The small exhibition space was packed full when we arrived with conversations and debate in full flow. One of the installations was a pyramid of cardboard boxes printed with information from the government identifying them as basic food cartons provided for low income families. Between the stacked boxes, packets of pasta, tins of corn and cartons of milk mixed with condoms. In conversation, it emerged that prostitutes were tired of the government's response to their situation: meager handouts creating more dependency. Prostitution and violence against women must be seen within their social and cultural context. We need to keep asking how any woman comes to depend on prostitution to feed themselves and their family. As the title suggests, it's not a career choice.
Three beds occupied the centre of the room. They were covered in words and images:
I am a woman
Not a thing
They commandeer my body,
the pimps, clients, police, politicians, unions
And I am here to say 'enough.'
My clients are your brothers, husbands, cousins, sons, and priests
I don't need your condemnation
It will turn on you
Prostitution isn't a theme for prostitutes
If you don't like me on the corner
Struggle with me
Shout with me
I am here to say 'enough!'
I've noticed a growing number of articles in the British media about prostitution during the World Cup, particularly about legalized brothels in Germany, and whether they actually protect women. There's also been some attempts to raise awareness amongst football fans about not using women who have been trafficked. There is an interesting debate on the feminist blog Gender Geek
Encouragingly, the exhibition I visited was supported by my local church, the Methodist Church in Flores. I wonder how many British churches are actively working with prostitutes, or helping their congregations challenge patriarchal ideas about women and attitudes to violence. Too often churches are part of the structures that enable prostitution to flourish.
This is my last post for a few weeks as I'm heading home a week today for a fortnight catching up with family and friends. I'm looking forward to seeing some of you at Beckminster (most likely at the evening services), others at the book launch at Sarum, and others elsewhere on my travels. See you then!