for women whilst it is leisure for men. Most damagingly of all, is the fact that we are accepting that women’s bodies exist as a commodity to be used and consumed. The term ‘sex work’ is a cover narrative, it is being used to hide the harms of prostitution. In truth this narrative is used as a promotion to prostitution, and as a means of helping the growth of the sex industry.”
“Dar Hosea” is a place of rest and support which offers food, shower, clothes, shelter and other forms of moral, medical and legal support. The woman is neither asked questions nor asked to change her lifestyle, even though some do. The prostituted woman is welcomed from staff with love, care and respect. Dar Hosea is a project of the Association Friends Of Thouret.
Full article can be accessed on the website of Universe Of Faith